Thrifty fun – Book lovers edition


I love books! Technical books, story books, fiction, non-fiction, children’s books(!)… One of my major expenditures every month was books. I cut down spending in everything else, but somehow I felt guilty cutting down on book purchases. I justified my purchases by saying that books are knowledge and so reducing the money I spent on knowledge acquisition was being penny wise but pound foolish. So I kept buying books. Sometimes I wouldn’t even read them, just the fact that I had them “in case” I needed them gave me a strange comfort. Until I had to move… I had collected so many of them, I just couldn’t take everything with me. So whole boxes of new books went to the library, thrift stores and Craigslist. Now someone will read them but I had spent a small fortune on books. So I decided to finally cut back the “spending” and still read books. These are some of the steps and websites I use to satisfy my love for books without breaking my wallet.

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book lovers - thrifty fun

There are 3 ways to satisfy that appetite for good books (increasing cost):

  1. Borrow
  2. Trade
  3. Buy (for cheap)

Borrow: You would think this one would be obvious, but I never really used it much. Most of the time your local library will have the book you want. If not, almost all the libraries have other connected libraries, either within your county or even nationally. So you just have to request a transfer and wait. Waiting for just a few more days could save you a lot!

(Note: If you love a particular book and think it will be very useful, consider buying that book for the library instead of buying for yourself. You can have fun reading the book, it will be put to good use by others and you can also get a tax deduction for the book you bought)

Trade : This is an excellent option to make books you own work to get more books you love. You can start with your own private book swap club or take it to the next level and swap it with strangers. There are tons of meet-ups where you can swap books. Find one near you here. If these are not enough to satisfy the appetite of an avid reader, cast a much wider net. There are three websites that I like but there are many more. You can just register the books you have that you no longer need with these sites and borrow books that interest you from other members. After you have finished with that book you can list that and get your next book, the cycle continues. You just pay the mailing costs.

The descriptions below are taken from the respective websites.
  • Paperbackswap (has a credit system): Simply list your books at and begin swapping books. When another member selects one of your books, you mail it to them. Yes, you have to pay for postage. But then, when you select a book, another member returns the favor and mails you one free of charge. For every book that you mail out, you get another book of your choice in return – a true shared system! They have sister sites – SwapaCD and SwapaDVD for trading CDs and DVDs.
  • Swap (Trade books, music, movies and games) : Simply put: We take the old stuff that’s collecting dust around your home and we give it to someone else. In return, you get something of theirs. Of course, there are limitations. We know you don’t like your husband’s tattered chair from college (which somehow managed to find its way on the moving truck, even after you left it on the sidewalk on trash day). But we’re not going to swap it out for you. Our trades are done on a smaller scale – books, CDs, DVDs, and video games.
  • BookMooch : BookMooch is a community for exchanging used books. It lets you give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want. BookMooch is a way to get books without paying, and without any intention of returning the book. So quite literally they are asking you to “mooch off”.

Buy (for cheap):

If you really need a book to refer to again and again, you can buy it for cheap. All these places have books that sell for pennies on the dollar.

  • Thrift stores
  • Library book sale
  • Garage sale
  • Craigslist
  • Online (not the cheapest, but most of the time cheaper than the local bookstore)

Tips and tricks for buying new:

  • Try online first and comparison shop.
  • If you do have to buy at local bookstore, try to maximize the “rewards” system of the bookstore. Borders’ reward card is free and you earn BordersBucks for every book you buy.
  • Always try to look for coupons. Borders almost always has some kind of coupon floating around. Sign up for their newsletter and you get one to your inbox. If you don’t want to do that, google “borders coupon” you will definitely get one.

Student corner:

  • Try the campus notice boards/news letters for books on sale at the end of the semester. Some universities take the campus notice boards online. Example: TextSwap is a free textbook exchange service that allows you to easily trade used textbooks online. Check if your university is listed, if not send them an email, they will add it in a couple of days.
  • When buying online, check a few websites that compare prices. Don’t forget to include tax and shipping for the true price comparison. Example: AddAll, ValoreBooks or BigWords.
  • If you are selling your books, again use online tools to get the most money for your books. Sites like BigWords or BookScouter not only show where you can get your books for cheap, but it will also show which sites are willing to pay you the most for your books.
  • If you have a lot of books to buy for this semester, try Bigwords first as it uses a multi-item price optimizer. If you buy books from 4 websites and each of them cost $5 for shipping, you might be able to get a better deal by paying a little more for the books and getting them from a single seller with just $5 shipping.

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