Depending on your needs, you may not need to spend any money at all

Like just about every other cost associated with higher education, the cost of college textbooks has been rising as well. According to a February report from the Student Public Interest Research Group, the cost of textbooks has risen about 78 percent over the past decade.

Yet while the price of textbooks is up, students are actually spending less. Last year, according to the National Association of College Stores, students spent an average of $602 on course materials, including textbooks—about $100 less than students spent a decade ago.

The reason? Many students check out price comparison sites such as Booksprice and Textsurf to get the best deals possible. Another reason is that a growing number of schools no longer require as many textbooks as they once did. Instead, the faculty are switching over to free, open-source course materials.

But students are also getting smarter about how they shop, finding lower cost ways of getting the books they need. “There are alternatives out there now for students that can save hundreds of dollars,” says Ethan Senack, higher education advocate with the United States Public Interest Research Group.

Here’s how you can save money while getting your textbooks: