Personal Finance 

Money Leaks: Buying Books

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I understand the allure of buying books, my lovely wife has explained it to me on a number of occasions. It’s one of the reasons why she doesn’t have a kindle, she enjoys holding a book way too much. The heft of the pages, the feeling of progress, and the look of the words on actual paper. If you’re like her and you enjoy reading, I totally understand why you enjoy buying books.

Here’s the thing – you can borrow them from the library for free. Everything you enjoy about a book has nothing to do with actually buying the book. It’s not the physical ownership that makes it special, it’s the book itself. When you borrow a book from the library, you get all of the positives with none of the negatives. You don’t have the pay for it, you don’t have to store it, and you can return it when you’re done. If you want to read it again, you just check it out. At worst, you pay a few cents in fees if you hold it a little longer than you’re supposed to.

This is the first edition of our new series called Money Leaks.

My most valuable tip when using the library is to sign up for online access if they offer it. Through our public library system’s website, we’re able to search for books, request holds, and even renew them from the comfort of our home. We get email notifications when a hold is available and when books are nearing their due date. If I find a book I want to read, I simply place a request for it. If it’s popular, sometimes I have to wait a while but eventually I can get it. If I enjoy it so much that I really want my own copy, I can always buy it afterwards.

The library is one of the most valuable resources you can take advantage of in your community. Since you pay taxes, you’re already paying for it, you might as well use it!

{ 25 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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25 Responses to “Money Leaks: Buying Books”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Many libraries are also building digital collections now which include ebooks and audio books. (The latter is great for road trips!)

    I find my ereader is great for novels, but for non-fiction and books that are heavy with images (like art books) then you can’t beat print!

  2. tbork84 says:

    Most libraries even in a smaller town are connected to a larger network that can get a hold of most books if you need them.

  3. PokerCat says:

    “…you’re already paying for it, you might as well use it!”

    Applies all over everyone’s budget. Quick, simple and effective.

    I’m really looking forward to this series.

  4. Shirley says:

    We are avid readers and in fact reading is now by choice one of our main sources of quiet entertainment. I buy used paperbacks either online for one cent to one dollar plus 3.99 shipping, or, most often, from our local used books store.

    The cost is negligible when you consider that both of us usually read each one and then they are passed along to friends who in turn pass theirs to us. It’s a win-win situation all around and the sharing of thoughts aspect has been many a conversation topic.

    We do use our local library and its online access for new best-sellers that we want to read “right now”. 🙂 We both find e-readers to be rather hard on ‘old eyes’.

  5. Scott says:

    Jim, I’m pretty sure I remember renting movies for free from the Enoch-Pratt Free Library in Baltimore when I lived there. They were quite as up-to-date as Blockbuster, etc. but they weren’t as far behind as one might think either. It was a nice perk.

    On the Kindle note, I love mine for novels where reading is almost always “linear” (one direction – forward) but would never use it for any sort of reference book like travel books, parenting books, gardening books, etc. where you’re flipping back and forth between pages a decent amount.

  6. echidnina says:

    The library isn’t the only way to get books for free either. Some library collections may be lacking, especially if you have specific tastes – and interlibrary loans cost money at my branch. I also use sites like Bookmooch and Paperbackswap, to keep my own book collection from getting cluttered, and the enjoy new (previously owned) books. And I never buy a book new if I can help it, always used. As every college student knows, used books can give you a considerable discount!

  7. DreamChaser57 says:

    Short & Sweet post. With personal finance books, I like to actively read them, I am highlighting passages, writing notes in the margin, etc. Out of respect for public property, I would be hesistant to check out a book from the library. I readily concede, storage can be a problem and it can hit your budget pretty hard. For non-PF books, like Romance novels the library is the preferred option.

  8. Shirley says:

    Many states have a program called Braille and Talking Book Library for low-sighted persons. All that is required is a statement from the recipient’s eye doctor attesting to his/her sight difficulty.

    The books (tapes) and the player are free unlimited time loans by mail and are both touch-friendly to use. All postage back and forth is free.

    Access and catalogs are available online or by phone and everyone I spoke to there was very friendly and helpful. Tapes are usually sent out five to start with and then replaced from a “wants list” as each is returned.

    This service was a godsend for my mother after she lost her sight.

  9. Caitlin says:

    The downside to only borrowing from the library is that you can’t get the books signed by the author. “I loved your book, can you sign this random piece of paper” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. 😉

    I try to borrow from the library as much as I can, but I often try to show appreciation to authors I love by purchasing a copy.

    • mannymacho says:

      If you write to the editors of “Freakonomics,” they will mail you a signed bookplate.

      But I agree, it’s not as neat to have the signature if it isn’t in the book itself.

  10. Dave says:

    Great post. I love getting books at the library and I love just walking around the library looking to see what they have. The only downside is I like to read “classic” sci-fi and very often they don’t have very nice copies of the books from the 60s-70s – because they are so beat up, I find its nicer to buy $0.01 paperback versions on Amazon and pay the $3.99 shipping…

  11. BrianC says:

    I usually check the library first for a book I’ve been meaning to read. If it’s something I’ll read again and reference often, I’ll buy a copy.

  12. This is hands down my biggest money leak. Even libraries don’t always work for me because I love nonfiction self-help books where i can fill out the questionnaires, make notes and highlight and reread (I reread a lot). So what happens is I take out books from the library, find them really valuable, and often end up buying them anyway so I can thoroughly dissect them. The library works well for fiction though, as I only ever read fiction books once.

    Another problem with books is that they’re a huge clutter leak too. My clutter problems would be way less without my book addiction.

  13. Hannah says:

    I just recently re-discovered the library. I have a greater appreciation for the library now that I’m older.

    I also love audio books. Great to pop in during the morning and afternoon commute.

    Only downside of the public library? I really want to read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, but there’s a 362 person hold on it at the moment. It’ll take years before I get my hands on that book, haha.

  14. No Debt MBA says:

    I love going to the library. Going in and being able to tell myself that I can read any and as many books in the library I want for free is sort of an amazing thing. I’ve never had a local library system that didn’t have some sort of internet catalog and hold system. A lot of libraries also raise money through selling used books donated to them. I got all my GMAT materials that way for less than $5.

  15. Darren says:

    Great post. The public library system has advanced a lot over the years.

    Free books, audio cds, dvds, internet access, and even community programs.

    It’s definitely a resource that more people should utilize.

    I’m at the library almost every weekend!

  16. I can’t wait until Amazon releases the digital library, where I can borrow books. I must admit, buying books is a money leak for me as well, and it’s definitely a guilty financial pleasure.

  17. jesse.anne.o says:

    Unfortunately I usually end up forgetting to return them because I never leave the office during work hours and I end up paying for the book!

    I need to start doing the online thing where the copy just disappears from your device when it’s due!

  18. Alex says:

    Great discussion. I too prefer holding a tangible book in my hand after hours staring at my work computer screen. Kindles are awesome but I too like seeing my progress, being able to write and highlight. Instead of getting books at the library, I order used books on Amazon for a modest price (usually a few bucks). Its the perfect way to go because you own the book and can refer back to it whenever you need to. The best part of Amazon is prime (unlimited 2 day shipping) and the save for later option in your cart. Right now, I’m reading “Little Bets” by Peter Sims and “How Hitler Could Have Won World War II” by Bevin Alexander.

  19. lfox18 says:

    Great post. Libraries are wonderful community resources. However everyone needs to remember that these are taxpayer supported. With all the hue and cry these days over “cut my taxes”, or “Hell no! No more taxes!” I think there are too many people who think that libraries will always be there and can continue on air. They cannot! If you don’t vote for your library budget and support your local library with your tax dollars, it will close. Be sure of that. We can’t have it both ways!
    The same is true of police protection, good roads, fire protection, public pools, etc. but that’s a whole different conversation. For now, suffice it to say that libraries without taxpayer support are closed buildings.

    • Shirley says:

      Our local library’s hours and days were cut quite a bit in order to try to balance the city budget. The community response (uproar) result was the voting in another half cent city sales tax to restore some hours/days and aid our fire and police depts. The people spoke.

  20. ziglet19 says:

    I also enjoy the library, and since I don’t often read books more than once, I’m happy to be able to return them when I’m done. I have trouble remembering the return dates, by my local library let me sign up to get email reminders about a book’s due date. It’s awesome, I usually get notice 3 days before it’s due. No late fees for me! Yay!

  21. skylog says:

    i suppose this would have to be one of my money leaks. i used to be a heavy reader, but had gotten away from it over the past few years. that was until i purchased a kindle. i have been reading like crazy. the leak is all the books i have been purchasing.

    that said, i have been fairly strict in my purchases, have been snapping up free books left and right and have sold many of my paper books to cover the cost of my new e-books.

    this is one leak i am ok with.

  22. Longdale Blue says:

    Except I do get a lot of negatives. I like to read at my own pace and savor my book. I only get 2 weeks to read it, there is a cap on renewals, you can’t renew if there is a wait list, and if you wanted to reread it, you’d probably end up on the wait list.

    I prefer to buy. I like to be in control of my reading. Your wife is probably the same way.

    The library may save you money, but it gives me nothing but stress and turns reading into an obligation rather than recreation.

  23. Sonia says:

    I seem to want to read books that are not in my library’s system so I end up buying them online. It seems that’s a leak I almost cannot close up.

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