Your reading habit doesn’t need to cost a paycheck.
If you’re like me, you look at your credit card statement every month and think, “I spent how much money on books this month?” I’m reckless in an indie bookstore, and I love to fill my bookshelves with hardcovers. When I go on vacation, I download several eBooks to pick from so I have options.
But buying a few $27 hardcovers and even $15 paperbacks each month can quickly undo weeks of careful budgeting, so over the years, I’ve found a few hacks to significantly reduce how much I spend on books. These 10 tips will keep some cash in your pocket, too.
Hit the Thrift Store
You probably already know that you can buy cheap books at used bookstores (see if there’s one in your area here), but did you know that your local Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift store sells books, too? My perfect copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which sells on Amazon for $20 (amazon.com) cost me only $2 at Goodwill. I’ve found Elena Ferrante novels, countless thrillers, and more pristine cookbooks at thrift shops over the years. And if you really want to get books for bargain prices, ask if your thrift store gives student, senior, or military discounts, or if it does regular tag sales.
Buy Secondhand Online
Don’t feel like making the trek out to a thrift store or want something very specific? You can buy used books online on Amazon, eBay, and Thriftbooks.com. Popular brick-and-mortar used book stores like Powell’s, Strand Books, Books-A-Million, and Half Price Books also do big business online. Not a fan of used books? You can usually filter sites for new or like-new books and read up on their physical condition. This is an especially good tactic for older books: Used copies of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See are selling on Amazon for about $3, with $3.99 shipping—half the cost of the full-price hardcover on the website.
Join a Subscription Program
If you love to read hardcover new releases as soon as they come out, it pays to join a program like Book of the Month. With the average price of a hardcover book around $27 and BOTM’s monthly fee of $14.99, you’ll save as much as $12 (and even more if you pay for a year of BOTM upfront for $149.99. Plus, you can add extra books to your box for only $9.99 more. Other great deals can be found at Bookroo, Book Riot, Shelflove Crate, and LitJoy Crate.
Sign Up for Email Lists
Use Your Library Card
This is a no-brainer. The cheapest books you can find are the free ones at your library. We love going to the library and getting physical books, of course. But now, many libraries across the country have thousands of eBooks available for download. For downloading eBooks, sending them to your devices, requesting holds, and searching catalogs, we recommend the Libby app from Overdrive.
Host a Book Swap
If your bookcases are overflowing or you’re feeling uninspired by what’s on your shelves, invite a few fellow readers over for appetizers, drinks, and a book swap. Encourage people to bring 5, 10, or 20 books from their own clear-outs, then organize the picks by genre for easy browsing. To reduce the likelihood of duplicate bestsellers, ask everyone to tell you what they’re bringing in advance. If hosting a party sounds like too much work, you can also swap with strangers online at PaperBackSwap.com.
RELATED: How to Host a Swap Party
Try a Classic
Did you know that books published more than 95 years ago can technically be found for free? U.S. copyright law stipulates that after 95 years, they become part of the public domain. A few useful websites—most notably Project Gutenberg—turn these public domain books into eBooks for all to download. (If you want a physical copy of Sense and Sensibility you will have to pay though, because it costs money to make the book.) Sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble also make their eBook versions of these classics available for $0. Be warned that sometimes the formatting can be a little off, but hey, you get what you don’t pay for, right?
Goodreads is an invaluable tool for readers who love to track what they’ve read and rate books. Even if that’s not your thing, it’s worth signing up for Goodreads for the giveaways. Publishers are sending out advance reader copies and finished books to contest winners all the time. Goodreads makes it easy to sift through the contests and find ones that not many people have entered to up your chances.
Borrow Books on Your Device
Your Kindle and NOOK devices both have the ability to borrow and lend eligible books at no cost. To swap eBooks with friends on both devices, you just need their email addresses. Amazon Prime Members also have access to a library of 800,000 books for borrowing, including all seven Harry Potter books.
Download the Kindle or NOOK App
If you’ve read through a few of these suggestions and thought, “I don’t have an e-reader so that won’t help me,” don’t worry. You don’t need an e-reader to read free classics or buy eBooks that are on sale. If you don’t mind reading on your phone or tablet, you can download the Kindle or NOOK apps (both are free to get and use) and take advantage of their libraries and deals. The Kindle app also lets you borrow and lend books from friends—no device required.