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Rent a Book – Frugal College Tip


Sea Cadet comes by every week to hang out with mom. He started back to school this week too, completing his Associates in Paramedicine. This is the next step towards his ultimate goal of being a PA. He’s working as an EMT (still part time), a bowling alley mechanic (also part time), for me doing web work (part time) and then going to school full time. He’s a busy guy!

Thankfully, because of the twins being a special needs adoption, they qualify for the maximum is financial aid. So his school is essentially paid for. But there’s a downside to that as well…he’s not careful with that money. So when he came by last week, he brought the books he’d just picked up for his classes. $1,000 is books!! Ouch! Covered by student grants, but still.

On the other hand, Princess and I work diligently to keep her costs as low as possible. So when it was time for her to get books, she did the legwork and I did the keyboard work. She got the list of books needed for her 16 credit hours of classes and visited the college bookstore to take note of availability, costs, new/used, online vs paper book. With that information, we shopped around…and score!

She got all her books for the semester for just at $250. Some of the books were $300 by themselves if purchased new.

Our Trick

Amazon textbook rental! Most of her books for between $25-32 to rent for the semester. And because she’s in a big city now, all were delivered within 2 days. Awesome, awesome! The most she paid for a book was $60. (By the end of the first week of class, the professor uploaded it for free to the class portal, so she was bummed about that spend.)

She will have to ship them back right after her classes are over in December. But we were both thrilled with how frugal we were with the spend. Especially after she compared what she would have spent if she just went to the college bookstore and purchased them…

(Sea Cadet knows all this. We did it for his dual enrollment classes. He just didn’t plan ahead this time and is not as concerned about saving money since it’s all covered for him.)

Any other money savings tips for college program? Or technical programs?




  • Reply Kim |

    It’s been many years since I was in college, but a younger coworker of mine mentioned that he would find the textbook’s IBAN number and type that into Google followed by “PDF” and “free”. He was often able to find free digital copies of the books he needed for class

    • Reply Hope |

      This is a great idea. I didn’t even think of it, probably because I do not like online book reading very much.
      But Princess doesn’t mind it. We will definitely incorporate this into our process for next semester!
      Thank you!

  • Reply Rey |

    …or perhaps he made the perfectly reasonable choice to accept free books that will be useful references for his career and future studies? Maybe next semester you can help the kid juggling school and multiple jobs as much as your Princess.

    • Reply Hope |

      I am always available to help him, he knows that. The difference is I’m no longer paying his bill, managing his schedule, etc. So I can make myself available…but it’s up to him to take advantage of it.
      And you are right, these may come in handy down the road. I would just have shopped around a bit. And it might have saved significantly.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    Sorry to be snarky but it just seems funny that you’re criticizing your son for his spending habits. Pot meet kettle.

  • Reply Holly S |

    With my oldest we were able to shop around quite a bit for used or rental textbooks and that was nice the first 2 years he was in college. My youngest son’s school almost exclusively used “codes” for all their electronic books so there was no opportunity to save unfortunately. My older son’s college had also transferred to that system by the time he’d graduated. I’m sure there was a financial benefit for the university with that but it certainly made it tough on the students looking for any type of financial savings.

  • Reply Angie |

    It’s been 15 years since I’ve been in school. But they used to have soft cover “international” editions of most textbooks that you could buy online. They were a fraction of the cost of the hard copy US editions (maybe 1/3rd). You did have to check to ensure the homework questions were in the same order though. But as long as you had a friend in the class you could cross-check pretty easily.

So, what do you think ?