Combating the Disproportionate Rise of Textbook Prices

This post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please view our full disclosure.

textbook costs burden

Quick note:  I was interviewed on yesterday!  Super excited about it.  If you want to check our the interview, you can do so here.

I graduated a little over a year ago.  Last fall, my husband started school.  So we’ve been paying for textbooks for a very, very long time.  We’ve been looking at buying books for this upcoming semester, and can I just say:  HOLY MOLY.  Prices have gone up at least 50% since I was in school.  And I graduated a year ago.

Here are some things I’ve looked at in the past when dealing with textbook costs:

  • I’ve taken care of my books so that when the semester ends, I can sell them.
  • I’ve used an app to market the books I couldn’t unload on
  • This one I haven’t used, but still feel like it’s important to share.  Get a SPAL if you’re on public assistance (or would qualify for it), and the cost of books will keep you from going to school.  Because swallowing your pride is better than quitting college, people.
  • I’ve looked into eTextbooks and remained unimpressed.

With his textbook prices so high, we’re going to have to take a new approach.  Because we honest to god can’t afford to pay a grand for one semester.  (No joke.  That’s including my scouring Amazon and  Here’s where we’ve had success so far:

  • Buying international versions of the text.  The page numbers and text should be the same; the only difference is the front cover.  This saved us a whopping $50, but every little bit adds up.  I’d recommend going with a website or seller that has a money-back guarantee when you go this route.
  • Scouring the boards at school.  I was in a very young program, so looking for flyers for books that other’s might have already used was pretty fruitless.  My class was the first one to take a lot of these courses, so we were the first ones to buy the books.  His situation is very different.  We’ve saved $165 by responding to a flyer on campus.  And that was just on one book.
  • He might have to use the reserve.  Check out the reserve section of your school’s library.  Many colleges require that one copy of each course’s text be placed there.  You can’t check the book out, but you can use it for free.  You can make copies of pages that you need for specific assignments, or, if you have time, you can just go to the library and use it as you need it.  It’s not as convenient, but with his schedule, he’s going to be on campus a lot this year with downtime between courses.  So it may work out for the best.

Are you in school?  Have you noticed an insane rise in prices over the past year as we have?  How are you combating costs?


*Part of Friday Jet Fuel*
*This is a Thrifty Thursday Tip*

17 thoughts on “Combating the Disproportionate Rise of Textbook Prices

  1. Tennille

    When I was in school I utilized and rented my textbooks. I often would stop in and meet the professor and ask them if it was possible to use an older version of the book as it was cheaper to rent those.

    I have also swapped books with other students that I knew when we would be taking the same classes but during different semesters.

    The last thing I did to save money on my text books was to buy them from students who were just going to sell them back to the school. I offered them what the school would have paid them for the books. I have also sold books that way. Fellow students are usually happy to help someone out because we all know that the book buy back program is a big rip.

    It is possible to get a better price, if you are willing to be creative! :o)

    1. femmefrugality

      These are all great ideas! We prefer to buy just because if we sell fast enough we can usually get our money back. Last semester he was walking into class and there was a student from last semester outside seeking their book. He didn’t buy BC he didn’t know if he would need it yet and someone else nabbed it up! Maybe he’ll wait outside the bookstore to sell this semester…

  2. Poor Student

    What I do to save money is to use the book from the reserve section. Fortunately my school has a couple of books with the same title and edition and we can rent them out for a couple of hours. If I need to mark something then I’ll copy the pages. Might not be that convenient of you live far from campus, but it works well with me since I live really close to it.

  3. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter

    I often didn’t even buy the textbooks for my classes. More often than not, they weren’t even needed. The instructor would say they were but then provide slides directly from the book and only test us on those. I did fine in my classes without them!

    1. femmefrugality

      That’s awesome! I did that with one class where the prof said we would use the book every homework assignment. Others told me that wouldn’t be the case…just download the power points!

  4. Mrs. Frugalwoods

    I finished grad school two years ago and textbooks were exorbitant then too. I also bought international versions and made photocopies from the library’s reserve copy. I tried sharing a textbook with a friend once, which kind of worked, but was more frustrating than worth the cost savings. Good luck in your book search, I totally feel your pain!

  5. Kate @ Money Propeller

    I took good care of my book when I was studying and when I graduated, I sold some of my books. And now that my younger sister is studying and she is also studying an IT course, she now also uses my old books.

  6. Messy Money

    I agree with Daisy – sometimes the reading list is long but the class may only call for reading a small part of the book. Best to wait and find out what you really need. I did use old editions of textbooks for some classes. I would compare the old edition to the new one – and if the changes were not major the old edition was fine.

  7. Anne @ Money Propeller

    My school had an award winning website that made it super easy to find used books for sale (they were all linked from the same page as the bookstore sales page, which also included links to amazon and Chapters). It was so, so handy. 50% inflation is insane!

  8. Miss M

    Oh man, so true! I remember my first semester of college (Fall 06) I spent almost $1000 on books. Turns out I didn’t need all of them but man I wish I’d realized that earlier!

  9. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

    The cost of textbooks is so ridiculous. It’s even worse when professors insist on certain editions. Can’t you just let us know when there’s a little deviation? For pete’s sake. I bought most of my textbooks (in the olden days) off eBay. I’m pretty sure it’s why I opened an account with them in the first place. Good luck!!

  10. Pingback: How I Save On Graduation Parties - Femme Frugality

  11. Pingback: How to Shop for College Textbooks and Save Money | Femme Frugality

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *