One of my guilty pleasures in life is updating our budget spreadsheet. I’m a numbers gal so tracking costs and plugging formulas into cells is so satisfying to me. But the not-so-satisfying part is seeing when Nick and I have over-indulged in certain categories. Our recurring areas of failure include Dining (thanks DoorDash), Toby (the accident prone dog), and Books (completely my bad). As we created the budget template for 2022, Nick and I vowed to make some money saving changes. Which leads me to the topic of this blog post, how to save money on books.
I think I speak for most bookworms when I say that book shopping can be dangerous. There’s something about strolling the aisles of Barnes & Noble with an iced coffee that is such a mood. Or the simplicity of adding a new release to your Amazon cart with a single click. Buying books could not be easier. While you can find some good book deals at major retailers, there are plenty of money saving opportunities elsewhere. So keep reading to put cash back in your pocket.
Swap Books With a Friend (FREE)
An easy and free way to get ahold of some good books is swapping with others. My mom and sister both love to read and so we are constantly lending each other books that we’ve already read and love. I tend to save my favorite books just so I can hand them off to another worthy reader. If you know of someone that reads a lot, reach out and see if they’d be interested in swapping with you. Send each other pictures of your bookshelves or ask them to surprise you with a book in your favorite genre. It’s simple, it’s fun, and it won’t cost a dime.
Swap Kindle Books
In the same sense, you and your friend can also share Kindle books with one another. FYI, Kindle books can also be read on a smartphone or tablet, so technically you don’t need an actual Kindle device to do this. There are two ways to share Kindle books. First option is sending your friend the book via email. They have 7 days to accept, and then 2 weeks from acceptance date to read the book. After those two weeks, the book will be returned to you. The downsides to this option are that not all Kindle books are eligible for sharing. In addition, once you’ve shared a book, that same book cannot be shared again – with anyone.
The second option to share a Kindle book is through Family Library. On Amazon, you can set up an Amazon Household of up to two adults and four children. You enter in the email addresses of the adults in the household to create the group. Children can be added under an adult’s account. There is no limit to the amount of times you can borrow books from others in your Household. The downside is you can only have the two Amazon accounts linked for sharing. So pick the friend with the most books! Below are links to guide you on sharing books with either method.
Option 1: How to Lend an Amazon Book:
Option 2: How to Create an Amazon Household:
Get a Library Card (FREE)
Libraries still exist?? Yes actually, and they’re thriving. My husband makes fun of me for going to the library but I remind him that I’m not spending our hard earned cash to do so. Applying for a library card is free and borrowing library books is also free (unless you’re bad with deadlines).
You can browse books the old fashioned way by going into the library or you can reserve them online. I’m pretty particular about what I read so I search certain books on the library database to see what’s available. If books are more than a few years old, you can usually get your hands on them right away. But it’s harder to get new releases from the library because so many others are also interested in them. You can be put on a waitlist for a book, but living in a big city like me, it could be a few years before it’s your turn. I once entered a waitlist and was in spot 156. I made it to spot 150 and ended up buying the thing. So again, libraries are a great way to save money on books, but I prefer using them when I want an older release.
If you own a library card, you can also use the Libby app. Libby directly links to your library account and then you’re able to borrow ebooks and audiobooks through the library database. Again, sometimes the popular ones have a waitlist, but overall I love borrowing books for my Kindle or downloading audiobooks for free. If I know we have a road trip coming up, I get on waitlists for audiobooks ahead of time. The Libby app is really helpful with providing an estimated wait time so you know when to expect it in your account.
Purchase & Sell Secondhand Books
Second hand bookstores and garage sales are a cheap way to buy books. I find joy in wandering used bookstores and even seek them out when I’m traveling to a new city. But beware of buying used new releases, a lot of times they aren’t a better deal than buying the books brand new.
In addition to purchasing used books, it’s also pretty painless to sell your own. Second hand bookstores will buy your books from you for a few bucks. If you’re lazy like me, you can also sell your books online. My favorite online book buyer is sellbackyourbook.com. You enter in the ISBN codes of your books to get a quote and then decide whether you want to sell to them. They’ll even give you a free prepaid shipping label. All you need is a box. Typically, it takes a couple weeks for them to mail a check. Depending on the age and popularity of the book, they may only give you a few dollars, but it’s better than nothing. I prefer to sell them several books at a time and my checks typically amount to the cost of a new book. So I think it’s worth it.
Book Box Subscriptions
Book box subscriptions are a fun way to get new releases at a discounted rate. My experience with book box subscriptions is Book of the Month so that’s the example I’m going to use. When you sign up, your first book is only $5 with a referral code. After that, the first book is always $15 and any add-on books are $10. Did I mention these books are hardcover? While this seems like a great deal, the one catch is your monthly book choice has to be made between their five featured books for the month. Add-ons are free reign of any books on their website. So if you aren’t interested in one of their featured books, you can’t get your hands on any of the others. You can skip the month, but the first time you do this they’ll charge you $15 and credit your account for a future box. They won’t continue to charge you if you skip more consecutive months. You can also pause your account at any time if things start to get out of control.
Do Your Research on Subscriptions
So my advice when considering a book box subscription is to first scour their website and make sure there’s books that actually interest you. Then, research their featured books from the past. Does it seem like you’d find an interesting one each month? If not, then this method will end up costing you more money. Also, think about how much you read in a month. Do you only read one book a month? If so, are you ok with it being one of their featured books? The last thing you want when budgeting is to let unread books pile up on your shelf. So like I said, do your research and decide if the subscription would work for you. If you decide to give BOTM a try, I’ve linked my referral code at the bottom of the post to get your first book for $5.
Price Compare Books
One thing I like to do when I have a specific book in mind is price compare it on several different retail sites. I’ll search for it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, second hand retailers, etc. This way, you may also find out about deals on books (i.e. buy one get one half off). Since I have a Kindle, I’ll also compare the ebook cost vs. the physical copy. You may be surprised to know that sometimes the physical copy is the same or even cheaper than the ebook version. Plus, you can sell a physical copy but not an ebook. In addition, I check the library for availability. Because let’s be honest, you can’t beat free. Overall, taking the time to find the cheapest option will pay off in the long run.
Read Your Own Books (FREE)
Last but certainly not least, read the untouched books on your bookshelf! I’m definitely guilty of buying books on an impulse and then not reading them for months (or even years). What better way to save money than read the books you already have? Light bulb moment.
Use my Book of the Month code to get your first book for $5:
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