When you’re a bibliophile, the list of books that catch your attention is endless. We book lovers would love to read them all and possibly even add them to our own personal library. Unfortunately, there can be very real constraints to that dream. One of them is space, the other one is time, especially once adult life comes around with all its obligations preventing us to read all day. There is also a third limit: money.
Now, with bills and groceries in mind, most of us don’t get to splurge every last penny on books. Nonetheless, there are a variety of circumstances when the amount of cash we can spend on buying books is very low or even completely nonexistent. Maybe you’re in a financially tough spot, or your income isn’t much to begin with. Or maybe you want to save up for whatever reason, be it to pay off a debt, to afford a new *insert expensive item here*, or maybe even to go on a trip you’ve always wanted. Whatever the reason, it might not be possible to buy a lot of books.
Thankfully, reading is the kind of hobby that can be as (in)expensive as you want it to be! Today, I will be sharing 15 tips for enjoying books on a budget!
Disclaimer: I’m aware this might not apply to everyone and I by no means want to imply that everyone should follow this religiously. I’m just sharing some (what I consider to be) helpful tips.
Okay, this might sound boring, but when you want to save money, or you’re in a financial tight spot, this is the very first thing you should do. I won’t delve too deeply into this point as there are a lot of helpful tips about budgeting and saving money on the internet, but it comes down to this: figure out your income, take off all your bills, groceries, savings, and other necessary expenses (and while you’re at it, look critically at what you can cut or save money on — an unused gym subscription or fewer Starbucks visits can amount to a new book!), and by the end of it you should have an amount you can spend on hobbies and other leisurely activities. This not only gives you insight into your finances, but also tells you how much money you can spend on books without having to live on instant noodles for two weeks because you’ve splurged on the five latest books by Stephen King in hardcover.
#2. Use the library
This is one obvious, but it still needs to be mentioned. Depending on where you live, libraries are a very good option when you want to save money on books (or even if you don’t have a lot of room). These days, you can browse and check out books online, or even have them order titles when they’re not in stock. If you’re lucky, you live in a country where libraries are free or only require a small membership fee. This is especially a great option if you’re a student or have kids, but even for adults this is an excellent way to get access to a lot of books. Libraries also organize various activities and are great for giving you the quiet space to read, in case you can’t do so at home. They are also a good excuse to go outside of your house and possibly meet new people.
#3. Keep a wishlist
This might sound a bit counterproductive, but hear me out on this one. It helps preventing impulse buys, and preventing impulse buys saves money. If you see a title that interests you, keep it on a wishlist for a while rather than buying it immediately. If, say, after a month, you still really want to read it, you can (finances allowing) buy it. Because you’re forcing yourself to think about every single bookish purchase for a while, you might find that you only got into the hype of a certain title and that, in truth, you’re no longer as interested. In practice, removing titles from your wishlist after a week or two can happen more often than you think.
#4. Avoid temptation
This is especially difficult if you, like me, work in a bookshop. If so, well, good luck, you’ll need discipline. If not, it’s a bit easier. Basically: unless you would like to test your discipline to the limit (read: torture yourself because you’re a masochist), avoid temptation like the plague. If you don’t have money to spend on books, don’t make things even more difficult by going to a bookshop, browsing Bookdepository.com, or checking out awesome suggestions on Goodreads or BookTube, unless you really enjoy looking at things you can’t buy. Unsubscribe from newsletters as well; you won’t be tempted to splurge on a sale if you don’t even know there is a sale.
#5. Sell unwanted books
Okay, granted, no one will probably want that battered paperback that’s nearly falling apart or your extremely dated IT text-book from fifteen years ago, but if you have some fancy hardcovers of books you don’t like or aren’t inclined to read a second time, it could very well be worthwhile to sell them. You could use the earned money to finance other books, if you want. Also, some secondhand bookshops give you credit in exchange for selling them your used books (which includes your less fancy editions as well).
#6. Buy secondhand
And while we’re at it, you can also buy used books! There are a lot of secondhand bookshops that sell even bestsellers and more recent titles for very good prices, but you can also find excellent bargains at thrift stores, certain markets, libraries, yard sales, Facebook groups, or websites that offer secondhand goods. There’s really no shame in buying used books and you can sometimes even find real gems this way.
#7. Wait for the massmarket paperback
Even if you’d rather buy new books, there are ways to save money. When especially English books are first released, they are often fancy expensive hardcovers. If you’re a little patient, however, you’ll find that the (massmarket) paperback versions released a while later are significantly cheaper. You might think they don’t look as impressive on your shelf, but at the end of the day, it’s about what’s between the cover. Don’t let yourself be pressured into getting fancy hardcovers by what other people show on social media if you can’t afford them. That, and it’s also possible to have cool bookshelves with massmarket paperbacks.
#8. Wait for a sale
If you’re cautious and have discipline, sales can be a great way to save money. If you wait for them, this might also prevent impulse buys. However, saving money on sales only works if you restrict yourself to titles you already had on your wishlist, rather than splurge on everything that seems remotely interesting simply because it’s a good deal. If you end up buying things you didn’t actually want before, it’s never a good deal.
#9. Use those little free libraries
There are various locations where people can bring their unwanted books to public bookcases and take whatever someone else has left behind. In my country (the Netherlands), they’re usually in public places like train stations or community centres, but people sometimes have small bookcases serving the same purpose in their front yard. If you look around, there might be some of these in the neighbourhood of your home or other places you frequent.
#10. Go to or organize a book exchange
It’s also possible to go to a physical exchange, or if none are organized in your neighbourhood, organize one yourself. This is especially easy if you have book lovers among your friends, but if not, utilizing social media can be helpful. You get to read each other’s favourites and maybe discover some real gems you might not have read otherwise. How awesome is that?
#11. Put yourself on a book buying ban
Okay, this only works if you can afford books to begin with. That said, if you want to save money, this is definitely a way to do it — but only if it’s temporary and you get to reward yourself at the end (be it with an ‘earned’ book, a vacation, whatever else). The reward is absolutely crucial as a way to keep you motivated. You can decide the ‘rules’ and the time period of the ban yourself, just make sure you’re realistic. If you’re not, you’ll only end up feeling guilty about eventually breaking your ban.
#12. Go digital
If you’re into classics, websites such as Project Gutenberg offer thousands of free ebooks because the original copyright for these has expired. You might even find more websites like this, if you Google. Even if you want to read newer stuff, ebooks can still be much cheaper than physical books. There might be some free trials of subscription services you could try, just make sure you cancel them on time. You don’t always need a Kindle for ebooks, either; more often than not, you can read stuff on your tablet, smartphone, or computer.
#13. Ask for ARCs
This mainly works if you either work in a bookshop or are a book reviewer (be it on GoodReads, your own blog, or your YouTube channel). An ARC means ‘Advanced Reader’s Copy’ and you can sometimes get them before the actual release date of the book! The catch is that you often have to leave a review in some shape or form, and there might be restrictions in relation to, say, the amount of followers you have. If you work in a bookshop, you can often just contact the publisher and hope for the best. If you’re a reviewer, you might get contacted by self-published authors, or you can apply to websites such as NetGalley yourself. There are a lot of posts and videos with a more detailed explanation on getting ARCs out there, so it might be worth looking into if you want free books.
#14. Enter giveaways or contests
There are a lot of giveaways and contests out there, held on GoodReads, or by publishers, authors, bookshops, popular BookTubers/Bookstagrammers, and so on. If you want free books, this is definitely something to keep in mind. Just don’t be a jerk about it, come up with sad sob stories about why you’re entitled to said book (because you’re not), or get too upset if you don’t win. If you keep this in mind, you might stumble on some very good books this way — sometimes even signed by the author!
#15. (Re)read what you have
This is probably the most simple and obvious one of this list, but one that can be easily forgotten. If you’re lucky, you already have a decent library at home, possibly even a physical TBR. Cutting back on newer purchases and reading what you already have is a great way to save some money which simultaneously allows you to work on your backlog. Even if you run a blog or BookTube channel, there is no rule preventing you from reviewing older titles (especially if it’s just a hobby for you). They can be just as interesting! You can also reread your favourites; more often than not, revisiting familiar worlds, plots, and characters can make you notice things you didn’t on your first read!
And there we have it, 15 tips for enjoying books on a budget. I hope you’ve found them useful! Do you have any tips on your own? Feel free to share them in the comments!