How to Pay for My Daughter's College Books

College textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars each year.
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According to Forbes, the textbook market represents billions of dollars in spending each year. This can be unwelcome news for parents who face tuition costs and related expenses such as dorm supplies and travel fees for their students. However, you can find options for buying textbooks without going broke. In some cases, you may even obtain textbooks for your child without paying out of pocket.

Financial Aid Refunds

Look to any grants and loans your daughter receives to help pay for her textbooks. If the grants or loans amount to more than she needs to pay her tuition and room and board balance, she may receive the excess money as a refund. In such a case, she typically has the right to use the refund for school or living expenses. Instead of allowing her to buy clothes, treat her friends to pizza or even just save the cash, direct her to using at least some of it to pay for textbooks.


Textbooks often cover only a semester of learning. For example, your daughter may need an expensive biology textbook for the fall semester but move on to a different book by spring. If you want to avoid spending top dollar on textbooks, consider renting, which costs much less.

After using a rented textbook, your daughter has to return it in the same condition as she received it. If she damages the book or fails to return it on time, you will typically face additional fees. In some cases, you may even have to buy the book at its regular price. You can rent textbooks from online retailers, and some college bookstores provide this option, too.

Buy Used

Look for used textbooks in good condition instead of new ones. You can often buy used books from a campus bookstore or online. Ask your daughter to keep her books in reasonably good condition. She can sell them at the end of the semester and use the cash toward the purchase of her next set of textbooks.

Electronic Textbooks

Although most textbooks come in print form, many have electronic versions you can buy instead. Often, these books are much cheaper and available for instant download, saving you shipping fees as well. Look for electronic versions of your daughter's textbooks and stock up on printer ink and paper. This way, she can print chapters of her books if she wants. Although she can read electronic books on her computer, some people find it easier to study from a print textbook.

Brand New

If you must buy your daughter's textbooks brand new, think twice before going to the college bookstore. You might be able to find new books from other retailers, such as Amazon and Abe Books, for less money. According to U.S. News & World Report, you might save about 20 percent by looking elsewhere. Factor in the shipping costs before you make a decision. Sometimes, shipping is so much it makes sense to buy the books from the campus bookstore.


Although most people apply for scholarships to pay college tuition, have your daughter apply to some with an eye toward meeting other educational expenses. If the scholarships and other aid she receives exceed the cost of her tuition, she can use the excess to pay for her textbooks.

Read the rules of the scholarship before she applies, to make sure she can use the award toward nontuition expenses. If you plan to pay out of pocket for tuition, a scholarship that reduces your out-of-pocket costs will free up some of your money for buying textbooks. In addition, you may find some grants and scholarships intended specifically for buying books.

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