Friday, August 8, 2014

How To Save Money On College Costs

I'm back today to share a few tips on how to save on college costs. Do you have kids in college yet? If you have any tips to add, please do so in the comments. I'm sure we could all use all the help we can get. :) 

My oldest will be a junior in college this Fall, and we've learned a few things along the way. I wish someone had shared these tips with me before my son started college, but maybe some of you can benefit from it. 

*Tip #1: Buy the "loose leaf" version of textbooks if it's available. 

College textbooks are ridiculously expensive. Most of my son's are between $100-$350. I know. That's crazy, right? Well, one way we've found to save a little is to purchase the loose leaf version of the textbook. We've saved close to $100 per book by doing this. It's basically a stack of pages with three holes punched in the sides for ease in using in a 3 ring binder. You just take the stack of pages and stick them in a binder. You can even buy a binder with a clear pocket on the front to display the front cover page of the book.  

Here's an example of what I'm talking about...

You can see they're just individual pages with holes punched in them.

how to save money on college textbooks

Just plop them into a three ring binder and you're good to go!

Like I said, you can even buy a binder with a clear plastic pocket and slip the front cover page in there to easily identify which book it is. 

Easy peasy!

Some colleges won't buy back these versions, but we've had no trouble selling them back to an online source, which I'll share in a minute.

*Tip #2: You can also rent books from places like Amazon and

Chegg is a wonderful source for buying, renting, or selling your college textbooks.  Amazon is great as well. One of my son's textbooks was $330 to purchase at the college bookstore and only $20 to purchase on Amazon!!! There are a handful of books my son wants to keep, and that's fine. But if he doesn't care for the book, we'll always sell it back to try to recoup some cash. 

*Tip #3: Wait until the first day of class to see if the professor requires a book.

I always pressed my son to buy the book before class started so he would be prepared and already have the book on the first day. Well, we learned that some professors don't even use the book. Ugh. This happened to us twice. You'd think we would have learned the first time, but no. Twice we bought a book that the professor didn't even use. Money wasted. So, sometimes it pays off (literally) to wait until the first day of class to see if the book is actually necessary. Or maybe they can email the professor ahead of time to see if they use the book.

*Tip #4: Always look at the Rate My Professors website prior to picking a class. 

This website is a gold mine of information! It's NOT just a local website either...they have professors from all across the country on there. Your child can go here to learn all about a professor before signing up for their class. College kids basically go to this website and rate their professors. My son found the reviews to be very accurate too. They'll tell you if the professor is lenient, extremely strict, etc. Sometimes they'll even tell you how many exams there are in the semester, etc. They'll divulge information about which ones will let you use your book for tests, etc. Overall a VERY informative website. :)

*Tip #5: Go to the Bookscouter website when you're ready to sell back your textbooks.

You just go to the website, punch in the ISBN number on your book and hit the search button. It'll immediately show you all the websites that will buy your book and what they're willing to pay. They list them starting with the one that will pay the most so you don't have to scroll around looking for the best deal. The names of the websites are clickable too, so it makes it easy to navigate.

After going to the bookscouter website, we ended up using Sell Back Your Book and Bookstores to sell back our books. Here's how these sites work...we put in our ISBN numbers to confirm how much they would pay for the books. They emailed us a pre-paid shipping label to print out and tape on our shipping box. (We got our shipping boxes at Walmart for .68 cents) We took them to our local post office and mailed them. It only took 12 days from the time we mailed the books until we got our check in the mail. You can also choose to get the money deposited in your Paypal account. Since they paid for the shipping, it only cost us the .68 cents for the box. What a deal! I was impressed with the speedy service too. 

Some of these websites also buy back music cds, dvds and electronics too. You can also buy or rent your textbooks from them as well. 

These book buy back websites seem to be pretty good at buying back textbooks that the college won't. Like I mentioned earlier, most college bookstores won't buy back the loose leaf versions, but we were able to sell them back to the two places I mentioned above. 

*Tip #6: If your child has a job, tell them to ask if their employer gives out scholarships. 

Lots of college kids have part time jobs. My own son works for a local company that gives out scholarships every year. Most of the time they have to be working there for a year before they're eligible to apply and they have to keep up their GPA to qualify. My son was lucky enough to receive a wonderful scholarship from his employer as well as two other scholarships from the university he's attending this Fall. My point is, it never hurts to ask. 

I hope this was helpful to some of you. Please share any tips you may have in the comments. College is expensive and it's always nice when we can find little ways to save a little. :)



  1. Well blow me down - I didn't know about the text books in loose leaf form! I'm going to tell Tanner about this. I've always pushed my boys to have everything ready the first day and they wisely wait on the books. Drives me crazy but you are right - they don't always need it. You know I told you our son always keeps the book money? I think I'm going to keep it from now on.

  2. I will keep these tips in mind once we know what our son will be doing. He's seeing a career counselor now so things should start moving along soon.

  3. A million thanks for this post, Lisa! I really appreciate all the work that went into putting this information together. You helped me immensely!

  4. These are great tips. My daughter is in graduate school and my son is a senior in college. It always amazes me how much they can charge for textbooks. I was always like you and telling them to have the textbook before the first day until they had classes where the book was not even used. They have emailed the professor before class starts now and asked if the book was needed or if the edition down would be ok. Sometimes there is very little difference in the editions and it saves a lot of money. Thanks so much for the great ideas.

    1. Thank you, Kim! With kids in college, I'm sure you can totally understand how expensive it is. :) They certainly charge an arm and a leg for those textbooks. That's a wonderful idea to ask about the edition down! I'm going to keep that in mind this Fall. Thanks for the tip! Hope you're having a great weekend!

  5. Great ideas, Lisa! I wish there had been more resources available when my kids went to college. I'm sure this will help many.


  6. These far great money-saving ideas, Lisa! Even though we are still a few years away from college, it's so nice to see how other people save!
    Kendra @

    1. Thanks, Kendra! I'm always interested in how other people save too. It's always fun to share tips. :) I swear, my son was just a baby, and now he's in college! And his little brother is right behind him. Time flies, for sure! Enjoy your Sunday!

  7. Thanks for this post! My college daughter takes advantage of most of these ideas, but we didn't know about bookscouter.

  8. Awesome tips! I am pinning this one for all of the sites you mentioned! :)


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