Back To School: Buying Books (For Less)

Hey there, internet people! I’ve been feeling particularly prolific the past few days, so here’s another blog post coming right at you. This time, instead of ranting and raving about something, I’m getting back to the roots of this blog and talking about college life. Since it’s nearly time to go back to school (can you believe it?) it’s also time for one of my favorite (and simultaneously least favorite) activities–buying books for the year. 

As those of you who’ve already done this whole college thing know, books are EXPENSIVE. In fact, when I read the school bookstore prices for my first semester’s book, I quite literally burst into tears. But then I calmed myself down, scoured the internet, and quickly came up with a way to save (that particular semester) about $200. Which, as you know, is a LOT of money for a college student.

Since part of the purpose of this blog is giving helpful life tips when I’ve got them, I thought I’d bring you my strategy for saving money on books each semester. Whether you’re already in college or this is your first year and you’re new to the whole thing, I hope at least one of these tips can be of use.

This is what an “acceptable” quality book from Amazon looks like.

1) Your college book store may be convenient, but you WILL pay for that convenience. 

Yes, it seems easiest to just go through the bookstore at your school, which in many cases will automatically put your booklist order through with a few simple clicks. But trust me, experience has shown that if you do that, you’re going to be paying the most for your books that you possibly could. And maybe you can afford to do that, but I know I can’t.

2) Quick on the draw=easier on the wallet.

The thing about used books is, there’s often only a few copies available, especially if its one of those $100 textbooks that no one wants to buy used. I tend to obsessively watch my school’s website, waiting for the book list to go up so I can rush and snatch up the cheapest copies as soon as the list gets posted. Maybe that makes me a little crazy, but there have definitely been times where I’ve snagged the last available used copy of books, saving myself QUITE a lot of money. The quicker you order your books, the better your savings. 

3) Compare, compare, compare.

It takes a little extra time, but it can really pay off to compare the price of more expensive books on more than one site before you order. I like to have a tab open with Amazon, and (my personal favorite, as they offer rentals AND used books, as well as a guaranteed buyback price) as I go down my list, so I can figure out which site has the cheapest copy. When doing this, it’s often helpful to copy/paste the ISBN number for searches, instead of typing out the title. That way, you KNOW you’re getting the right edition of the book and there’s less to sift through.

4) Do you really want to keep that? 

By that, I of course am referring to the possibility of RENTING your books. That’s right, RENTING books. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea that possibility even existed before I did my research. And while I like to keep my textbooks, some of the more expensive ones from my first few years were the sort of thing I knew I’d never use again. Renting books is often half the price of buying, in some cases even less. Usually, you’re even allowed to make a few marks in the books, as long as you don’t go overboard. And if the due date freaks you out (or there aren’t any more rentals available) you can always plan to sell them back when you’re done. offers a guaranteed buyback price (which is worth a little bit more than the typical buyback price) if you sell back the books you bought from them. Both methods are a lot easier than they sound, and the shipping is covered by most sites (such as and Chegg), so all you have to do is print a label, find a box, and get yourself to a UPS store.

5) To eliminate shipping costs, check your local second hand bookstore. 

I’m lucky to have two Half Price Books stores in my town, so I always check there first to see about my books. Usually you can only find novels and other less standard textbooks there, but not having to pay shipping is definitely worth the trip (provided there’s a store nearby you can visit).  Besides, if you’re anything like me, there’s no comparison to the smell and feel of being in an actual, physical bookstore.

Hope some of that was beneficial for you! If you have any other ways of saving money on college textbooks (aside from the obvious “just don’t buy them, man.) then please, feel free to share.



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