Multi-colored books and succulent plants sit on four wood shelves

4 ways to trim your book budget…without sacrificing your to-be-read list

Like many avid readers, I have a problem.

While the piles of to-be-read books on my shelves do spark joy for me, they also spark anxiety over all the money I’ve spent on them. Those four books? That’s $100 I could have put toward a new laptop. And those three over there? That’s half a student loan payment. 

In 2017, I made the financial decision to go cold turkey. I didn’t stop reading, mind you. Only stopped purchasing books for myself. 

It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

I am not the only one trimming my book budget these days. Fellow Rioter, Courtney Rodgers is in the throngs of her no buy year, which eliminates all unnecessary shopping not just books.

I wish Courtney the same luck I found. It’s nearly three years later, I am still going strong. 

So how do I manage to maintain the habit without hurting my budget?

Curate a wish list for gift ideas

I recognized that the root of my anxiety was my personal financial expenditure. If you were to buy me a book and it waited patiently on my shelf for its turn to be read, I felt no remorse. So for holidays and my birthday, I share my reading wish list with those who were looking for gift ideas. 

Curating the list forced me to really prioritize what I wanted to read, and what I was too impatient to wait for at my library. It’s truly a win-win. I get a gift I am excited about (like Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Gaudin) and my loved ones say they’re saved the stress of wondering, “Has Sarah read this yet?” 

Find a book swap buddy (or two!)

There’s no better friend than one who will lend you their books. I often find that some of my favorite reads have been titles lent to me by a loved one. (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, for example). 

Any time I am at my sister’s or aunt’s house, I browse their shelves and ask to borrow something if it catches my eye. 

If you don’t have a friend who shares your tastes, you can always explore community events. Books swaps, Little Free Libraries and Buy Nothing groups allow neighbors to share easily with one another.

The catch? Give as freely as you get. If you expect to borrow books, please extend the same courtesy and open your library in return.

Earn credit to the Google book store

Did you know you can earn rewards by participating in Google surveys? Simply download the app and surveys will be sent to you periodically. They are usually less than four questions each. You don’t earn credit for every survey you complete, but in the three years I’ve been participating,  I have earned more than $120.  I apply my credit to my Google Books app to support and buy the latest work of my favorite authors. (My latest purchase was Pride by Ibi Zoboi.) 

Get familiar with Libby

Libby by Overdrive, allows me to browse, borrow and read (or listen to) items from my local library all within one single app. The app also curates some great reading lists that make it easy to explore diverse topics and titles I might never have heard of before.