Trimming the Average Budget: Reading

This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.

Reading – $118

The final, smallest category centers on reading materials – books, magazines, and newspapers, in other words. This category has a special place in my heart because reading is not only my primary hobby, but it’s also (in my view) one of the best ways a person can improve themselves. Reading teaches you new things, improves your language skills, and introduces you to new ideas and new modes of thinking.

Plus, it can be a very inexpensive hobby. Here are some ways to do just that.

Use the library! Your local library has thousands of books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines just sitting there, waiting to be checked out, for free. I’m a frequent user of the Ames Public Library – it fuels much of my own reading, plus it has exposed my children to hundreds of books over the years. Total cost? Nothing. Whenever I hear of a book I want to read, the library is the first place I check.

Use PaperBackSwap. The second place I check for a book I want to read is PaperBackSwap. PBS is an online book trading service. When you sign up, you list ten books from your own book collection that you’re willing to mail to someone else, then the system issues you two “credits.” Each credit can be used to request a book from the system, which another user will mail to you for free. When someone requests a book that you’ve listed, just mail it out to them (PBS gives you a sheet to print that works like a mailing label with the address already on it) and, when they receive it, you get another “credit” with which to order any book they have. I love this service and use it almost constantly.

Use secondhand book stores. My third string option for books to read is to visit secondhand book stores, yard sales, and thrift shops to see what books they have on their shelves. Time and time again, I’m surprised at the number of quality titles that can be found if you dig around – and quite often, they can be had for a few nickels.

Trade books with friends. If you have friends with similar reading tastes, swap books freely with them. You can get the ball rolling by simply passing along books you enjoy to your friends – eventually, if they’re heavy readers, they’ll reciprocate. When this starts happening and books get passed around a circle of friends, you’ll often have several free books to read before you ever buy one (and even when you “buy,” it might just be a PaperBackSwap book).

Hit library sales or used book sales. One of our favorite family events is the semiannual used book sale at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. It’s like visiting a giant used book store – you can get lots of surprisingly good books for just a dollar or two. Every year, I walk out with several titles under my arm.

Subscribe to magazines or newspapers you read with any frequency. If you buy a magazine more than once every six months on the newsstand, it’s probably cost-effective for you to start subscribing to that magazine. You can also swap used magazines – for example, my mother swaps her magazines with one of her friends as soon as she’s read them.

Investigate the free newspapers in your area. In my area, Juice, Toons, and Cityview are free newspapers that can be found at the entrance of most local grocery stores. I pick up copies almost every week and they provide excellent reading for free.

Join a book club. How does this save money, you ask? Most book clubs pick a book, buy it in bulk (giving everyone in the club an opportunity to pick it up on the cheap) or at least pointers to where to get it cheaply, then everyone reads it and then discusses it. It’s a really effective way to turn a book reading hobby into something social, enabling you to meet other readers. These other readers often become book swapping buddies, providing you with not only a social opportunity but a source for lots of reading.

I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.

(Note: in a few days, I will be posting a summary entry for this whole series, outlining the top three to five picks for each category, which will give everyone a single page to bookmark for reference’s sake.)

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60 thoughts on “Trimming the Average Budget: Reading

  1. anna says:

    Depending how new or popular the book is, half.com or amazon.com can be just as cheap if not cheaper than paperback swap plus you than own the book. I have bought numerous books on these websites for “a penny” than paid the $3.99 shipping. This is especially helpful if you are looking at a book that is several years old and was a very popular book at one time. ie. anything Oprah has suggested is dirt cheap.

  2. Vicky says:

    You do get to own the book on Paperback Swap. All you pay is shipping :)

  3. Vicky says:

    Er, all you pay is shipping on books you send out. If you’re receiving one, you don’t pay anything.

  4. Mary W says:

    If you gotta buy a new book never pay full price…try Amazon and be sure to arrange purchases to get free shipping; join a free rewards club/card at a bookstore (DH is always getting 30% off coupons from Borders); ask for bookstore gift cards as presents; and get bookstore gift cards with your credit card points.

    I usually use the library, garage sales and paperback trade store, but sometimes I want a specific book and am not willing to wait.

  5. Kai says:

    I think a good point about libraries, is that it’s another place where learning to wait saves money. Many people want the new book and want it now, and pay a premium for that. If you can wait until it comes to the library, you can read it free, and then probably buy it used later along if it turns out you really want to own it.
    A good allegory for many money matters.

  6. Dale says:

    If you read a lot, and like to buy your books for future reference, try a Kindle from Amazon (especially if you have the chance to pick one up cheap used). Books on Kindle are often substantially cheaper than the physical kind, and you can read a kindle in any condition you can read a book in (lighting wise). Pro/Con: You don’t get a physical book.

  7. Dale says:

    Oh, I forgot to add, there are lots of free books because they are in the public domain. You would still have to pay for a printed version of these, but since the information in them is free, easy to put on a Kindle.

  8. Candi says:

    The last time I actually had a library card, I read every book I was interested in over a 6 month period. Then I got stuck waiting for them to get a new book in, about 1 or 2 a month I wanted to read. So not really sure if that’s going to work out again either.

    I do use paperback swap but mostly to get rid of books I am not interested in. I have only ever recieved a couple of books. One of which resulted in a complaint from me. Heavy smokers should be required to mention that fact, it was the stinkiest book I have ever encountered.

    I belong to multiple reward programs and never pay full price for a book I am interested in and I will second amazon as another way to get a discounted book or two!

  9. jgonzales says:

    I doubt this is true everywhere, but my library system allows us to borrow magazines. They keep current copies. I believe they have a week before they are due back.

    Also, if you run a website, you can connect it to Amazon and put up a banner ad. If people go to Amazon through your banner, you can get credits to buy stuff from them yourselves. My mom does this with her blog and book review site and makes enough to get herself at least 3 or 4 books a year.

    If you are a voracious reader who can also write well, consider starting a book review site. My mom receives a book every couple of months from different publishers asking her to review the book on her site. Although the book isn’t usually the nice hardbound copy (although she gets some of those too!) she does get quite a few books across multiple genres and has found books she thoroughly enjoys but probably would never had bought herself. Plus she’s gotten at least one NY Times best seller because she has reviewed every book in the series prior to it (and since it).

    Finally, if you aren’t sure about a book and your local library doesn’t have it, check out reviews of the book before you buy it. You can of course use the reviews on places like Amazon, but check out independent reviewers online as well.

  10. Libraries are great, and second hand book stores. I have also found some good selections while yard saling.

  11. Bill says:

    If you don’t mind reading on a computer, the Gutenberg Project is great for out of copyright books.

  12. Ruth says:

    On thing that nobody mentioned about libraries – it is often EASIER to get older books at a library than at a bookstore. It’s a great resource if you just found a new author that you like and want to check out some of their earlier works. My library system will allow you to reserve a book from any of their 18 branches, so the selection is fantastic. The book is usually delivered to my local branch in 2-3 days.

    My library also participates in a library union called Link+. Participating libraries in California and Nevada allow you to borrow books and ship them to your local library free of charge. I have been able to find all but the most obscure books using this service.

    You should definitely take the time to find out what kind of services you library offers.

  13. Henry says:

    Paperback Swap pretty much sucks. I put some books on. I then got six cases of books from the alley behind the library after they had a sale and just threw them out. I had about 300 books listed. Twenty books flew right off the shelf, people were waiting for them. The other 280 or so, just sit there. Just sit there in my way, having to be moved, and bitched about and so on. No one wanted them.
    So I started to use my credits. I found about 5 books that I thought I wanted. Three that I knew I wanted. And now I sit there, with credits and nothing worthwhile to use them on. It wasn’t worth my effort. Paperback Swap would only be worthwhile if people were willing to buy decent books and then give them away for free, but no one wants to give anything decent away because they’re pretty sure everyone else will try to earn their credits through library discards available in any alley.

    The real solution, especially if you have no intention of keeping the book and only want to read it is InterLibrary Loan. I’ve never been turned down on any request. I’m sure some are impossible, but if it’s in a library somewhere, yours can get it for you. I even got an out-of-print book that lists on Amazon (at the least, when available) for $600 from two states away through ILL. It was a reference book in a special collection that they didn’t even let their patrons take home. But through ILL, I got to take it home with me.

  14. Maureen says:

    Look for blogs, websites and forums that pertain to topics of interest to you rather than buying magazines.

  15. chacha1 says:

    Sorry, I LOL’d at that budget number. That’s about eight weeks’ worth of reading for me!

    Let me add, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a high limit on this expense category and when money was extremely tight, the number did come down. When I couldn’t afford to buy books new, that’s when I used the library … heavily.

    But I have this thing about properly compensating authors, and I believe if I can afford to buy a book I want to read, I should buy it (rather than borrow or swap or second-hand it) so that the author gets the royalties they’ve worked for.

  16. Snowy Heron says:

    I love to read and I am usually reading at least a couple of books at a time. Plus audio books. If I bought all the books I want to read, I would first go broke and then have to buy another house so that I could have one for my books. Thank goodness for the public library!
    Our library has retired volunteers to take used book and CD donations, as well as books the library no longer wants, and sell them at dirt cheap prices – most are $1 or less. This is especially good for the classics that kids need for school. Rather than going out and buying the Diary of Ann Frank, or Jane Austen, or something along those lines, they usually have a selection of editions to choose from. I don’t know if other places do this, but it is a real win-win arrangement.

  17. Kacie says:

    Interlibrary loan is fantastic! Even if you have to wait a little bit to get a book, waiting is still cheaper than going out and buying it.

    Do Swagbucks to get $5 Amazon gift cards. It really adds up!

    For religious books, try your church library. They might have titles your public library doesn’t.

    For me, a Kindle is going to have to drop price substantially before I’d even consider one. The price of the device AND the price of an individual book. With a Kindle book, you can’t resell or swap, so the $10 price tag is too much. $5, maybe would be better.

  18. Kacie says:

    I forgot to mention — there are some sites (similar to Netflix) that allow you to rent books. This might be a good option for books that aren’t available at the library, especially if you’re not sure you want to own it.

    Think booksfree.com, bookswim.com, and more.

  19. Kacie says:

    OH! And we can’t forget to mention Project Gutenberg for thousands of classics! You can download them to your computer or some types of mobile devices.

    Some public libraries also offer ebook downloads to patrons.

  20. Lisa says:

    The library is amazing – not only for checking out books, but for the wealth of resources they have. Most libraries I’ve been to have online databases available and access to a variety of periodicals and references online (consumer reports, etc). My current library (Phoenix) – is fantastic and has a huge digital library with ebooks, audiobooks and more.

  21. Adam says:

    Its probably a weird thing, but books are very personal items for me. I read them in bed, while eating, while soaking in a bath tub, etc. For this reason, I don’t want a *used* book from someone else, I want a new one that’s mine. This makes reading an expensive hobby but since it gives me a lot of pleasure and is in line with where I want to spend, I don’t mind.

    Because I buy new, my tips for saving money are to join the bookstore’s frequent purchase clubs, and to buy online when possible (if you purchase a few books you can get free shipping). I try to limit myself to a certain dollar amount a month and don’t go over. And there are quite a few books I have read dozens of times!

  22. Kathy says:

    *gasp* No mention of Goodwill? I just scooped up about 14 books there the other night (I went in for pants. I came out with 2 pairs of pants and 14 books for $24. I think that I’m still ahead of the game if you just look at it from the pants POV)

  23. Tricia says:

    Our town dump has a ‘book barn’ You can pick up and drop off books. There are about 8 bookcases full of all kinds of books. I have gotten MANY new books, plus older ones, for free. I pass them along when done or just return them to the barn. It’s always a surprise to see what you may come across!

  24. Robin Crickman says:

    Magazine saving tip. If you find a magazine
    you think you want to read regularly, buy a
    newstand copy toward the end of the year. There
    is often a “gift” subscription offer advertised
    in the issues at that time of year with a price
    that can be half the regular subscription price
    or less. This seems to work especially well with
    sport or hobby magazines.

  25. KC says:

    Don’t just use “your” library. Look at your neighboring county or city to see what their lending policies are for out-of-towners – some offer free cards, some offer cards for a small fee. My city/county library system is pretty pitiful, but the neighboring county has a large city that has a fantastic library system. They give neighboring county residents a free card! I go about once every 3 weeks and receive/return about 7 books per visit.

    If I can’t get a certain book at the library and the used price hasn’t come down enough to offset the $4 shipping then I order new from amazon (combining with another purchase to get free shipping). When I’m done with the book I resell it on half.com. I usually recoup a good deal of the cost of the book. There are few books I have to get the day its published, but for the few that I have to have this is usually the best way to acquire them and then resell (assuming I don’t want to keep the book – which I usually don’t).

  26. alilz says:

    I love my local used bookstore. They have a wide selection and they have a good exchange policy PLUS your credit doesn’t expire (I had credit on file for more than a year there). I went to one and my credit expired within 6 months, it wasn’t close to me so I forgot to use it and lost it.

    Many libraries also have used books for sale. Mine has a gift shop with used books and magazines for sale for good prices. It’s a great way to pick up books and also helps the library. One a year they have HUGE sale with prices like a quarter for paperbacks.

    When I buy magazines I used Magazines.com, the price is usually the same as the lowest price offered in the magazine. Plus I use My points so I save on the cost of the magazine and earn points from Mypoints.

  27. Brittany says:

    Second (third?) the shoutout to interlibrary loan. I rarely have to wait more than a few days, except for very popular new releases. However, most libraries let you “prehold” new releases, so if you plan ahead, you can get to the top of the list. Occasionally, I also do that horrid and unethical thing everyone jumped down Trent’s throat for–read the book in the bookstore. However, I don’t copy down from it and I always buy a coffee or something while I’m there, so I don’t feel too bad.

  28. Henry says:

    This really isn’t the final category. Tobacco was overlooked. I would expect a financial writer to be able to turn out 1200 words on the subject. Who better than someone that doesn’t even use tobacco? They should be able to have a fairly clear perspective, removed from the issue. We’re not just talking tobacco, we’re talking money.
    Trent could delve into brand name smokes vs. generic vs. rolling your own, using the new types of tobacco such as snus and dissolvables, the current flood of coupons and special offers promoting them, should you switch from cigs to cigars to avoid the cigarette tax? Using dip vs chewing tobacco? Plug tobacco? Mail order cigars vs. buying at the local store? Are rewards programs available to smokers? What is the value of such programs? How do you get on mailing lists to obtain great coupons and special offers?
    What is the savings in buying cartons vs. single packs? Do stores offer multiple pack or carton discounts?
    And finally, one that anyone anti-tobacco should love to address: The extra costs in health care predicted for users.
    And what will happen to the states that are taxing tobacco use out of existence? What will happen when the taxes are so high no one uses anymore and the state no longer has the taxes to pay for health care and the other things they were throwing tobacco money towards?

    Tobacco, an expense bigger than reading, warrants no discussion?

  29. Henry says:

    And don’t forget driving across the state line or onto Indian reservations to get great deals. Is it the right thing to do?

  30. Amy says:

    Most useful: Use your library! Definitely! Library book sales & half.com are where I buy books (& CDs & DVDs) that I want to own & reference often.

  31. I can definitely see trying to save money in any area possible, but I would be weary in this one. Reading has made me a much more educated person, has allowed me to manage my finances better, and bring substantially more income into my life.

    I would certainly not cut corners if I found a book out there that I knew could substantially improve my life and I had to pay a little extra for it.

  32. deRuiter says:

    You can buy deeply discounted magazine subscriptions through “MyPoints” and accumulate airline miles too. To get the most bang for your buck, at Shop Rite, buy Barnes and Noble gift certificates (2 1/2 free airlines miles per dollar spent) and then buy B&N books through the Continental Airlines portal with the gift certificates, getting 4 or more free miles per dollar. You always buy more than $25. worth of books so you get free shipping, and it often works out that it’s as cheap to buy new books rather than buying used books where you have to pay the postage.

  33. michael bash says:

    When I was a kid our library had a set of biographies – I thought she shelf length was about 4-5 feet – which I read like one eats peanuts. Zeb Pike, Kit Carson, James Audobon (sp) …. endless. Size = 1/2 an A4. Good for junior high I think. Highly recommended!

  34. michael bash says:

    that’s “the shelf length”.

  35. Anna is now Raven says:

    Henry, you are a hoot.

    While using the local public library, don’t forget to donate to its annual fund drive (if it has one; all the libraries around here do).

  36. Steffie says:

    I buy my magazine subscriptions from the fund raisers that the kids have. $10-15 bucks a year for big name magazines seems ok to me. Plus I’m helping the school without getting ‘chili pepper dip bowls’.

  37. littlepitcher says:

    Stanza app will get you free and discounted ebooks.
    Thanks for the info on book rentals as a means of getting ebooks without wasting gas on a trip to the library.
    I read just fine on an iPod Touch, without the expense of an ebook reader, and it’s light enough not to bother my arthritic hand. Its newspaper apps save me additional money on the big-city papers and many magazines. I quit feeling guilty about its initial high cost (for a reconditioned Touch on eBay) when I added up the reading costs!

  38. Ward says:

    If you want new books and are willing to wait a couple weeks for shipping, bookdepository.com has free shipping on all books and prices that are usually the same or better than amazon.

    For used books, if you are in the US betterworld.com and thriftbooks.com have free shipping for used books

  39. Heather says:

    I love the library. Ours allows me to search the catalog and place hold requests online, so I am “in line” for about 20 different really popular books and movies. Saves movie rental costs too.

    I took a trip to Europe 5 years ago, and the frequent flier miles I got were nowhere near enough to get me a free ticket, but I’m still getting free magazines. I love trading in my miles for free magazines subscriptions. I’m reading Entertainment Weekly and Time because of airline miles. I also get magazines from freebizmagazines.com and there is another free site (don’t remember the name right now). Usually the mags are boring but every once in a while they will have a good one available. I am currently getting ReadyMade, Martha Stewart, Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home, Family Fun, Women’s Day, Parents, Town & Country, Digital Photographer, and several others – all free! Lastly, Amazon had $5 subscriptions in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I got Real Simple for $5 (and that’s an expensive magazine!) and wish I had grabbed Country Living.

    Several people mentioned the Kindle. It is too expensive for me. BUT you can download a Kindle for your computer or for your iPhone/iPod touch. There are all those free public domain books, plus Amazon sometimes gives away a good Kindle book. I have The One Year Love Languages devotional, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes, and a couple other really good books free from Amazon.

    There are lots of sources for free audio books, too.

    I will have to try ILL. I’ve never done that because they tell me I have to be willing to pay up to $6.

  40. Joan says:

    $118.00 LOL Thats less than $10.00 a month. We have spent about $70 on postage sending out books to paperback swap this month. Yea, we have lots of credits; but we also have lots of books to post. Add sunday newspapers (for coupons and to find out what events are happening the coming week) three or four magazines of our special interests, garage sale or thrift store books and it adds up to a lot more than $118.00. Books are very important for our family; we all read. Our library is not user friendly except for the children’s section. Most of the books are old old old, except for novels. I have donated books to them that just end up on the sale rack. I have asked for interlibrary loan books and the people who work at the library don’t want to be bothered, so I don’t use the library more than a few times a year. A lot more than $118.00 for this family. I’m keeping a good record (so far this year), so I’ll know more about how much we spend in a few months.

  41. Tammy says:

    I’ve never used paperback swap, but we are big fans of swaptree.com…it’s almost the exact same service, but you can swap cd’s, dvd’s, and video games as well as books.

    I’ve gotten lots of those pricey Disney DVD’s for my daughter for free, because everyone is upgrading to Blu-Ray and trading off their old stuff.

  42. Bill in Houston says:

    Reading is my one vice. I have a library of over 4,000 books at home, about half of them hardcover. I’d never dream of selling them. This gives me lots of reading material, but even so I’ll spend maybe 40 bucks every other month for a new hardcover and a few paperbacks.

    I did luck out last weekend. Neighbors were having a decluttering garage sale (daughter going off to college). I picked up four paperbacks for two bucks. That, the giftcard purchases I made after Christmas, and my book gifts will keep me going for another two months or so.

  43. Ellen says:

    Online isn’t just a way to find inexpensive books or blogs. Most magazines have good websites, and I read several daily newspapers online too. You don’t get ALL the content, but probably most of what you want. Even if they switch to requiring subscriptions for online access, it costs less than the hard version & is more immediately up to date. Added benefit – not having to recycle or find other uses for all that paper.

    And, add another vote for interlibrary loan!

  44. Michelle says:

    My public library has a used book room with titles for sale at all times. Recently, I realized there were magazines in that room, including recent issues, for only 10 cents each. When I’m done, I donate them back to the library to resell.

  45. joan :) says:

    I’d reorder the list and move PBS to the bottom. I’m sure it’s a worthwhile investment for some people. But do a little number crunching, factoring in the price of postage (even at media mail level), and its overall cost-effectiveness plummets.

  46. Jenzer says:

    David’s comment (#30) leads me to think that perhaps it’s more accurate to put “reading” in several budget categories rather than consider it a category unto itself. I didn’t hesitate to pay full price for a reference book on Excel 2007, which I consider a work/career-related expense. However, I would much rather borrow novels from the library than buy them at any price, because entertainment spending is a very low budget priority for me.

  47. Jim says:

    Another good choice is http://www.betterworldbooks.com. Some decent choices and good prices on used books.

    In the “bargain bin, you can get 5 books for $15.

    Also, free shipping via USPS, and expedited shipping is available if you just can’t wait.

  48. Calif Frugalista says:

    I get so many magazines for $-0- by reading all of the frugal/coupon web-sites. They regularly let readers know about free mags, but you have to jump on the offers quickly because they reach their limit very soon after posting. Free mags have included Oprah, Weight Watchers, In Style. As you can see, these are major mags, and usually would cost about $20 or so for an annual subscription. Keep your eyes peeled and you too can score free magazines!

  49. Lynn says:

    All the colleges and universities in my state, plus art schools, medical schools, seminaries, and two public libraries are in a giant interlibrary loan consortium. I drove 90 minutes to the closer of the two public libraries and bought an out of area library card for $25/yr. Now I can request anything from any of those libraries online and pick it up at the local college, for free. The funny thing is, I could get very limited privileges at the college because I’m a community member, but not access to the interlibrary loan. Now I get better access and longer loan periods as a member of the distant library!

  50. Holly says:

    Another plug for swaptree.com. Books, DVDs, CDs all can go media rate. I haven’t paid more than $2 for anything and have been able to reduce the number of books on my shelf that aren’t personally meaningful (doing the decluttering thing also) and also get media that I want and often in good enough condition to give as gifts.

  51. Anne says:

    As someone who generally subscribes to at least half a dozen magazines I’d like to add one more thing: ASK! I’m loathe to try to foist anything on anyone but my mom’s office mates asked that I keep donating to their break room so they get a steady stream of magazines :D

    I’d say unless it’s Cooks Illustrated or a super-fancy literary publication (or Martha Stewart, a lot of people seem to save those), definitely ask if you could have the magazine when your friend/coworker/etc is done.

  52. Kevin says:

    1) I got turned onto paperbackswap.com by The Simple Dollar. I’ve sent out a number of books and gotten quite a few as well. I have about 150 books (including multiple editions) on my wishlist – I really like the auto-request feature. My wife recently went through her books and gave me about 20 that she was going to donate. I listed them on my bookshelf and immediately got hits on 6 or 7. Tip: Don’t assume that PBS correctly determines the cheapest mailing method. Sometimes 1st class is cheaper than media mail depending on the weight.

    2) Sometime back I signed up for on-line surveys that pay in what I call “bogus bucks”. No real money, but credit towards various rewards – including magazine subscriptions. I’ve gotten 2 subscriptions so far, neither of which comes with an auto-renewal (good thing).

  53. Priscilla says:

    We use thrift stores, yard sales and a local book store to buy books. Since we live outside of town, a library card from our town library costs $25/year. We cannot justify this, so we don’t have a card. However, the library does have an on-going book sale room with books and magazines that are free, $.25, or a dollar or two. They also have a once-a-year book sale.

    We also have a book store that will take trade-in books and give you credit on buying books using your credits. We have saved hundreds of dollars by being frugal in this way. My problem is limiting myself from accumulating too many books.

    When I weed out books, we donate them to a local charity or thrift store, take them to the book store that gives you credit for trade ins, or give them back to the library.

  54. RevBucky says:

    Locally we have three different places where you can get free books. The way it works is on donations, and you don’t have to donate, just walk in and take free books. They are also great pplaces to get rid of excess clutter of books, and they will go to a good home, or to someone who needs them.

    These places are not rich, so they don’t really advertise, you have to search them out.

    Most of the time you will only find older books, but if you like to read, you should be able to find some fiction or nofiction that will interest you.

    One of the things I find funny about people is when all they want is the brand new bestsellers. Wait a month or three, and they will often be half price at B@N or Borders. The great thing about books, especially fiction, is that six days, weeks or years later, the story is the same.

    Oh, and always check the remainders tables at B@N, quite often you will find something that will interest you at up to 75% off.

  55. Ripley says:

    As a public library director, I would like to point out that libraries aren’t precisely “free.” Most people pay to support them via tax levies either to a local government unit or to a state government. When I created a new pamphlet for my library, I called our collection, “The best bargain you’ve already paid for.”

  56. Henry says:

    Maybe so, Ripley, but the services are available no matter how much you paid in taxes. I have paid no taxes, and the services are still free to me. Some other bigshot that paid more taxes than anyone else in the county has access to the same services I do, and will be asked to ‘pay’ the same as me when he goes to use them. Compared to buying books, or paying postage on PaperBack Swap, the library is free.

  57. divajean says:

    We are currently reviewing our thoughts on magazines we have been subscribing to.

    I get two quilting magazines- each has 6 issues annually. It is essentially “cloth porn” because all it does is make me want to buy the latest and greatest– not use up what I have, which is my goal. I am letting my subscription run out.

    We get one political/news subscription- but are done with it. Recently, it changed formats and is nothing like what we signed up for. When it runs out, we are through.

    My daughter gets a magazine she really loves and digs into– she loves to try the crafts, write short stories, and enter into contests, etc. I would not cancel this one since its really being used for its purpose.

    We get gifted Family Crafts magazine from my mother in law. We like and use the ideas regularly.

    So- basically, we are cutting down to no more subscribing except for my daughter’s magazine.

    As for books, we buy very little- maybe 3 a year from bookstores and maybe 10 from yard sales- compared to others. That being said, I am working on deconstructing my collection and hopefully being an example to hubby- who has books that really gather dust (probably 3000 or more books- and I’ve yet to see her ever pick up a book a second time once read!).

  58. CathyG says:

    If you live in Texas, check out http://texshare.org

    It is a program where most of the public libraries and academic libraries participate to allow patrons to check books out of any library in the state. You do have to travel to each library to get it, but I live in between Dallas and Fort Worth – there are over 100 libraries within 20 miles of my house. I can get almost any book I want. Most of them have the catalog online, so I can find the exact book I need with very little effort.

    If I can’t travel, or I can’t find a book, or if I can wait a while, then I use interlibrary loan via the website for my own city’s library.

  59. Nancy says:

    I am addicted to my local library. Our county library system is the greatest! I can go online to search for books in any library in the system and put in a request for an interlibrary loan. If it is a new book then it may take a few weeks depending on how many copies are in the various libraries. For example my local library is one of the smaller ones so it may have only one copy of a new book but many of the other libraries will have multiple copies. In that case my request goes into a list and when my request comes up I will get the next available copy from any library in the system. Usually for my requests I get a phone call (or I can check online) and the book is available in a few days. I can also go to any of the libraries in our county system and borrow materials. I have become very picky about which books I buy. I ask myself Do I really want a copy of this book for a long time? Will I really ever read it again? I also swap books with friends. And I always check out my library’s sale cart where books are 10 cents. My favorite library book sale is near my friend’s home. It runs on the summer weekends and i s afabulous place to find great reading material. They have the best organized used book sale I have ever been to. Many of the libraries in the 2 county area have ongoing or periodic book sales run by volunteers. It serves 2 peuposes 1) a great place to get inexepensive books and 2) an income source for the library! Another great tool is in my personal library account which I can access online. I can check my reading history over the past years and see a list of what books I have borrowed and when. This is great because I take my 84 year old mother with me to the library and sometimes she can’t recall reading a paricular book. I just look up my reading history and see if I borrowed it for her.
    By the way there are sources online that help you evaluate what you are getting for your taxpayer dollarsn at your library. And after using them I found out that I am definitely getting my money’s worth out of my library. Not only is my library a source for borrowing books, CDs & DVDs (think free overnight ‘rentals’) but they have internet access and computers for patron use, present a wealth of programs from concerts to plays to lectures to classes in everything from driver safety (small fee) to crafts to setting up a small business. And don’t forget meeting rooms for community groups. Go Libraries!!

  60. Lenore says:

    I think many people subscribe to magazines or newspapers simply out of habit. Most of the information can be found online for free, saving trees and preventing clutter. I’m wary of any publication that entices me to buy things I’d never have know about otherwise. Women’s magazines are notorious for subtly attacking readers’ self-esteem to sell appearance-related products. Home magazines make people feel their domiciles are inadequate to promote unnecessary decor items and costly home improvements. I got an almost-free subscription to Metropolitan Home a few months ago, and it was full of ridiculously priced merchandise nobody needs. I just got notified the magazine is being discontinued, and they’re going to send me Woman’s Day instead. Is it possible the publisher, which probably has detailed demographics about me, is replacing one spending catalyst with another? I’d guess 80% of Metropolitan Home was advertising or product endorsements masquerading as articles. Wonder how Woman’s Day will stack up.

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