I read a lot of books. LIKE A LOT OF BOOKS. When I first became an avid reader in high school I spent most of my time at the library hunting up books I wanted to read and compiling my first to-be-read lists, which by the way, were written on a piece of paper in pencil so I could erase the titles after I read them. My public library was and continues to be a lifesaver when it comes to reading because I couldn’t possible afford enough books to support my obsessive reading habit. But not everything is available at the library so I also buy my own books, especially for favorite authors. As much as I’d like otherwise, I’m not made of dollar dollar bills ya’ll so working out a book buying budget has been a process.
Every reader has a different experience when it comes to spending money on books because every reader has different finances and different priorities. When I was younger I would pretty much spend all my allowance on books and didn’t even consider anything else. I also got about 90% of my books from the public library so money wasn’t as much a concern. With minimal expenses I placed books as a priority and was well on my way to maxing out my full size bookcase in my room.
Outside the library, one of my favorite sources for used books was a website called Paper Back Swap which allows you to trade books with other users and you only pay the shipping, usually around $3.50, which is often still cheaper than a used book on Amazon. I still occasionally use this website today but most of my purchases are digital now. At the time though, this site was wonderful because as the below comic from Sarah’s Scribbles illustrates so well, books were my life.
Now that I’m older I have more money but I also have more responsibilities and I can’t just spend all my money on books. Growing up, my family was pretty middle class so we were comfortable but my parents didn’t save for college so when that came around I needed scholarships and student loans and all of a sudden I was super money conscious and over analyzing every purchase. Part way through college I switched to ebooks and I was getting books for less which was nice but then I ran into the 99 cent sales and oh boy, I lost a little control. But it’s only 99 cents! I have 99 cents, no big deal.
Eventually I settled down but I was still a mix of wanting to spending money but also concerned about spending money. After all, I was an adult now, married and working full time but also now paying rent and utilities and groceries and clothes for work, etc. My best solution actually came from my husband. He’s really into cars and races his car in autocrosses and track days (look it up) and he was taking a set amount of money each month to go to his car fund. A budget! What a revolutionary idea! So now I have a book budget, $25 a month that is set aside just for books. I know when to stop because I’ve bought too much and I also don’t feel guilty about buying books because it’s being budgeted for. Let’s be honest, I do sometimes go over the $25 a month limit but I try not to push it too much. Because I have a kindle I have my Amazon account set up to reload each month so I don’t have to worry about it but you can also budget in your head, on a note in your phone, a reusable credit gift card or whatever way it easiest for your life.
I’ve also found a few additional tricks to increase my book buying. My credit card has cash back rewards and once I reach a decent amount I’ll redeem them for an Amazon gift card which I can put into my book budget. Every time that card arrives in the mail it’s like an extra birthday and this has been really nice on those months where EVERYONE is publishing and there are so many good books to buy! I also did some research in my area and found a really great used book store that has a huge romance section. This is a wonderful way to trade in books I’ve already read and get new ones using the store credit earned from trading books in. I know not everyone has a used book store close by or one that carries what you want to read but it’s a great option to look into.
Having a book budget has made all the difference in my book buying habits and my comfort with spending money on myself. Now my biggest challenge is just finding extra hours in the day to read.