Seven Websites That Saved Me Money in the Last Week

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About a week ago, my wife said (paraphrased), “We use a ton of websites to save ourselves a lot of money directly. Why don’t you write about those? You could just keep track of what sites you visit to save money over a week, how much they save, and whether or not this pays for our internet connection?”

A great idea. So that’s just what I did. Here are seven websites I used to directly save money over the last week, my exact purchases and savings, and how much cash they saved me. I’m not including banking or investing sites here – just sites I use to literally spend less money.

PaperBackSwap
PaperBackSwap is arguably our biggest regular saver (and one I’ve waxed ecstatic about on The Simple Dollar before). My wife and I both spend multiple hours a day reading – it’s our most constant hobby – but between the library, PaperBackSwap, and my wife’s use of ManyBooks.net on her Kindle, we basically haven’t bought a book in ages.

In a nutshell, PaperBackSwap works like this: you sign up, list ten books you’re willing to trade by mail, and the site gives you two credits. A book costs one credit – you “spend” one of those credits on the site to get any book they have listed sent to you. Every time you send a book to someone else, you get a credit.

Here are the books I’ve requested in the past week from PaperBackSwap (and a nice peek into my current literary tastes):
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
… and I also ordered The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion to be shipped to my mother, but I won’t count that one.

Assuming each used book is worth $2, that means I’ve saved $12 this week because of PaperBackSwap. While this isn’t entirely, perfectly accurate (I likely would have used the library and gotten other books), these books are now mine for as long as I like and I can mark up the margins and such as much as I want (which I often do if I’m really trying to understand a book).

SwapTree
While I love using PaperBackSwap and SwapADVD (below) for trading books and DVDs, respectively, there’s really no similar service for video games. At the same time, I like to play a wide variety of games for my Wii and for my Nintendo DS, particularly interesting puzzle games that make me think. Most games, though, intrigue me for a while, then I grow bored with them, so unsurprisingly, I want to trade them off. I used to take them to used game sellers, but I’ve started using SwapTree.com instead.

SwapTree is sort of like PaperBackSwap in that you’re swapping items online. The only catch is that it actually forces you into a direct one-on-one trade. If you list an item, someone else must have it already on their wishlist in order for you to trade it. There’s no way to get rid of a lot of stuff you don’t want (like when you clean out your book collection) and build up credit on there. You have to want something right now.

As a result, I prefer other services for trading some things, but this service works really well for video games.

In just the last week, I traded Resident Evil 4 (a shooting game that bored me to death) for Zack and Wiki (an adventure/puzzle game in the Monkey Island/King’s Quest mold). In essence, this was a free game. If I had bought it used (and traded in RE 4), it probably would have cost me $5-10, so in that respect, SwapTree saved me about $7.50 (or so).

FatWallet.com Forums
The FatWallet.com Forums are the best place to keep an eye out for extraordinary tech deals. If you need a particular piece of computer hardware, be patient and keep an eye on these forums. A friend of mine picked up an ultra-portable 7″ laptop with solid state storage and ridiculous battery life (7 or 8 hours) for $299.

My story from the last week? The MicroSD card in my phone stopped working, meaning I couldn’t store many pictures at all on my cell phone. So I wanted an ultra-cheap MicroSD card to replace it, preferably one at least a gigabyte in size. Bingo. I saved $3 from about two minutes of web surfing.

If I go on a book tour (a possibility), I might also go for one of those ultra-small ultra-light laptops just for writing while on the road. Guess where I’ll be watching for the right deal on it?

Coupons.com
Coupons.com is the site my wife and I use most frequently for coupons. My wife is actually the maven here, more than I am – she searches the site a couple times a week for coupons, particularly for ones that match our upcoming shopping list. For example, she found a $3 off Pert Plus coupon that we used to replace the shampoo and conditioner in our downstairs shower (the one that guests use) – it was free after the coupon.

At Coupons.com, things are pretty straightforward. It’s basically like going through one of those Sunday newspaper flyers online, except you just mark the ones you want and at the end you click on a “print” button and the ones you selected pop right out of your printer, easy as pie. We find it useful to use it after we’ve got our shopping list ready to go so we can find coupons that match it.

I tried to keep track of the Coupons.com coupons we used in the past week and came up with a total of $7 saved – two instances of the Pert Plus coupon, and two $0.50 savings on yogurt.

SwapADVD
SwapADVD is a sister service to PaperBackSwap where you can trade DVDs by mail. When you sign up, you just list ten DVDs you own that you’re willing to trade and the site gives you a credit, which you can use to request any DVD on their site. Whenever someone requests one of your DVDs, mail it out, and when they receive it, you get another credit. You can list as many DVDs as you want. My DVD collection is tiny, so I’ve never sent out a DVD via SwapADVD (yet – I have several I intend to swap soon) – instead, you can actually transfer extra credits from PaperBackSwap into SwapADVD (and since I’ve shipped out quite a few books via PaperBackSwap, I just pulled some of those credits into SwapADVD). I prefer it to Netflix simply because there’s no monthly fee at all. Once you have the DVD, just hold onto it as long as you want with no cost, then when you finally do watch it, just trade it again.

Anyway, over the last week, I’ve requested Road to Perdition, Adaptation, Thank You for Smoking, and Crash, just so that we have a few new interesting films to watch on those rare evenings when the kids go to bed early and we want to cuddle up with a glass of wine and a good movie.

Assuming a used DVD is worth $3, that means SwapADVD saved us $12 in the past week.

Home Depot’s Home How-To Site
I’m absolutely atrocious at home improvement tasks, but we’ve been wanting to install a ceiling fan in both my office and in the kids’ bedroom. I’ve been really hesitant to work on the project and wanted to hire someone to do it (if you’ll remember, I was trying to talk myself into it just a little over a week ago), but I finally bucked down and went for it, using their wonderful guide to installing a ceiling fan, including an excellent summary video. This guide directly saved me the cost of hiring someone to do it – $40 or so, perhaps.

Home Depot’s Know How section is excellent. There are useful guides on all sorts of projects, and I’m trying to build up the courage to use it to replace a toilet. Almost always, I’m glad I’ve done it myself afterwards, but I have a lot of apprehension about it beforehand – guides like these help push me towards the goal.

Upcoming Events Calendars
My family and I are constantly on the lookout for interesting things to do that get us out and about in the community (and in neighboring ones), enjoying new things, meeting new people, and so on. The problem is finding interesting ones – it’s easy to go to places that are expensive and have fun, but there’s always free stuff going on.

That’s why we hit the community calendars of several area communities to see what’s going on, particularly the Ames, Iowa and Ankeny, Iowa ones, along with a huge number of community calendars for small towns in Story, Polk, Marshall, Boone, Jasper, and Dallas Counties. We’ll even go further for interesting stuff, such as Pella’s Tulip Festival in the spring.

Community events provide a great deal of our entertainment. Let’s assume each community event saves us $5 as a family if we choose to do that instead of something else. In the last week, community calendars saved us $20 – it pointed us to a free public fireworks display on the 4th, towards a farmers’ market, towards a cultural festival in a nearby small town, and towards a free concert, too.

Find and bookmark some community calendars near you and check them out when you’re planning your weekend. You might just find some interesting stuff free in the community.

Totaling It Up
Let’s look at the total savings!
PaperBackSwap: $12
SwapTree: $7.50
FatWallet.com Forums: $3
Coupons.com: $7
SwapADVD: $12
Home Depot: $40
Community calendars: $20

We used the web to directly save $101.50 in the past week in free (or vastly reduced) entertainment, coupons, and home improvement tasks. This easily pays for the cost we put into it.

What about that time investment? Our time investment for this stuff is surprisingly small. We have all of these sites bookmarked and we only use them when we have a specific purpose in mind (“How do I fix that leaky toilet? I need to replace that SD card! My bookshelf is getting thin! Is there anything interesting to do Sunday afternoon?). When you know what you’re going in for, it doesn’t take long at all – just a moment or two, and it’s certainly quicker than doing the equivalent things offline.

Give some of these services a try – I hope you’ll find them as useful (and cost-saving) as we do.

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71 thoughts on “Seven Websites That Saved Me Money in the Last Week

  1. I have been looking for something for DVD’s I didn’t even know that existed!! Thanks! Personally I sell my old books on Cash for Books (see my blog) and I prefer that to swapping. I use the library now.

  2. Hey Trent. For the toilet replacement job, I highly suggest you check out hammerzone.com That’s my favorite site for handy stuff. The guy is thoughtful, shows you screw-ups and what NOT to do, and really thinks more long-term about his work than most contractors probably would.

  3. I signed up on Paperbackswap following a mention from you. I love it! I just looked at my account, and was astonished and deilghted to find that I’ve been a member for more than a year! According to their stats, I’ve saved $189.
    Thanks for this great recommendation!

  4. Trent,

    I think that you could have a low and high estimate of how much money you saved or maybe that’s comparing apples to oranges. Because I know that I’m just as tempted to buy a 20$ new book instead of swapping a free used one.

    So actually I think that the real world savings have the potential to be a lot more.

  5. If I remember correctly you use a mac right? So for any mac users out there, http://www.dealmac.com watches and posts deals on mac specific stuff as well as general technology stuff. Just another place to look in addition to fatwallet, although there is some overlap. They also have a few sister sites such as http://www.dealnews.com for more general deals and there’s also one for looking up coupons, mostly online coupons I believe, and dealram specifically for RAM and flash cards.

  6. I’m currently using PaperBookSwap to trade out all my old Theoretical Physics books for personal finance books. So far everything is going good although the trips to the post office tend to get a little old.

  7. Saved a ton this week, when getting quotes to ship a bicycle. Fedex wante $35, USPS wanted $100, UPS wanted $200 (for some reason).

    Commerce on the internet seems to be living up to the hype more and more.

  8. Do you purchase extra credits for paperbackswap? I’ve listed a lot of books and used my two credits but still have had no one request a book from me.

  9. This is a great post. I am going to try and start using coupons more but wasn’t sure what good websites were.

  10. Hey Trent,

    Good post. Never heard of some of these, so I will give them a try. For Books & DVD’s, what’s saved me a lot of money is my local library here in San Jose. It is both public library plus the State University library, so it is huge. I can check out both books and DVD’s, no more Blockbust and Amazon.com. I used to buy books, read them half way, and never finish because they weren’t of interest. Only problem with the DVD’s, they’re typically at least a year old (no new releases).

    FatWallet is pretty solid, kudos to that. Thanks for the info!

  11. I don’t use paperback swap yet, but I may at some point. I’m trying my best not to accumulate books and such unless they’re quite rare or I’m very very fond of the book. Otherwise I get more than enough to read at the library.

    However I do use places like Retail Me Not and FatWallet and EBates to check for deals.

  12. Regarding Paperback Swap, you have to pay to ship the books to earn credits, right? So you are effectively “paying” $2/book (in shipping costs) and breaking even.

  13. I tend to think of money “saved” as money put away somewhere. When I get goods or services at less than usual cost, I tend to think of that as “reduced spending” – but it’s still spending, not saving. If I get something for free (i.e. a book at a library) it’s “money not spent” – still NOT money saved, however. It’s not money saved until I put it in the bank!

  14. Just a game suggestion to look out for – have you tried Boom Blox yet? If you like puzzle games I really think you’ll love it. My husband plays a lot more video games than I do – I do like some simple Wii games but prefer things like Tetris & classic Mario Bros. Anyway, Boom Blox was developed by Steven Spielberg with EA just for the Wii, and it is so so fun – very family friendly but full of tons of interesting puzzle challenges. The day we got it we could hardly stop playing. You can also unlock features that let you design your own levels & challenges. Some people find the interface & characters too cute, but I think it’s incredibly pleasant, accessible, and engaging. Look for it on your swap site!

  15. Hey – I’m currently reading a Vernor Vinge book I got off of PBS! Weird. A Fire Upon the Deep was the first book I read by him.

    And, why didn’t you mention Swap-A-CD? It’s another sister site, and you can also swap credits.

  16. A very helpful post indeed. Although I can’t figure out how RE4 bored you, I defintely like the trade to Zack and Wiki–a stellar game, in my opinion.

  17. Check out RetailMeNot.com – it’s from the creator of BugMeNot.com, and a simple search for finding coupons for websites.

  18. I’m a coupon fiend, and I’ve been tempted to sign up for coupons.com (and similar sites), but they all require downloading software to print the coupons. I’m kind of paranoid about spyware, and these coupon sites raise a “too good to be true” flag, but I haven’t been able to find any information that confirms my suspicions. Anyone know if there’s a catch to using these coupon web sites?

    There is another coupon web site, http://shortcuts.com/ , that adds the coupons to your frequent shopper cards so they are automatically applied to your order. Unfortunately, it’s not available for my grocery store.

  19. “And, why didn’t you mention Swap-A-CD? It’s another sister site, and you can also swap credits.”

    I don’t like SwapACD. I signed up for their service, but they charge a $0.49 surcharge per swap.

    I will confess that with PaperBackSwap, I often lose track of the shipping cost because I typically list and ship a whole mountain of books at once, giving me 50-100 credits, then I use them slowly over time (actually, in bursts here or there).

  20. “there’s really no similar service for video games.”

    Actually, I’ve signed up for goozex.com, and I’ve gotten rid of all my crappy and/or old and/or duplicates of roommate’s games. i haven’t requested one yet, but its point value based, and i believe it costs $1 to receive a game (and the cost of postage, usually ~$2, to send one. Still, it can be a heck of a lot cheaper than actually buying games at a store!

    (also, the point values fluctuate by a system of supply and demand, which is pretty darn cool; you can also be notified when games on your queue change in value)

  21. I love FatWallet, because you directly benefit from people who put in a lot of time to find great deals. They really care about that community. With my shopping habits, I really don’t consider that money as saved, though, because usually it’s something I wouldn’t have bought unless I could get a killer deal.

  22. I keep hearing about PaperBackSwap and I’m just about at the point of trying it out.

    I love books, keep and reread them. Libraries tend not to work for me. If I like the book I end up paying big late fees and a lost book fee because it never makes it back to the library. It probably would have been cheaper to buy it new (especially since library editions seem to be pricier).

    I’ve been going through boxes of books since our move, and have a few boxes of ones I finally think I can part with. I already took most of them to a used book store. They took the ones they were interested in and handed the rest back. I’m going to take the Judaic ones to the Jewish Public Library. They can put them on the shelf or sell them at their annual book fair otherwise. The rest I’ve been debating over trying eBay or Amazon but maybe PaperBackSwap is another possibility. If I can pay a couple of bucks to get a book through PaperBackSwap that will be much more economical than buying new and will still feed my craving for reading material.

  23. Trent, nice post and a good list! Your readers may be interested in these similar sites:
    Deal Locker – easy way to find heavily discounted items at Amazon (deallocker.com)
    Fat Fingers – enables you to find eBay listings with misspellings – listings which often end with no bids, as no one can find them. (fatfingers.com)
    Finally – Shopzilla.com is a good comparison shopping site.
    Keep up the good work!
    kjc

  24. Send me the phone number of the guy who will come to your home and install a ceiling fan for $40!! Here they want $150.

  25. FatWallet is an excellent website to find deals on things you are planning to purchase. I’ve also used to find a few free money deals.
    It also works well on my Blackberry phone.

  26. Question: Why do you call Daizy Hartranft and David Herring ‘Atrists’ ??

  27. Trent, congratulations on your recent book deal. It must be exciting for you to realize your dream of becoming a published author. Once your book is published, you might want to reconsider all the constant promotion of second-hand bookstores.

    You say, “we basically haven’t bought a book in ages.” Okay, but if no one pays money for a book, then how do you suppose the cash flow in the industry will work? Answer: it won’t. You earn royalties on book SALES, not swaps.

    Here’s a suggestion. Instead of sending people to freebie commercial swap sites, how about recommending the ultimate FREE book site — THE PUBLIC LIBRARY. There has been no better substitute since the time of Franklin. And these days, it works just as well or better than any online site. Just go to http://www.worldcat.org/ and you’ll see. No shipping costs!

    Libraries actually BUY new books which supports the entire industry from the authors up, and as it has for nearly 300 years, this benefits everyone.

  28. Having read your ‘typical day’ post a while back and knowing that you have two young children and full time jobs, how do you AND your wife find the time to spend several hours a day reading?

    I’m guessing that some of yours is done during your working day, so am particularly intrigued as to when your wife does this, especially since I don’t think she uses very reading-friendly public transport to commute?

  29. Sorry, I meant ‘full day’ jobs when I wrote ‘full time’ in my above comment, as I realise that your wife may not work 5 days a week. I was just amazed at how you both find so much time to read?

  30. Wouldn’t freecycle count here? My boyfriend actually found an Abbey Road case to go with his cd (the case was lost years ago). Someone in our community had just scratched their cd and offered the case to him. Plus I’ve gotten rid of tons of stuff on freecycle that I wouldn’t have been able to sell (example: a fancy but used litter box). I love it!

  31. A site I use occasionally is retailmenot.com, which collects various promo codes for online merchants. I use it most often when ordering pizza — yes, I order pizza only online now — but they have lots of other promos, and they even track how successful their users are with each promo.

    I’m excited to hear about Paperback Swap. Anne mentioned that you still have to pay for shipping, but there are still advantages over my local Half Priced Books. It sounds like there will be more selection, and I’ll be less likely to buy a bunch of extra stuff on impulse. Coupons.com is also a site I will be checking out. Thanks for the list!

  32. Great list – I agree about freecycle. I use that all the time and found some great patio furniture on there for free earlier this year.

    Also,I found another great site recently for finding free events – http://www.mixedracefamilies.com. They have a listing of great summer festivals.

  33. I was wondering what the cost comparison would be of swapping DVD’s to renting from Netflix? With Netflix there is no postage cost, they arrive in your mailbox, and a return envelope is furnished. Couldn’t be easier. To swap you would have to pay postage. Maybe I’ll sit down one day and figure this out.

  34. The internet has saved us so much money. We google instructions on how to repair washing machines , etc.
    I google ingredients on hand for cooking( without running to the store for ingredients).
    I like A Full Cup for coupons and Target deals. I have purchased coupons from some of the services listed on their web site and that has saved us a lot of money.
    I always research major purchases online and use web sites that do price comparisons .
    Before the internet became an everyday part of life , I used the library and books for my research . While I still use books ,(my house is full of them ) I like having so much info , so easily available .

  35. For books, I’d suggest http://bookmooch.com, as it doesn’t cost you the fee to trade books. It’s not quite as popular as Paperback Swap, so it doesn’t have a lot of the newer stuff on it. Although, I have gotten a couple of very rare books that I’ve been hunting for years.

    I’d like to add to the recommendation for goozex.com The community there is really helpful as well.

  36. If you are a reader you can save $ by using your cell phone as an eReader. Use your phone’s internet browser to go to mobile.booksinmyphone.com and you can install a range of public domain and creative commons books to you phone. If you don’t have internet on your phone they have help for installing at http://www.booksinmyphone.com I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying being able to whip out my books anywhere anytime.

  37. You saved at least $150 by installing two ceiling fans yourself. It isn’t uncommon for electricians to ask for that or more PER FAN depending on whether or not you already have the proper boxes installed.

    I’ve just installed two toilets in the past week. Best advice (received from a professional plumber): 1) buy supplies at a plumbing supply place (not Home Depot or Lowes) 2) use an extra thick wax ring or a regular one with an extra spacer and 3) don’t use bleach or chlorine in your tank – they deform your flapper and cause leaks – expensive in water waste since you typically can’t hear them until they are biger! Both installs went like a charm.

    Good luck. Knowing how to do home improvements and repairs will save you a fortune over your lifetime!

  38. Seconding the question about how you and your wife find so much time to read each day. Please tell us how you manage that, because it may affect whether my husband and I opt to have a second child or not… :-)

  39. I’ve got to make one comment here, both for Trent and for all those who read his column. Saving money is great, and I do it myself when I can. I buy used books fairly often, and I use libraries. But I *also* buy new books occasionally and would buy nothing but new books if I could afford it. This is because WRITERS DON’T PROFIT FROM USED OR LIBRARY BOOKS.

    At least we don’t in the US. In Europe, there are systems in place so that writers get a small amount when a book is re-sold or is checked out of a library. But in this country, that first sale is all we get a royalty on. The loss probably won’t hurt Stephen King or John Grisham much, but for those of us who are far from the best-seller lists, sales not only mean our current income but determine whether a publisher will offer another contract, or accept another manuscript.

    Writing is a gamble; all pros know this. But please don’t stack the deck against us any more than it already is! Every professional writer I know buys used books and uses libraries. But we all also make sure that at least some of our book money goes into the stream that will eventually send a couple of bucks cents to one of our peers.

  40. As a single mom, I didn’t read a book for the first 4 years after my boy was born. When I wasn’t at work or watching the boy, I was trying to catch up on sleep. This might be easier when there are two adults in the house. Anyway, by the time he was four, I was reading a book a week and now that he’s six, I’m back to about 4 books a week.

    When do I read them? Same as, I suspect, most parents. Here and there, in snippets, when he’s quietly playing with the toy cars and building a block city, at the swimming pool when he’s swimming, at night once we’ve read his books.

    Paperbackswap is great! I just got 4 ‘new’ books today. I don’t believe you have to register 10 books (or 10 dvds for swapadvd) . . that just gets you a free encouragement credit. Once you start trading you receive a point for each trade. And $2.23 for me to send off a book is well-worth the books and DVDs I request – some hardbacks, some hard-to-find books, occasional two-for-1 point deals and DVD sets. Now I find out my PBS credits are good for swapadvd!

  41. Replacing our ceiling fan was a lot harder than replacing our old toilet. Just be prepared that if you have a house over 20 years old, you may find something that is wrong once the old one is out that you can’t fix and you’ll have to call a plumber or other repair person (i.e. cracked flange, a leak that rotted the floor, etc.)

    We had a 20 year old toilet that worked fine but it was like sitting on the floor and it wasted about 4 gallons of water per flush (it was six and the new one is 1.6) Here are the things my husband and I learned from replacing the toilet ourselves:

    1. Buy the extra large wax ring with the rubber flange and a wax ring just in case. The extra $3-$5 will be well worth it and if you don’t need the extra you can return it.

    2. You need 2 relatively strong people to do the job who can work together well. It’s awkward to pick up a toilet and while breaking the old doesn’t matter too much, you don’t want to drop the new one!

    3. Get a tarp, a lot of old towels and a couple sets of rubber gloves (the heavy duty kind). You won’t be able to get all the water out of the old toilet so you will have some drips and who wants old toilet water on the floor? We didn’t want to get it on our hands but maybe you aren’t that sensitive.

    4. This is if you have an old(er) house – check the offset before you buy a toilet!! Normal is 12″ but you can’t really change the position of the flange (the thing in the floor that connects to the waste pipe) so be sure yours is 12″ before you buy a stock toilet. I thought we got a great deal on a low flow, comfort height toilet (and I guess we did since it was about $130) but when we installed it, it was about 4 inches from the wall in a small-ish bathroom and it would be much better to have paid a bit more and gotten a 14″ offset and have it set back a couple inches. Measure from the wall to the bolts that hold the toilet base to the floor. This is especially important if you have LESS than 12″ – very few houses do but wouldn’t you rather know that you need a 10″ offset before you get the old one out and the new one doesn’t fit?

    5. Speaking of the bolts that hold the toilet in place, don’t tighten them too much. The instructions say to tighten them a little on each side as you go and not to over tighten. The plumber who did our master bath told us stories about people not listening to this advice and ruining very expensive fixtures.

    Speaking of my new bathroom, we bought a dual-flush toilet and we love it. Most people urinate 2-3 times per day and it only uses .8 gallons for that as opposed to 1.6 gallons for the other times you use the toilet. Good way to save water too.

    Having done it, I think it was relatively easy (keep in mind we framed out the new bathroom and installed the tile ourselves so my perspective is skewed) but it did take a couple hours. If you have another person to help you, you should be able to do it. Good luck!

  42. Kate (comment #47) — Thank you for urging people to SUPPORT WRITERS BY BUYING NEW BOOKS. These sales are the lifeblood of publishing, and when the flow stops, the choices become more and more limited.

    However, I have to disagree with you about library use. WHEN YOU CHECK A BOOK OUT OF THE LIBRARY, IT BENEFITS THE AUTHOR. Why? Because the library tracks circulation. If they see that a book is circulating, they’ll order more copies (new) and increase their order on the next book from that author. Libraries are power-buyers and vital to an author’s career.

    There is no down side to borrowing a book from the library. It’s free, no strings attached, no club to join, no shipping charges, no hidden charges. Plus it’s “green.”

    Pretty much my fave American institution. :-)

    TRENT: I would love to see a well-researched column about the benefits of using the public library. :-)

  43. Thanks for the sites to check out!

    Here are a couple of my favorites when looking for something to buy (book, electronics, DVD, etc.)

    1) http://www.booksprice.com (price shopping for books, find a Great deal on one or many books, DVDs, or games)
    2) http://www.dealcatcher.com and http://www.dealnews.com – whether I’m looking for a deal on a computer, LCD monitor, even Legos, I’ll check this site out. Lots of great deals including 1/2 off gift certificates from restaurant.com every so often
    3) http://www.salescircular.com – when I’m looking to pick up a memory card, some blank CD’s, or a monitor and I want to pick it up TONIGHT and not wait for shipping, I can find out what local stores have things on sale!
    4) http://www.shoplocal.com – again when I want to find something on sale close by, like a lawn mower, weed wacker, computer game or just about anything else…

    Oh, and re Kate’s comment… I LOVE the Library! And some library systems have free access to NetLibrary.com for patrons, which could give you access to a whole lot of audio books or electronic books online… for free, if your library participates!

  44. As I said, I do use libraries myself. (Especially for research!) And that’s a good point in comment #53, about them tracking use. That hadn’t occurred to me. However, since my first books were all paperback originals, I suspect I didn’t get much in the way of library sales in any case. (I know my mother bought and donated a lot of copies to various libraries, though!)

    But I do wish we could adopt the European system. It works out much better for writers.

  45. If you’re looking to either get or get rid of various unwanted items, check out http://www.freecycle.org/ There are local groups all over the US and Canada. Folks list items they want to get rid of and you can claim them. Or, if you have something that still has life in it, list it and it will be picked up by someone wanting. Great program!

    I’ve used paperback swap, cd swap and dvd swap for ages and love them all.

  46. I must say that I disagree with Kate (#47) that reading a used book is monetarily detrimental to the author (uh, not that I’ve written too many books lately).

    If it wasn’t for used books, many people wouldn’t be introduced to new authors. Every book on these swapping sites has to have been purchased by somebody at some time. Some people buy on-sale books simply so they can bookcross them.

    Personally, I haven’t bought a new book (except for 1 textbook) in years – and that was before I was introduced to these sites. Of course, even I think that’s a bit extreme at times . . .

  47. shortcuts.com is also a nice website. You can load coupons to a shoppers card and it automatically deducts them at the register when you use your card. There’s limited things that have coupons, but the ones they have are nice.

  48. Another good web site is http://www.valpak.com.

    Valpak.com gives consumers the option of getting coupons online for a specific ZIP code. Consumers can access from home, or office: so if you are at work looking for a restaurant, or your oil changed on your lunch hour, you just plug in your ZIP code and find a business nearby.

    Use the RSS feed to get Valpak coupons delivered to your computer every day.
    Thanks!

  49. We mainly use coupons.com, valpak.com and supercoups.com. The good thing is that these sites provide something for everyone. And in today’s day and age, it is smart to be frugal with your expenses.

  50. PaperBookSwap.com is a great website, especially for those of us who have been saving our new books forever. I used to sell my used books on e-Bay but trading them is much easier. I’ve seen a lot of complaints from writers about the fact that swaping books doesn’t earn any money for authors. That is true, but what else are you supposed to do with a book you’ve read? Even if you donate it to your local library no money will ever get back to the author and people will continue to read it over and over for free. People have always traded books between each other to save money, so using a website for this isn’t any different. As a published author, I too think it would be great if everyone bought books that are new, but it isn’t really practical in today’s economy. At least the books being swapped were purchased at some point by someone. We don’t want to destroy all used books so everyone has to buy new, do we??? :)

  51. Bertrand Russell rocks – I find his arguments very compelling. He seems a lot more down to earth then some of the newer writers on the subject.

  52. Trent, don’t forget to factor in the KNOWLEDGE you gained installing your fan. Can’t put a price tag on that.

  53. One of my favorite bargain hunting sites is:

    http://www.bradsdeals.com/

    As an aspiring poet, I’m all about helping writers earn money. I see little difference however between using an online book swapping service and shopping at thrift shops, yard sales or used book stores. There will always be some people who prefer to have new copies of books, movies, music, etc. Limited as my income is, I’ll splurge on a new paperback by an author I really love now and then. I think swap sites also inadvertently support publishing because I defy you to look at what’s available without thinking of newer books on similar topics that you just can’t wait to read.

  54. Don’t forget to ask for the MEDIA MAlL rate when shipping books and CD/DVDs…it’s a lot less than the regular first class postage rate…..

  55. While retail giants like Borders and Barnes and Noble are struggling to refill their shelves, used book stores like http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-almost-perfect-book-store-roseville are growing by leaps and bounds. This store reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s library at Unseen University, and you expect to see The Librarian swing down at you from some secret and hidden corner of the book store. I have always felt that a good book is the cheapest form of good entertainment. And, unlike TV, your imagination expands and grows as you read.

  56. I use Paperback Swap myself but your claim that the books are free is misleading. Yes, the books you request are free, but in order to get the credit to request a book you have to send a book to another member. So each free request costs you the postage to send a book to someone else.

    So – assuming that the postage to send books is about $2.25 each, your six books actually cost you $13.50. Still a good deal – but not free.

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