Cheap Textbooks & Other Back To Uni Cost Saving Tips

February 15th, 2018

When the start of a new semester rolls around it can be a tricky time for student finances (Which is why we offer student loans. Summer is over and, if you’re like most uni students, you’ve had way too much fun on your break and ‘back to uni’ has crept up on you, with not enough cash set aside for textbooks and supplies.

Whether you were travelling overseas or just making the most of the long holiday breaks, chilling at home, these costs were probably the furthest thing from your mind but now reality has kicked in and you’ve got a list of expenses to get sorted before your first class.

We totally get it, and have created this list of hints and tips to help you make the impact of back to uni costs as minimal as possible.


Textbooks are a major cost with the average student forking out around $600 a year. Unlike the old days where text books could be passed down through generations until the book disintegrates, things are changing at such a rapid rate that publishers often bring out new updated editions each year. So, we’ve come up with some great tips to help you spend less on your textbooks this year.

Do you really need it?

Now, we’re not trying to encourage you to slack off before the semester has even started but the truth is a lot of textbooks are bought only for them to sit on bookshelves in share houses unused. They might be listed as ‘required texts’ but once the actual unit starts you’ll sometimes find that they are barely used. Ask around to talk with people who did the unit last year, have a good read of the course guide and find units on Student VIP to get an idea of how crucial the text is.

Version control

Only buy the latest edition if you’re 100% sure you need to. Check for differences and see if most of the information is the same. The old version will usually be enough to get you through and you’ll be able to pick it up for a lot less money.

Make use of your library card

Check out if the library has the required texts (hint: university libraries usually will). You could grab the text for the start of the year and then gauge if you need to buy it. Sometimes you’ll only need a text for part of a unit, so see if you can grab it from the library for a few weeks and return it once you no longer need it.

Make money to spend money

Sell your previous years textbooks to give yourself a bit of extra cash for your new courses. Most online platforms like Student VIP, mentioned previously allow you to not only buy second hand textbooks, but sell them as well.

Another way to do it is to use the notice boards around campus. As there will be a new cohort of students coming through doing the same classes as you, this can be an easy and effective way of getting some money back on your old books. A great time to get a notice up, is just before O Week!

Don’t lug it around

Search the web for eBook versions of the text. These are usually much cheaper, and a whole lot lighter.

Get a bargain

If you think you’ll need the physical version of the exact textbook, then check out the online resources listed below where you can buy discounted texts (or even rent them, although that isn’t always that much cheaper).

You can also check local classified websites like Gumtree and of course the notice boards around the campus.

Websites to find second hand textbooks:

Laptops, computers and equipment

Face it. You can’t do anything without a computer these days. Whether you just need a basic laptop to do your web surfing and essay writing, or you need a set up with specialised features and software for your course, the costs can really hit hard.

What do you really need?

It’s tough to reduce the amount you spend on a computer or laptop while still getting something that you can trust not to fail when you’re in the middle of your final assignment.

The best way to ensure you don’t overspend is to do your research and buy a computer that is suited to the course you are studying. A creative writing course won’t need a powerful expensive computer, but a basic, cheap one won’t work for a film editing course. Consult your friends, tutors and those ‘in the know’ to make sure you know what you need.

Soften the software cost

In many cases part of your course will be learning how to use new types of software relevant to your future career. In these situations, don’t rush out to buy expensive full versions of the software as there will almost always be an avenue to get these programs through the university at a discounted price, or failing that, through the developer at a student price.

For other standard software programs check if freeware, or online versions are around. These exist for just about every type of program you could need. Check out this link for some of the most useful freeware programs.

Use your resources

Universities obviously have a huge amount of technology that you can access for free, in libraries and computer labs.

Spend a bit more time on campus using their computers and you’ll save money and rid yourself of some of the distractions you face at home. Courses that need more powerful technology like film, animation and design usually have appropriate computers available on campus, with all the latest software you need to succeed.


Don’t forget to apply the same rules with your non-technology equipment. If you are buying equipment that is required for your entire course, consider paying more and buying quality. Things like stethoscopes for medicine, drawing tools for architecture, and lab gear for science will be needed for a long time. It can be tempting to go budget and save but if you buy quality, they will last you well into your career.   

Spending Less Across the Semester

The initial costs of getting back to Uni are steep, but there are the everyday costs of being back on the books that can also drain your budget.

So we’ve listed a few simple and quick ways to tighten the budget while you’re still absorbing the back-to-school costs, and maybe if you stick to them, who knows, you’ll even have a bit put away by the time you do it all again next semester.


A 2012 study on student finances found that after tuition, transport is the biggest expense for people at uni. Consciously cutting down on the money we spend on transport can make a big difference.

Save on PT

Students will be able to receive concession or student public transport rates which will significantly cut the cost of travel. Don’t forget to crunch the costs of long term tickets on public transport and buy monthly or yearly passes if it is more economical.

Share it

Most universities offer carpool matching services, with some like the University of Newcastle even embracing apps like Liftango . Check to see if your university offers any carpooling services, or chat to your classmates and try to organise it yourself. It’s a great way of making new friends, reducing costs and saving the environment.

On ya bike

Buy a bike and ride. If you’re sticking to roads and bike paths, a decent bike can be bought for under $250 and will quickly pay for itself when saving on fuel or public transport. You’ll be able to exercise off those post lecture beers and reduce your carbon footprint as a bonus.

Student discounts on EVERYTHING

Most students are well aware of student discounts in the obvious places (public transport, movie tickets, etc) but there are plenty of other student discounts, companies offer that aren’t always taken advantage of. Check out myunidays for a constantly updated source of student discount offers.

And finally...Feeding Yourself!

We all know students who just moved out of home are very unlikely to cook for themselves, but the amount of money spent eating out can really hit the piggy bank hard. Cooking at home and packing your own meals and snacks can save you heaps and most universities will have student room facilities where you can warm up your food if necessary.

Have you got your own student secrets for reducing the wallet burn while you learn? Let us know in the comments below.

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