How not to break the bank and read good books

Work in progress (1)You may have asked yourself, when reading about book club and book circle and the New York Times challenge or watching the book reviews: How can she buy all these books? That’s an excellent question and, the answer is, that I do not.

Here are my life hacks for not breaking your bank account trying to read all of the good books that you want to read! 

Go to the library

This may seem like a bit of a “duh” moment, but I have found that it has fallen off a lot of adults’ radars. I remember when my mom took me to get my first library card, I thought it was the coolest thing on the planet to have something with my name on it and I always took out more books than I could possibly read. Somehow in adulthood and with the “I want it now” mentality that we all live by, this has gone by the wayside, but I’m here to tell you that it should not. Your local library has several ways for you to borrow books from them. Allow me to enumerate.

Paperback/hardcover books.

Personally, I don’t have the time — or the willpower to not check out multiple other books, as we just discussed above — to go to the library and browse the shelves, which is why I live off the library’s website. With my handy dandy library card in my possession, I created a login and can browse the card catalog of all of the libraries within my county’s library system. (This is how they set things up in PA, I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing how any other state sets up its library system.) From there, I can see that, for example, my system has 63 copies of Educated by Tara Westover — not including the large print options. I can, from here, select to place a hold on it. Placing a hold on a book does one of several things: (Sorry, lists on lists in this post!)

  1. If it’s available at my library, pull it from the shelf and alert me when it’s ready for pickup at the front desk.
  2. If it’s available at another library in my system, route the book from another location to my library and alert me when it’s ready for pickup at the front desk.
  3. If none are available, mark your spot in line and let you know when it’s your turn and your book is ready for pickup at the front desk.

If you get to this third option, time may start to be a factor, as it was for Educated. Looking at my search I can see that none of the copies are available at my local library are available and that none of the copies systemwide are checked in. Worse yet, there are more than 200 people who have placed a hold on the book, indicating I’m not likely to get it in time to read it for our book club meeting. So, let’s move on to the next format.


I believe most library systems operate through a platform, such as OverDrive, offering electronic formats of books to patrons who have the necessary hardware for download and rental. I will then go to the OverDrive app on my Kindle Fire, I’ll sign in through my library and search to see if the book I require is available for download. If it’s available, I’m good to go. I request it, am sent a link to Amazon to download it as a rental and have the designated time to read it before Amazon takes it off my Kindle and “returns” it to the library so that the license can be used for the next patron. If it’s not available, the same hold system goes into place. It’s a bit less clear to me from the OverDrive holds system in what timeframe I might receive the book. So, if it’s something like a book club book and it’s not available pretty instantly, I will usually forgo this option. But if it’s something like a New York Times challenge book, I’ll place myself into the queue. My library also has the option to request that the book be added if it’s not a carried title, but I have found that this also usually doesn’t happen in a timely manner.


Final library option would be the audiobook. I find it’s a pretty great option because you can listen to the book as you are cleaning your house, making chores slightly more enjoyable. I’ll also listen as I’m eating breakfast and getting ready for work. Commutes are another great place to listen to an audiobook, however, mine is not that long so it’s not in my gameplan. Anyway, you can rent these through your library. An OverDrive-related app on my phone, called Libby, allows me to sign in with my library card and download audiobooks available for rent.

Borrow it from a friend

This is the crux behind the book circle, a group of friends or connected individuals who want to share a great book among one another. Through this method, you only purchase one of the 10-12 books you’ll read in the circle and the financial contribution is about $3 per month to send the book to the next participant in the circle. Check out the posts 1 and 2 for all of the details.

Additionally, I take on the New York Times challenge with a friend of mine, Brittany, and we will send each other the books that we choose to buy from the list. We also send each other book mail outside the challenge. It’s great to have book-ish friends.

This works also with book clubs. For example, I will be lending my copy of Educated to one of my coworkers for her to, hopefully, finish in time for the discussion.

Book newsletters

I subscribe to newsletters that alert me when book deals are to be had. Publishers, like HarperCollins curate newsletters like Bookperk, blogs, such as Modern Mrs. Darcy, and Amazon deals (though this is not a newsletter merely a follow-up email after you have been searching) all provide information on discounts to books you may be pining for. One caveat: I found that it’s hard to have self-control when the book is only $2 and the deal is presented to you in your inbox. So, I usually only open them with my current to-be-read list in mind and skim for titles that I already know I want to read.

Used book sales

Used book sales are a gold mine. My local library, for example, is having one Labor Day weekend. Libraries frequently have them, with books at $1 to $2 a piece and these sales usually benefit your local library, so it’s a win-win. Watch out for deals at these too, some days there will be a bag sale, where your whole bag is a designated amount. However, I find that these usually occur on one of the last days of the sales, when the collection is typically picked over.

Thrift stores also usually have a book section, which can be worth perusing.

Loyalty programs

Personally, I’m a member of Barnes and Noble’s membership program. They send me coupons, which I’ll take advantage of when I’ve had my eye on a book. I also receive gift cards to Barnes and Noble both as gifts, because everyone knows how bookish I am, but I also use rewards on my credit card to earn them as well. I have found that shopping for the book you want at is most effective. (Stores do not price match, unless you are a member, so if there is a lower price online, either buy it there or pull out your membership card, which is $25 annually.) Shopping online, at least first, also has the benefit of being able to price compare with Amazon. I share an Amazon prime account with my sister, so shipping, which is free as a Barnes and Noble member, is not a factor on prime items.

So there you have it. Don’t break the bank to buy books, there are plenty of programs at your disposal to get free, deeply discounted and, at the very least, not full-priced books!

book buying


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