6 Genius Textbook Hacks Every Student Should Know

Overspending on books is so last semester.

You’re back on campus. You just deposited the last check from your summer job and your bank account is looking pretty good. But then you sign up for classes. You make a trip to the campus bookstore and pull out your syllabus.

Goodbye, money.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, the average student shelled out more than $1,200 on books and course-related materials, according to a survey conducted by the experts over at College Board. In spite of the numbers,  there are ways to reduce costs—you just gotta be smart about it.

Want to give your bank account a break? Here are six expert-approved hacks every student should know to save big on textbooks this semester.

Hack No. 1: Buy Used 

Beverly Friedmann, content manager and copywriter for ReviewingThis

When one semester is done, there are plenty of students looking to buy and trade textbooks to save money just like you. As a self-proclaimed broke college student, not only did I work in our student bookstore (while eating ramen noodles on a near-constant basis), I sold all of my own textbooks and novels from classes back to other students after my own semesters were over to turn profits and help other students save money on expensive reading materials. Buying used books from other students is a fast way to get texts in good condition and save on any shipping costs or potential hassles. You might also consider selling your own books to other students after your semester is over.

Hack No. 2: Rent Your Book

Logan Allec, CPA and owner of personal finance resource Money Done Right

Many services have recognized that textbooks are a huge expense, but students tend to only need them for a few months each semester. As a result, large companies such as Amazon allow you to rent textbooks for a few months at a time for a relatively reasonable cost. Just make sure to return the book when requested or you may pay a sizable late fee.

Hack No. 3: Skip The Book Altogether

Beverly Friedmann, content manager and copywriter for ReviewingThis

While it may seem time-consuming, if you know you’ll only need certain chapters out of textbooks, you can go to your school’s library to make photocopies of the pages you’ll need. If you don’t like hard-copy paperwork, you can upload them to different devices as PDF files and have them on hand for easy studying on the go. You may want to speak with your professor beforehand about specific chapters you’ll be covering so you know exactly which [ones to copy].

Logan Allec, CPA and owner of personal finance resource Money Done Right

Did you know that most print textbooks have an online, PDF version? Even better, the online PDF version is much more affordable. For this version, the book manufacturer does not need to spend money on printing, binding, or shipping the book to local college campuses. As a result, you can sometimes find a textbook where the print version costs $250, but the online version is only $50. Even if you pay to print out the pages you need from an online version, you’ll end up with significant savings.

Bernard Wong, growth hacker and content producer at HUSTLR

If the class is easy and doesn’t require a lot of reading, you can probably get away with studying for quizzes using sites with study sets like Quizlet. These sites usually have material uploaded by teaching assistants, and usually come with a set of possible quiz questions that you can take to pass your quizzes easily, saving you a ton of money by not buying the textbook.

Hack No. 4: Borrow From The Library 

Igor Editor-in-Chief at Fortunly.com

Most of the university libraries keep up to date with textbooks and you may be able to borrow them instead of buying. Even if you don’t find all of the textbooks, it is still much better to pay for just a few than all of them.

Hack No. 5: Get The Older Version

Michael Greaney, CPA and Director of ESOP Administration Services for Equity Expansion International, Inc.

With the professor’s (usually secret; they can get into trouble) concurrence, purchase an earlier edition, e.g., 5th instead of 6th. They are almost always virtually identical, as most revisions are to generate revenue, not because of any substantive changes.

 Igor Editor-in-Chief at Fortunly.com

Also, libraries sometimes have different editions of one textbook, so you should take some time and check out all of the possibilities. Don’t just look for the latest edition as you may find identical content in the older versions.

Hack No. 6: Share The Expense 

Chhavi, personal finance blogger at Mrs Daaku Studio 

You can also pair up with friends and buy the book together. This way, you can reduce the cost considerably. For example, if four people were to buy the same book, it would only cost you a quarter of the price.

Bottom Line

New semester, new goals. The first big win of the semester? Saving big on textbooks with our six expert-approved hacks.


Logan Allec is a CPA, personal finance expert, and owner of the website Money Done Right.  After spending his twenties grinding it out in the corporate world and paying off over $35,000 in student loans, he dropped everything and launched Money Done Right in 2017. His mission is to help everybody — from college students to retirees — make, save, and invest more money.  He currently resides in the Los Angeles area with my wife Caroline and son Hunter. Follow him on Twitter @MoneyDoneRight.
Chhavi Daaku is a blogger on Mrs. Daaku Studio, a place where you can find out all about working remotely. If you are looking for legitimate ways to make money online or from home, you can start here and download the freelancing to success guide. You can connect with the organization on its Facebook Group, Be your own boss (quit 9-5) or on YouTube.
Beverly Friedmann serves as a content manager and copywriter for the Consumer Website ReviewingThis, with a background in digital marketing and sales management. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology, with a minor in English literature. On a personal level, she enjoys community service, yoga, and grew up doing competitive gymnastics. She encourages all students to read, write, and never skimp on literature purchases.
Shyam K. IyerMichael D. Greaney is a certified public accountant and secretary for the Center for Economic and Social Justice. He also serves as the center’s volunteer director of research and is member of its executive committee. He has audited profit and nonprofit organizations throughout the world with the American Red Cross, Georgetown University Medical Center, and the U.S. Federal Election Commission. He’s done consulting work with the Equity Expansion International, Inc. through the Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) administration and has authored numerous books and articles on expanded ownership, money and credit, as well as social development.
Igor Mitic is an experienced writer and content creator in the financial niche. He has extensive experience working with banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that create financial products and services. He is passionately sharing his knowledge as the editor-in-chief at Fortunly.com, a website dedicated to the simple explanation of financial matters to ordinary people.
Bernard Wong is a full-time growth hacker and content producer for HUSTLR among others. As a student, he flipped Yeezys on eBay to fund his studies and living expenses. Currently, he’s working on his Fulfillment-By-Amazon business and drop-shipping on the side.

Did you save big on textbook this school year? Tell us your secret over on Twitter at @OppUniversity.

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