I was inspired to write this post after seeing a number of posts from people wondering how anyone can afford to frequently buy hardcover books, much less build a small collection, with how expensive books can be. I for one know the hardships of wanting every book out there, but only being able to spend so much. Still, I've found a way to build a small collection of books myself, and looking back on it, I didn't feel I had to spend an outrageous amount of money to be able to have this collection. And knowing a few tips that can be very helpful, I wanted to pass this on to other bookworms so that they can know that there are affordable ways to buy books without spending a ton... because everyone deserves books!
So without further ado, here are my top tips for buying books when you're on a budget.
1. Buy from affordable online retailers
This is one of my biggest tips I can offer. A common assumption that many bookworms make is thinking the only books available to them are the ones sold in large chain bookstores, where hardcovers are regularly priced from anywhere between $10.99 to $24.99, or even more. No wonder no one thinks they can afford books! And it's true. Shopping at a large chain bookstore like Barnes & Noble can seriously burn a hole in your bank account, and it's very easy to innocently pick up 5 or 6 books and walk out feeling completely broke. For enthusiastic book collectors, this isn't very practical, which is why I highly recommend buying books from somewhere more affordable. There are so many websites out there dedicated to selling bargain-priced books, not to mention the unimaginable number of independent bookstores that are out there, just waiting for us to discover them. I encourage you to explore and see what's out there, but below are just a few of my own personal favorites:
I love Half.com. I've been buying books from here for years and it's by far the most reliable site I've found for consistently having the best deals on books. Books are in anywhere between 'acceptable' and 'brand new' condition, and can be priced as low as $.075! That, with $3.99 shipping, averages out to less than $5 per book! Now, they're not always this cheap, but it's definitely possible to find them at this price. Also, don't think that you always need to buy a book in Brand New condition. I almost always buy books for either Very Good or Good condition and they still arrive in spectacular quality. You would hardly be able to tell that they weren't bought at a big retail.
Half.com is a sister site to eBay, but it accepts Paypal as well as any valid credit card or Visa gift card as a payment method. This is good news for anyone like myself who doesn't have Paypal. Unfortunately, the one downside is that I don't know if Half.com ships anywhere outside of the U.S., so this site may not be available to bookworms in other countries.
When I want to compare prices, I often bounce back and forth between Half.com and Amazon. Note that when I say Amazon, I mean that little section underneath the main price, which says 60 used from $3.99 | 30 new from $12.99. Don't forget that along with the Amazon list price, there are third party sellers who can offer you a much cheaper price for books - both old and new - for still great quality!
Other Notable Sites:
There are so many great online options out there. I can't guarantee that each of the sites listed above will be available to all countries, so do a little digging yourself and see if you can find similar websites that will ship to your part of the world. Best of luck!
2. Consignment stores can be great, too.
Do you live near a Goodwill, Value Village, or any other consignment/thrift stores? Books in these sorts of retailers are extremely cheap - like, $1 to $5 for hardcover books cheap. Sure, it can be a hit and miss. You can find yourself browsing through a huge collection of seemingly boring or aged books. But when you do stumble upon that one book that catches your eye, that one good deal - it's so worth it. And it may be frustrating to frantically shop through a thrift store, only to come up empty-handed. My advice: don't walk into a thrift/consignment store with the intention of coming out with a book - otherwise you'll only leave feeling disheartened. Just be patient, explore freely, and let the hidden gem find you ;)
3. Earn a bit of extra cash through Swagbucks.com
Another great tip for buying books on the cheap is to make a bit of extra pocket change online. For anyone who doesn't know, Swagbucks.com is reward site where you can earn points (Swagbucks) that may eventually be redeemed for money, either via Paypal or from a wide selection of e-gift cards. What I love about Swagbucks is that there are so many ways to earn points. You're not merely limited to searching through and frequently being rejected by survey offers. Points can also be earned by clicking through ads and web slideshows, viewing short video clips, answering daily polls, and even just searching the web through the Swagbucks search engine.
I don't want to disillusion you, though. This is not a site where you're instantly going to win big. It is very much a gradual process. But that doesn't also mean you can't earn a considerable amount of money through this site - it just takes time, effort, and patience. Over the course of the first summer I discovered Swagbucks, I managed to earn just about $100. Even once I went away to school and focused on my studies, I still found time to go on the site on occasion, and as of today I have now earned $176 in points - that's $176 that I can spend on books, clothes, and more, and that I earned freely on my own time. With that said, this is a great site for earning a bit of money through small tasks and that you can casually do in your spare time - and it's completely free to use!
4. Don't buy books without reading them first!
I know this goes against everything in the nature of a bookworm. You walk through a bookstore and see so many enticing books. Ooh, look at this cover! Oh my god, the blurb sounds so cool! And you buy these books, sure that you're going to love them. Some even buy an outrageous number of books, only to leave them stacked by their bed for months and months until their staggering to-read pile gets out of hand.
As irresistible as this urge is to buy every book in sight, I am telling you to refrain. Think about it: why would you buy a book without knowing for absolute certain that you'll like it? Then if you read it and you don't like it, you're stuck with it. And that's money that you could've spent on a book that you actually really liked! What I'm really saying here is...
Libraries are your friend! Use them. Keep them in business! If there's a book you're dying to read, there is a very good chance that it's waiting for you at a local library. And if a book isn't available to you right that second, you have two options:
- a) place a hold on it and wait for it to become available to you.
- b) many don't know this, but if a book isn't at a library at all, you can make a request to have the library order the book for you. I've done this a number of times and it doesn't take long for the book to become available!
And the best part of using a library is... it's completely free! You can read as many books as you want, and then decide later which books are worth buying and adding to your collection. The less books you buy on a whim without reading them, the more money you'll save for books that you actually know you want to buy!
* Redeem unwanted gift cards for Amazon gift cards through websites like Cardcash.com
Keep your eyes peeled on Craigslist for posts from people who are willing to sell their gently-used books to others for cheap. You'd be amazed at the deals you can find. A couple years ago, I was in desperate need of replacing my Harry Potter books, with half of them at my sister's place (we shared the books as kids) and half of them missing their dust jackets. I knew I would be left broke if I attempted to buy them all from a chain like Barnes & Noble, so I took to Craigslist. Long story short, I managed to buy the entire Harry Potter series - all hardcovers in seemingly perfect condition - for $15. I can't promise that everyone will fall upon this same luck. It's all just a matter of being at the right place at the right time. But these deals are absolutely out there, just waiting for you. And the best thing about Craigslist is that you are meeting people in your area, so you get to see the books in person before making the commitment to buy them.
Finally, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to accept the following: you will not always have every single book you want in your possession. Don't think you need every single one of these books right now. Good things come to those who wait. You'll get them eventually, and the wait will be worth it.
With that, I hope you found these tips helpful, and I wish all of you the best of luck in your book-buying endeavors!