Girl reading a book

Save money: read books

When I was growing up, I loved reading so much that I used to sneak read at night using the light of the street lamps outside. Can you relate?

For years I loved to read. I would read and read and read. When I moved to Canberra, the removalists remarked that I was like a typical out of uni job starter: all books and not much furniture.

But something happened. I guess I got so busy and the delight of reading fell away. This is a common thing particularly with those of us who have kids. When enjoying the early phase of a new relationship (apparently there’s a term called new relationship energy), reading also went by the wayside.

It’s a shame, as reading is one of the most rewarding hobbies. With fiction books, you can really immerse yourself in a ‘can’t put it down’ plot. And with non-fiction, you can learn some amazing things. It’s also a super frugal hobby as well – or at least, it can be.

And reading is one of the most frugal and rewarding hobbies you can have. It can cost a lot less than retail therapy, going to the movies, going out to dinner with friends or going to the theatre. Of course there are times when you might want to socialise, but if you’re just looking for something to do, why not try reading a book instead? Not only is reading a book cheap, but you might just learn something as well.

Support an author

Before I talk about where to get books cheaply (or free), I want to first note that there are times when it’s a really good idea to spend money on a book. Yep, this frugalista is asking you to buy books. Like mine for instance. Seriously – if you want to read great content especially from local and Australian authors, you need to support them. They are not likely to get another book deal or be able to financially support themselves writing unless you support them. Writing is a labour of love and not many of us earn mega-bucks from our book sales (I’m not yet there, but I’m working on it). Some self-published books even lose money (or at least, take a huge initial risk investing thousands of dollars in publication.) If you like and respect an author, buy their book.

Back in 2015, I was chosen to attend the ACT Writer’s Centres Hardcopy program for aspiring writers. It was a super amazing course. During the last weekend, one of the panellists said, “hands up who has bought an Australian book in the last month”. Not many hands went up at all. And this is a problem: many people want to write them yet not buy and read them. Our small and independent booksellers, in particular, need our support – many have been especially affected by COVID. And if you want to be a published author, create good karma by buying and reading other books.

One way to support authors is to buy books for birthday, Christmas presents – and especially for Mother’s Day. My sister gifted Booktopia gift vouchers last year. My eldest son had so much fun choosing his present, and I bought two books I really wanted. Or you could choose a book that is meaningful to you. I know of several people who enjoyed The Joyful Frugalista so much that they bought copies for family and friends for Christmas. I was surprised, for instance, to recently learn that the mum of a former colleague received my book as a Christmas present from one of her good friends, who had read the book and loved it. Made my day? Yep. Messages like that are so powerful and are what keep me going as a writer and content producer.

8 ways to buy books cheaply

You can buy books cheaply, or save money on books by buying them in a several different ways:

  1. Online sites plus cashback – buy online and connect with cashback schemes such as Cash Rewards. i.e. get cash back for your purchase).
  2. Lifeline book fairs are a treasure for books, especially obscure academic or vintage books – I love their cookbooks (note: some of these activities have paused during COVID)
  3. Second-hand booksellers – call me odd, but I just love the smell of those places and the joy of discovering something obscure and fabulous.
  4. Online second-hand sites such as Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace often have good deals on books, including as new products people have been gifted and don’t want or need.
  5. Secondhand online book resellers such as Thiftbooks can offer great bargains.
  6. eBooks rather than physical books are generally cheaper – and a bonus is that they don’t use paper so are better for the environment.
  7. Kindle Unlimited plan gives you unlimited access to a large range of books for less than the price of most book each month.
  8. Op shops offer a wide range of books, and you may be surprised by you can find on offer. Make sure to take advantage of weekly promotions and sales.

11 ways to get books for free

There was a time when only the wealthy could afford books. Yet now there are so many books that you can often get books for free. In fact, there are so many books that disposal of books is a real issue and art objects are sometimes made from old books.

Here are some of my favourite ways to get free books.

  1. Public libraries have fantastic physical, eBook and audio book resources – and make sure to check out their digital resources including magazines and even courses. Utilizing public libraries was one of the fabulous frugalista tips from the lovely ladies at Keepin’ it Frugal in a recent podcast.
  2. Street libraries offer a range of books for free – usually the expectation is that you swap books but it’s an honour system. Street libraries can be especially good for kids books.
  3. Booktopia has a range of free ebooks that you can find online.
  4. Amazon also has a good range of free ebooks. In addition, if you hare a member of Amazon Prime (currently $6.99 a month), you can access 1,000 additional ebooks for free.
  5. Project Gutenberg has over 60,000 free ebooks (think of all the hours of free entertainment if you decided to read them all!)
  6. The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has a large selection of free ebooks – browse and you might be surprised at what you find.
  7. Buy Nothing groups will often have books being offered. In our group someone started posting recently asking for a swap (Buy Nothing Groups don’t encourage swaps), and that led to admins and others offering a lot of books.
  8. Friends, family, anyone will give you books, especially if you give them books back. Last year during my challenge to give away 1,000 items, I gave away many books to friends – including sometimes to new friends. One of those new friends recently gave me not one but two books. I think there is no nicer gift among friends than passing on a much-loved book.
  9. Communal spaces such as offices and coworking spaces will often have books on shelves that are for decoration – but that can also be lent to people for reading. I’m currently reading a great book that I found on the shelves at the Canberra Innovation Network.
  10. Google Play has a selection of free books that you can download easily.
  11. Review books and you will often get a copy of the book (or a PDF) for free. I am often provided with free PDFs ahead of a podcast interview. To be clear, I don’t do what I do just to scare something for free. But if you love reading a particular genre (in my case, it’s finance), then consider doing something to promote these books.

Do you like reading? Where do you go to find your books?

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