How to Save Money on Textbooks (Your Wallet will Thank You!)


A penny saved is a penny earned. That might as well be the motto of the average college student. There’s no end in sight for rising tuition costs, and on top of that, you have to purchase new textbooks every semester. Every dollar spent seems to push the boundaries of your budget until it threatens to implode. And so, you might want to take a look at some ways you can be gentler on your wallet, without compromising your coursework. Here’s how you can do that!

Check the Library

You’d be surprised by how many textbooks and reading materials are carried by your local library. In fact, chances are that your school’s library also has the required texts available, especially if your professor is one of the authors. So, before you go searching for the reading materials at a bookstore, take a quick look on the library’s shelves. Even if you don’t find the exact book, you might find supplementary texts to aid your coursework.

Sometimes, if a certain book is in high demand, the library will limit the loan period to a day or even a couple of hours. In that case, plan to borrow strategically – perhaps you can set a routine to study at the library a few hours each week before your class starts.

Tip: Most professors upload course outlines weeks before the first class. Take advantage of this and place an early hold on all the books you’ll need.

Use Interlibrary Loans

Most libraries in Canada support an Interlibrary Loan system that allows for requesting books for loan from libraries across the province, and sometimes even across Canada. Often, these services are free of charge!

For example, if you’re a student of a University in Ontario, you can use the RACER service by Scholars Portal to search for items across multiple catalogues and place Interlibrary Loan requests. The lending institution determines the loan period, but on average you could keep books up to 5-6 weeks. Again, the early bird catches the worm, so plan accordingly.

Rent, Don’t Buy

Certain companies offer book rental services, often for as low as 10 percent of the purchase price! Many of them also include 21-day satisfaction guarantees and free shipping options.

If you also want to avoid the hassle of selling the book afterwards, be sure to check out this option.

Form a Study Group

Use the first day of class as an opportunity to find a study partner. Not only can study groups provide you with numerous benefits, but it can also allow for sharing of resources like textbooks and other reading materials. If a book is particularly expensive, perhaps you and your study partners can split the cost of the book between yourselves. For hard copies, consider dividing the proceeds evenly from sale of the book once you’re through with the course.

Get an E-Book

This one might seem obvious at first glance, but purchasing an online version can save you a lot on costs. E-books are more portable than print books, and most software allows for font adjustments and zoom-ins, especially for that tiny print that textbooks are notorious for. And if you have a green thumb like me, think of using an e-book as doing the environment a favour!

Tip: Use your public library or university’s library computer when using e-books. The monitor size is usually bigger than most laptops, plus, libraries make for great study spots!

Use an Older Version

You can find most older editions of books for cheaper prices. However, you should consult with your instructor prior to acquiring an older version because some information might now be obsolete or the older version might be missing crucial material compared to the latest edition.

If a book hasn’t been updated since the previous year, chances are you can purchase the used copies at significantly lower prices. Peruse your local used bookstore, or check online listings for the book on websites like Kijiji, Amazon, eBay and even Facebook Marketplace and college/university groups.

Look around, weigh different options, and see what feels right for each textbook on a case by case basis. If you put in the effort, you’ll find plenty of ways to cut down on college textbook costs. In the long run, this might end up saving you thousands of dollars by the time you graduate!