Frugal Friday – Books

If you know anything about me, it’s probably that I am a big bibliophile.  I love books, and books about personal finance are some of my favorites (fitting, as you can imagine, given that I write plenty about personal finance for this very blog).  But trying to keep up with all the latest books can be quite expensive; how can you indulge your desire to read while not completely emptying out your bank account?

Luckily for those of us who enjoy books and reading, there are perhaps more ways to have your books and read them too than for any other type of merchandise.  There’s any number of ways you can get books to read inexpensively, or even for free, including one of the classics:

1. Borrow Books From the Library: Yes, the library.  Chances are there is one in your town (or at least, in a nearby town) that can gain membership in for free (or at most, a modest surcharge).  With that, you can borrow books for at least a limited time before having to return them.  Increasingly, you’ll also have access to CDs, DVDs, magazines and other media, potentially allowing you to save nearly all the money you had been spending on entertainment.  Just watch out for the late fees; keep the books or other media too long, and it could end up being more expensive after all.

2. Buy Surplus Books: Figuring out the appropriate number of a particular book that will sell is a tough job.  Accordingly, you can frequently find excess books for sale at your local bookstore (assuming, of course, you can FIND a local bookstore).  If you don’t mind waiting for the most popular books for a few weeks, it’s usually easy enough to buy them used for a fraction of the original cost.  Of course, even if there is a surplus of new books to buy, you still have options:

3. Buy Used Books: Books, unlike many things in life, don’t tend to wear out too quickly (assuming they are treated properly); it’s possible to find books that date back centuries that are still readable.  So, why not let others pay full price and then buy it off of them later?  Besides bookstores that specifically deal in used books (which, again, are becoming rarer and rarer), you can search any number of books online at sites like Amazon.  In many cases, the books themselves will be cheaper than the cost of shipping.

4. Trade Your Books: If you’d like to get new books, while cleaning off an already overstuffed bookcase, you can look into trading your books.  There are increasing numbers of sites that will allow you trade books (and other items) with other people; one I’ve personally joined recently is PaperBackSwap, where you can offer up your own books to others and get credits for collecting your own (new-to-you) books.  Not a bad way to shift the contents of the old bookshelf.

5. Get Your Books Online: There’s several ways you can save by reading books online.  If you buy books for a Kindle or similar device, you can usually save compared to the cost of an actual book.  Or, if your tastes tend more to the classics, you can download free public domain books via services like Project Gutenberg.  Between those public domain books and the ones available at your local library, you might never need to buy a book again, while still reading a fresh one every day of your life.

There you go, a few ways to keep the costs of your books to a minimum, while still being able to read as much as you could want.

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