How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: College Textbooks!

Out of all the back-to-college shopping that I have to do, buying textbooks is my least favorite thing ever. Who wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a book that they may not even actually need to buy?! Literally no one. Well, lucky for you, I made the world’s biggest mistakes when buying my textbooks my first year, and have reduced how much I spend on books now by at least 500%. Yeah, books can be that expensive and yes, you can save that much money! If you want to know my best tips for making the most of your school funds and how to leave a little bit more spending money for the semester, keep reading!


Start early.

My biggest mistake my first year was being so consumed in making sure I had all the perfect decor that I totally forgot about all the actual supplies I would need to have a great semester. Think notebooks, pens and pencils, and of course textbooks!! I sacrificed taking the time to do a little bit of research for the convince of my bookstore taking my schedule and getting all my books together for me. Yeah, don’t do that!!!

If look up how many books you’ll need and compare prices on different sites [my favorites are Chegg and Amazon] before school starts, you’ll be in really great shape for the first week of class. This is typically when I start ordering books because sometimes professors will say that the book is actually just recommended and I’ll think about renting or just getting the e-book!

Think about renting for courses you could care less about, sorry not sorry!

Classes in college are a little bit better when it comes to taking what you actually want to learn about than high school. But there are still going to be those general education requirements that drive you up a wall, and there’s no point in spending over $50 on a European History book focused on the economy if you are majoring in Public Relations. If you are genuinely interested in your textbook topics and want to start building the library for your future home, by all means, buy the book.

However, I won’t be buying general education requirement texts that I will never open again and barely open during the semester. I highly recommend renting these books. Amazon has a great renting program and works beautifully when you have the Prime membership. You can get a free trial for PrimeStudent using my links and I’ll get some benefits. Check it out here! TIA.

Buy used.

For those books that you actually wouldn’t mind holding on to or will come in handy for many semesters to come, buy used. Most of the time, companies have policies on what they will take as a used book. I have never had a huge problem with the books that I’ve bought directly from Amazon and Chegg. A couple of books have legitimately looked like they are brand new; thanks to that student who never used their textbook and then sold it. My wallet thanks you!

This is also a great time to check your school/class Facebook Used/Free & For Sale pages. UNC has a textbook page that you can sell textbooks and a wide variety of other things on. I’ve seen people score our Organic Chemistry textbook for maybe 25% retail price and for better than even Amazon and Chegg! As always, be careful with this. I’d try and network in your immediate friend group or clubs to see if anyone has the books that you need!

Bundle with the campus bookstore.

You’re probably thinking… “WOAH, G, didn’t you just say to not buy from the bookstore?” Well, at least I know you’re learning something from this. But yes, I am telling you that in some cases you can get a pretty good deal when shopping for book + access code packages. Now, this is usually only applicable for when you want the physical version of the textbook. I am pretty old-fashioned and love reading from real paper and not my computer screen.

I haven’t seen that this will give great results when you simply want the e-book. I’d go ahead and buy the e-book straight from the manufacturer. This, unfortunately, isn’t an all-or-none principle and takes a little bit of searching. But, if we are saving big $$$, isn’t it worth it!

Don’t sacrifice what works for you to save money.

One of my biggest tips for incoming first years is to find what works for them early. From figuring out the minimum number of hours you need to sleep to be at 100% to whether you should handwrite or type your notes, you have to figure out what works best for you. I love having physical materials for my school work. I handwrite everything and always have a physical book. Highlighting and underlining is a good way for me to pick our important information, contrary to the latest scientific findings.

Physical books are becoming more and more expensive, but you know what else is becoming more expensive? College. If I know that I am going to do better in courses with a physical book, I’ll pay the 30 more dollars or try to find one in the library to get the best grade the first time around. Extra semesters are not cheap and cost significantly more than the difference between the online version and the physical book. Take it from me, buy the book.


SO there are my biggest tips and thoughts on buying textbooks. Maybe you’ve heard all this before, but probably not because I was a pretty big fan of the internet before I started college and still wasn’t prepared for buying college textbooks. Do you have any tips on buying textbooks? Share in the comments, maybe you can save me, even more, money in my final year!

keep on keepin’ on,