Reading on a Budget

Since I’m not working right now, I have to reimagine my spending habits, especially when buying books. Hopefully, my situation will change soon, but I have to get a little creative for now. So, I asked myself how I’d satisfy my cravings for new books without going broke.

First, I must control the ways I hear about shiny new books. I’m a huge fan of book podcasts, and there are so many of them. Every time I listen to one, my TBR list grows exponentially. This doesn’t mean I rush out to my local indie and whip out my credit card immediately. However, the titles are on my radar, and it is tough to shut off the constant pinging to my amygdala—the part of the brain that generates desire.

So, I went through the book-themed podcasts I listen to on Spotify and unfollowed most of them. Not all of them. I kept the ones that not only have recommendations but also take deep dives into reading topics (like this one about budgeting). I’m staying away from the ones that were primarily lists of book recommendations and nothing else. This required me to make some tough choices. Against my better judgment, I will continue to follow Zibby Owens’ podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read.” Her wonderful podcast includes author talks as well as quality book recs. She is a talented interviewer, and I am always in the mood for advice from seasoned writers.

Other bookish podcasts were easier to unfollow. One is hosted by two women in their 20s who talked too much about #adulting and their upcoming milestone birthdays of 25 and 30. 🙄 Oy! I hope this doesn’t sound like reverse ageism, but I couldn’t take their banter for one more minute. I have children their age, and I respect their opinions. However, as a 50+-year-old empty nester, I will also honor the stage of life I’m in, and book tastes evolve with age. And if these women have good recommendations, I’ll hear about the book from someone else. As the kids say, there is no FOMO here. (IYKYK)

Another way to curb my book spending habits is all about timing. Last year, I participated in No Book Buy July, which encouraged me to revisit the books I own or take advantage of my local library. I am confident that I saved around $350 by borrowing books instead of buying them. I had the pleasure of reading them without having to make room on my shelf. I also prioritize reading library books before others because I know people are waiting to read them when I’m done. The ones I own aren’t going anywhere, but library books have a deadline attached. If I don’t want to go back to the end of the line in the holding queue, I need to finish them.

The library also tells my amygdala to calm the f**k down. The shiny new book I heard about is probably at the library, and I’ll get to it when I get to it. There is no rush. We have plenty of other titles to keep us company—which brings me back to timing.

Instead of declaring book buy bans on myself, I want to pick months when I will buy books. I will choose these months based on special occasions. Whenever I plan to do an indie bookstore crawl, that will be a book-buying month. I’ll also give myself a grace period if I discover a new indie bookstore and want to support it within reason. It’s also my birthday next month, and I usually treat myself to a Boston Kreme donut and a trip to the bookstore.

Shit. I’m starting to see how this plan is already falling apart. Well, I tried. 😀

Okay, lightning round time. Here are a few more (realistic) ways I’ll curb my spending.

  • Consider my Kindle as a platform to read digital books, not download more books.
  • Borrow books from my friends! Lots of them are readers who have books I want to read.
  • Cancel my Audible account, which kills me, but I can always come back to it later. I have enough audiobooks to listen to, and I don’t need to add any more.
  • Treat myself to the books I’ve already purchased (see my pretty bookshelf photo above). Clearly, I was excited about them at one point. Time to remind myself why I bought them in the first place. I know I’ll uncover a lot of backlist gems there.
  • Order bookish gifts online and ship them to those I love. This is an idea from a few fellow bloggers, and it’s a good one. Why else do I have that Amazon Prime account?

In what ways do you curb your spending for something you love? It doesn’t have to be books. It can be anything—crafts, jigsaw puzzles, scented candles, trips to Sephora, etc. Let’s help each other out. Share your ideas in the comments.


18 comments on Reading on a Budget

  1. Glenda Cates
    January 21, 2024 at 1:02 pm (1 month ago)

    I love to read as well and in January I research the Authors I plan on purchasing books for and see which month new books will be out and if there near a Holiday I ask for them as a Gift. if not instead of having dinner our with my husband or a friend I use the money to purchase the book and make a nice dinner at home and invite them over which allows us to spend time together without taking up space in a restaurant. I need to find friends who read and share books with them.

  2. Vidya
    January 19, 2024 at 1:56 pm (1 month ago)

    I keep an eye out for book sales at local libraries and also buy in used bookstores. But books are hard to resist

  3. Josie
    January 18, 2024 at 10:57 am (1 month ago)

    I have tried to limit my book-buying to non-fiction books. I use the library for fiction books as so many “highly-recommended” fiction books are not as good as advertised. I also have a friend with whom I swap books several times a year; we donate them to our local library’s book sale after we have both read them. I am also trying to donate a book from my shelf for each one that I buy (that’s not working as well as I would like though!).

  4. Martha
    January 18, 2024 at 9:09 am (1 month ago)

    We have a few “little free libraries” in different areas around our town. Most are small, the size of a bookcase with a door and people take a book to read, bring it back and usually add a few more to the library. Just before Christmas I went through Lia’s book stash and for a 5 year old, she has a ton of books! I sorted out the books that she had already over-read and now are too young for her and donated them. I don’t read that more anymore but I do like an ebook now and then.

    • Elisa
      January 18, 2024 at 9:55 am (1 month ago)

      I love that you donate books and add to those little free libraries. It’s such a great thing to do, and it helps the community.

  5. Carol Newman
    January 17, 2024 at 9:03 pm (1 month ago)

    When we downsized 6 years ago I got rid of lots of cookbooks. I am part of a Facebook group We Love Jewish Food. People have posted recipes from books that I no longer have. I just purchased The Kosher Trilogy. It has The Kosher Chinese, French, and Italian Cookbooks all in one volume. Have I made anything? I have not. Am I happy to see it again? Yes, I am. If I get a new kitchen toy, I buy books to use with it. The books are on the bulging shelf and my CopyMeThat app is filled with downloaded recipes. I love a good cookbook!

    • Elisa
      January 18, 2024 at 9:57 am (1 month ago)

      Love it, Carol! I am not a big cook, but I do like reading cookbooks and experimenting with the recipes. People are writing stories with the recipes lately which I love. Also, it sounds like you need a bookcase in your kitchen to hold them all. 🙂

  6. Jeanine Byers
    January 17, 2024 at 7:47 pm (1 month ago)

    Your struggle really resonates with me! One thing that has helped me is my Kindle Unlimited membership, because I can read a lot of books for free.

    • Elisa
      January 17, 2024 at 8:28 pm (1 month ago)

      I have that too, and I keep forgetting about it. Thanks for reminding me!

  7. Andrea P.
    January 17, 2024 at 7:31 pm (1 month ago)

    I buy used books through Better World Books – don’t spend as much, but my bookshelves are overflowing.

    The library has become my new friend. But often times, I can’t find the book I’m looking for there.

    • Elisa
      January 17, 2024 at 8:29 pm (1 month ago)

      I never heard of them before. Is that a store or online? Thanks for the tip!

  8. Lily Leung
    January 17, 2024 at 6:14 pm (1 month ago)

    I used to buy as many books as groceries. No more as I have full book shelves in the basement. I use the library. I do buy books that I want to keep,

  9. Roy A Ackerman PhD EA
    January 17, 2024 at 5:31 pm (1 month ago)

    My Achilles heeĺ are the NY Times Book Review, the Post Book section, and the Jewish Book Review. I don’t do podcast.

    • Elisa
      January 17, 2024 at 8:30 pm (1 month ago)

      The NYT Book Review is also a favorite of mine.

  10. Phil Kauffman
    January 17, 2024 at 5:13 pm (1 month ago)

    My library has most new releases both in print and electronic.
    So, the Kindle is now just a platform to receive these resources from the library!

    • Elisa
      January 17, 2024 at 8:30 pm (1 month ago)


  11. Tamara
    January 17, 2024 at 2:57 pm (1 month ago)

    See, this is one problem I don’t have 😉

    I applaud you for making such great efforts!

    PS: In the time you WRITE YOUR OWN BOOK, you don’t have to worry about other people’s books…

    • Elisa
      January 17, 2024 at 8:30 pm (1 month ago)

      Very true!