Buying Books on a Budget

housing-budget-booksA super low quality pic of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (it doesn’t do it justice)

I will admit it: I have a book buying problem.

There was a time when I was all about E-Readers, when I thought about all the space and money that could be saved because all the books I could ever want to read would be stored on my Kindle.

That time didn’t last very long.

I realized that reading on an E-Reader significantly cut down my attention span, so it took me forever to read books because it very much felt like just staring at another screen to me. I also had a tendency to forget everything I read when the screen shut off. Also, flipping pages was annoying (flipping backwards to try to reacquaint myself with the story, and then having to flip forward again to where I last read was a nightmare). The reading experience was different and it’s just not for me.

So I let myself buy physical books again, which was a good choice because my bookshelf is strong and mighty and it renewed my love for reading that was stinted during the E-Reader era.

And this decision comes with its pros and cons.

Pro: Physical books are amazing and seeing cover art in person cannot compare to seeing it on a tiny screen.

Con: Books are expensive.

Pro: My collection of bookmarks can finally be put to use.

Con: Books are expensive.

It’s for good reason though. Paying money for something that someone put their heart and soul into makes sense, but man, as a broke college student, it really is not boding well for my wallet.

So I’ve learned how to get thrifty when it comes to buying books (quite literally). Here are some places that I like to buy books from that helps me keep costs down, but my library full.

1. Used Bookstores & Thrift Shops

If you know me, I’m a big fan of buying used books. Sure, I love the feel of a new book, of being the first one to crack open the spine of a new release. It’s a satisfying and happy feeling for all.

But when it comes to books that have been out for years or decades or centuries, books with millions of copies floating all over the place, I opt for buying a used copy instead of new.

Used bookstores and thrift shops are amazing when it comes to buying books. Used books are priced way lower than brand new books and are often still in good condition. Though the cover may be a bit dog-eared, but the pages are intact and nothing is faded. It’s a win.

I usually go to the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in NYC, which is comprised of all donated books (those on the dingier side are sold for a dollar or 50 cents). All of their proceeds go to funding AIDs research. It’s my favorite spot to go book hunting because there are just so many hidden gems. I’ve also had my fair share of good finds at Goodwill and Savers as well.

Because all the books are donated at these stores, it’s unlikely you’ll find a new release at these spots, which is understandable. But if you’re looking for a copy of The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird for a cheap price, these are the spots to go. Even popular series like Harry Potter or The Mortal Instruments can be collected through used bookstores (I collected The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices from used bookstores).

So if you’re looking for a popular book that’s a few years old and don’t mind it being slightly used, I highly recommend checking out used bookstores or thrift shops.

2. Independent Bookstores

Support your local independent bookstore!!

My favorite one is Strand in NYC, but there are also amazing ones like Powell’s in Portland or The Last Bookstore in LA.

These places are gems, with so much history and life and character behind them. Walking into a unique and eccentric bookstore just isn’t the same as walking into a department store to purchase books. Also, a perk, a lot of independent bookstores buy used books or accept them as donations.

Books at independent bookstores are generally marked down a bit from regular retail prices. These markdowns aren’t a lot sometimes—sometimes be a dollar off or two if it’s a newer book—but it adds up in the end. Plus, everything is going towards keeping an independently and locally-run store in business so the quirk and warm feelings can live on!

And because most stores accept donations, oftentimes, there are used copies right alongside new ones, which are marked down even more. Through this, I’ve gotten some hardcover books that are cheaper than their paperback counterparts (hardcover books are released earlier than paperback, so finding a used copy next to a new paperback isn’t uncommon).

Visiting an independent bookstore will not only make you feel all warm with the towers of books that surround you, but it can also help you save a few bucks.

3. Online (no, not Amazon)

I’m not someone who tries to hide my distaste of Amazon’s monopoly on the book buying industry. Don’t get me wrong, I also fall victim to the attraction of Amazon because it’s cheap and convenient, and at this age, that’s what I need.

But I do tend to stray away from buying books from Amazon, unless they’re textbook rentals for my classes. Again, I try to buy independent and local as much as possible, and that includes buying books online. It just makes me feel better that my money is going towards keeping a small store in business, rather than a big corporation that has enough money as it is.

It’s completely possible to shop for books online and get good deals. Stores like Books-A-Million, AbeBooks, and even Powell’s have vast online inventories. Many of them have books discounted (almost as much as Amazon), or BOGO deals. It may take a little more searching, but it’s worth it in my opinion.

4. Library Book Sales

I’m not sure how common these are, but whether I’m at home in NYC or at college in Rochester, there is bound to be a library book sale during the time I’m there.

Libraries are where I spent a lot of my childhood at, since they were places with free books and free computer access (oh, those were the days). I still get that feeling of calmness whenever I step inside one, surrounded by stories I can’t wait to dive into.

At library book sales, books are marked down a lot. I’ve gotten eight books for six dollars before at these sales, though it does depend on the library’s specific guidelines. The books being sold are usually those that have been donated, or are being given away from the library’s collection (some of the books I bought still have the Dewey Decimal Classification on the spine, which adds to the charm).

If there’s a library book sale happening near you, they are great to check out, whether you want to buy a book or just be surrounded by them.

5. Clearance Sections

Lastly, you can get anything from a good clearance section.

In big chains like Barnes & Noble (which is not independent, so I may be slightly hypocritical, but I digress), more often than not, there is a clearance section. Books are marked down to $5 or $6, and for a store that sells books at the full retail price, that’s a bargain.

And even without an explicit “clearance” sign, bookstores usually have sections where books are five dollars/ten dollars or less. Though they usually aren’t big and new releases, there are hidden gems among them.

What are your favorite places to buy books, and what are your tips for saving money while still keeping up with this book buying obsession? Let me know, I would love to find new places!

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One thought on “Buying Books on a Budget

  1. I feel ya – along with shoes, my paycheck alwayyyyssss goes to books. It’s gotten really bad since I moved away from my parents and now have no one to control my endless book buying.
    I could just use my kindle, but I found that I don’t enjoy reading as much when I do so electronically – nothing for me can compare with the phsycial pages and ink on the pages in front of me.
    I used to go to the used bookstore, but now that I’ve been book buying I realized that many of the new releases that I want, such as When Dimple Met Rishi or the Shades of Magic series. So all I’m left with is the super expensive Barnes & Noble… *sigh* #bookwormstruggles
    Great post by the way, I look forward to reading more from you in the future Emily!
    Happy Reading 🙂

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