How to Enjoy Reading Frugally

Picture 2In light of my recent post on building your marriage and one of the suggestions being reading together, a reader asked, “How can you maintain a reading habit frugally?” Here are some of the ideas that were shared along with some of my own. Reading is my hobby. I love sneaking in snippets of reading while nursing my baby, during nap time, and before bed as time allows.

But…the cost of books surely does add up. How can we pursue the joys of reading and all the benefits it brings without breaking the bank?

First of all, remember that books are valuable! I don’t consider reading just like any other hobby. With each book, we grow in knowledge and understanding. Reading is truly a gift. Books are a good investment of your resources as they can help generations to come. With each purchase, I must always consider, “will this be a wise resource to have for my children or is it a book that could serve a friend if I passed it on?” I definitely do not want to invest in a book that will not strengthen their knowledge and/or spiritual faith. Wise selection of reading materials is very important. As Proverbs says, ‘He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.’ This verse applies just as much to your reading habits! Walk with the wise! If you are spending your time reading fruitless books that do not inspire you onward, than this reading is a waste of time. So be careful how you walk.

Library – I always first check my local library. I have been surprised on many occasions when they carried a book I desired. Inter-library loans is another option. Talk to your librarian about seeing if another library near by might carry it.

Borrow from friends/family - Secondly, if the library does not carry the book, I ask my faithful friends and family, especially if I know they love reading too. Many churches have a church library. Many local Bible colleges/seminaries also have libraries and they are often willing to loan out to the community.

Buy used – If I can’t borrow, I try to find it used. Bargain Books has many sellers that offer books for very cheap. I have often found books for $.99 and then a few dollars for shipping. Powell’s books is another good source.

E-books/Amazon Kindle - Finding books in PDF format is often a cheaper method if you can read on your computer or other hand-held devise. If you have an i-phone or i-pod touch you can download the Amazon Kindle program for free and download a wide variety of books from Amazon for $9.99 each. I love using this for reading while nursing my baby or traveling. It helps me to always keep a book with me and use this time wisely.

What can you do with your books once you have completed them? Instead of buying a new book, reading it once and then putting it on your shelf, consider how you might share it with other people.

Paperback Swap – Another option for you to trade your books with others. This is a better option for children’s and learning books. I have not found a good selection of Christian materials available here.

Cash4Books -an online store that buys your used books. They will even pay for the shipping!

Buy new and then pass it on – This is my favorite way of keeping reading frugal…I share the benefit with others! It is a wonderful opportunity to give and be a blessing. Books are my favorite things to give away as gifts for birthdays, Christmas, graduation, etc., so I strive to keep all my books in good condition so I can pass them on when I am finished.

Donate them to your library - if your books are not in the best shape to swap, sell or giveaway, try donating them to your local library!

Books are such a blessing! Why not be a blessing to others by opening up your library and passing on the blessing!

Do you have any additional tips to share?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

39 Responses to How to Enjoy Reading Frugally

  1. joyjoy November 21, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    There is another site that buys not only books but CDs, DVDs Video games and Software. You might make more on eBay but this would be a lot less hassle.

  2. Pat July 23, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    Another great site for books (both to read and to sell) is (which is owned by Ebay). You can search by book name, author or ISBN # – most books start at 75 cents plus media mail shipping and about $1 fee. You can then sell the book at no cost to you for listing.

  3. RE July 14, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    No one has mentioned Half Price Books!! It is a great store that buys and sells used books, CDs, DVDs, records, etc! We love their children’s section and they usually have a good mix of Christian, parenting, and cookbooks as well.

    • Heather August 6, 2009 at 11:48 am #

      Indeed Half Price Books is a great store for the frugal and eco minded as it promotes the recycling and reusing of previously owned books, records, magazines, CDs, DVDs and any printed material except yesterday’s paper. Please take the time and visit the website. You can sign up for coupons and notifications of sales which add to the bargain of shopping at the stores.

      \Happy and frugal reading ya’ll!

  4. Friend June 30, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    I looked at your book list and wondered why you review some of the books but not at of them. If the book remains on your list (though crossed out) does that mean you are promoting it but you just didn’t have time to write a review?


    • Lindsay July 1, 2009 at 6:25 am #

      I actually cross out the books as I read them just to show my progress for my benefit. I am not always able to write a review on every book that I read. I normally want to, but don’t always get around to it.

  5. Jennifer June 30, 2009 at 1:46 am #

    I did not see if anyone put these up already but here are two more good sites. Another bookswapping site. It is like Goodwill sometimes you have to hunt for your treasure! If you have a specific title to look for it will give you a list starting at the lowest price (which includes the shipping amount).

  6. Candyce June 29, 2009 at 6:57 am #

    Others may have mentioned this, but many libraries will have an electronic database where patrons can read full-text articles in popular magazines for free. My husband and I have save a lot on subscription fees by reading our favorite magazines online. Our local public library has several trade journals available in full-text format as well, and full-text can also mean original artwork/photos are included in the online format.

  7. Lori Ann June 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm #

    Bookcrossing! I get lots of books through swaps on, and then pass them on (unless it’s a good reference or favorite book, i.e. a KEEPER!). When I lived near OBCZs (official bookcrossing zones: locations like coffee shops with a basket to drop off & pick up books for free) I did that a LOT. Now, if I find something cheap, like a used book sale, I’ll pick up several, register ‘em on Bookcrossing, and pass ‘em along after reading. I’m trying to set up some sort of OBCZ here, too, cuz it was a GREAT way to get all kinds of books. Free!

  8. Victoria June 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    I look for very specific books that are new and not in the library, so I like to try and ‘bundle’ them together. If you have to buy over the internet, getting the books from the same source (whichever website you use) usually has the added bonus of paying only ONE shipping fee. Yay!

  9. Amy Fisher June 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm #

    I forgot to mention Craigslist!!! Another great resource!

  10. [email protected] June 27, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

    Both the Goodwill stores in our area have hardback books for $1.99 and paperbacks for .69. Some still sell all kid’s books for .69 (others charge the hardback price for even kid’s hardbacks but it is still cheap).

    We always asked for books for Christmas presents and now we give books to our kids and grandchildren. My daughter has an Amazon Wish List set up just for the family.

    Since we homeschooled, we bought a lot of our books at the library sales. It was worth the $10.00 a year to be a “Friend of the Library” to be able to attend the Friday Night early sales.

  11. Kendra June 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    Thrift Stores! are wonderful sources of used books on the cheap. My two boys ages 10 and 7 got through book like crazy. We use the library a lot, but also haunt local thrift stores and get a lot of books that way.

  12. Emily Balling June 27, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    Hi Lindsey,

    I haven’t checked your blog in a while because I just moved, it was a wonderful move. I am the one who told you that with the information you offered through your website it inspired me to learn and we are having a tea party this Monday, we will have four, for each season, The Domestic Dolls. This first one with the move is just a little late, but its spring cleaning w/ homemade beauty products too. I am using the wonderful coffee cake recipe you gave out with almonds on top I loved that. Anyway, I am putting things together and had a question. When a recipe calls for Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, can that be substituted for Dawn (such as your newer laundry soap recipe.) Is there a recipe you do like on your cloth diapers? I got some liquid Dr. Bronner’s to make some shampoo, from the link you referred to Frugal Granola, but I don’t have enough to stretch that far. Also, can Sal Suds be used for like anything, such as making shampoo, cleaning product, etc? You look beautiful in your picture with your ‘littles’, I love how you call them that, you mentioned you were having some post partem depression, (I may have told you that I have three and struggled with that baby 2 and 3) and I did pray for you and I do hope you are feeling better with that! Maybe you can let me know if you have any supplemental suggestions, in addition to the wonderful opportunity for prayer, closeness in needing the Savior so intimately. Well, take care, and if you do have a minute for my questions it would be greatly appreciated! Keep up your fantastic work, I really thank you for your lovely Christian contribution to loving, teaching, industrious, frugal homemakers!
    :) Emily

    • Lindsay July 1, 2009 at 6:33 am #

      Emily, Dawn is actually a dishwashing soap, so I would not recommend it for use in the homemade laundry recipe. My favorite for diapers is actually Charlies Soap. It seems to work the best. Sal Suds is only for cleaning purposes. Thanks for your sweet comments!

  13. Ruth June 27, 2009 at 6:28 am #

    I’ve been using to give and receive books. You only pay to send a book media mail. There’s quite an assortment.

  14. Amy Fisher June 27, 2009 at 4:27 am #

    I CAN’T BELIEVE NO ONE HAS MENTIONED GARAGE SALES!!!!! I have purchased 14 books in perfect condition for $4 at garage sales this year!!! It’s an amazing resource and extremely frugal!!! Don’t forget the GARAGE SALES this year!!

    Another amazing resource is getting together with a small group, mom group, or neighbors etc. and doing your own book exchange!! It’s another extremely frugal way to read all the books you are interested in and not have any cost involved!!! Plus it’s fun!!!

  15. Beth June 26, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    I recently discovered and LOVE it. It’s been described as ‘Netflix for books,’ and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. For $10 a month I can get 2 paperbacks at a time as often as I can read them and return them. I read very swiftly and it’s not uncommon to get two shipments a week, but you can take all the time you need. I have a queue of at least a hundred books on request, and what I do is put titles down that I cannot get from the library (and I work there, so I know very well if we’re going to order it or not.)

    You can sell your own books to them and you can buy books from them, too, and if you get a friend to sign up, you get a credit! So if any of you would be interested, please let me know and I’ll refer you.

    Don’t forget, too…thrift shops. A LOT of my books have come from the Goodwill store, especially on half-price days.

    • Molly June 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

      that sounds really interesting! It’s too much money for me currently, but I think my mother would love it!

  16. Andrea June 26, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

    I’m one of those book fans. I’ve liked to read since I learned how to do it, my mom says I am Belle from Beauty and the Beast :) Anyway, now being a mom of a 3y girl and a newborn baby boy it’s hard to keep on track with my reading. But you really encourage me to do it while nursing or before bedtime. I know I have to make some arrangement on my days so I can enjoy this beautiful “hobby”. Anyone has more ideas about how to read when you have little ones??

    • Amy August 13, 2009 at 8:03 am #

      If you nurse your baby, that is a great time to read! I do this mostly at night when he is falling asleep because during his day-feedings he likes to look at me and we talk and sing. You could also take your kids to the park and let your 3 yo run around, baby sleeps in sling or stroller and you could read a few minutes.

      Or keep books in the bathroom :)

  17. Molly June 26, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    I love! They gave me about $70 for a collection of books when we were moving cross-country! I also find it a good way to decide whether or not to keep a book that I’m done reading, one that I’m on the fence about needing in my library. If cash4books will take it its gone, if not I’ll keep it.

    With their site if you feel you have something that should be worth a few dollars and they don’t take it immediately just hold on to it. I’ve had books taken a few weeks after they said they didn’t want it.

    Also just being aware that unless you absolutely need a book (like buying a new dvd) wait a few months and the price will drop. Really popular books will start to appear in secondhand book stores within months too!

  18. yol June 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    Do any of you know about CBD-Christian book distributors?, the send you emails every fridays with specials from $.99 cents a books to $1.99 book deals on new books! is great hope this helps some of you.

  19. Jessica June 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm #

    I have found great success at yard sales, especially church ones!

    Another place is craigslist – while both places are hit or miss, if you find quality books there are often quite a few, and often at an excellent price!

  20. Anna June 26, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    I agree with Jen who suggests requesting that the library purchase a book you want. Most public libraries have websites now, and you can browse all of the local branches, request an interlibrary loan, or request a purchase online. It makes it really convenient.

  21. Ruth June 26, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    I recently was told about a site where you can get books for free! is a site where you list books that you would like to pass on to others. You can search for books that you would like and add them to your wishlist if none are available at the time. You’ll then receive an email when one of your wishlist books becomes available and the first person to respond gets the book. The only cost to this is for you to mail books by media mail. It costs nothing to receive a book. You earn points for sending and listing. I’ve received some very good books, have sent a number of books, and have a long wishlist! :-D

  22. Sarah June 26, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    One more thing – I’ve also gotten pretty good prices on some used books through amazon and

  23. Sarah June 26, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    I’ve had good success too getting christian books from paperbackswap, especially some of the more popular ones. I’ve also had some on my wish list for months, though, without the line moving at all. I’ve gotten lots of other good books there as well.

    Another place that I’ve found used books is my local recycling center. They have a bin for recycling books and said it’s fine to pull out anything from it. I’ve found some real gems that I had been wanting (one day I hit the jackpot on cookbooks!) but I’ve also pulled out other books that I wasn’t necessarily interested in but that were still in great shape. I swapped them on paperbackswap for other books I wanted.

    It’s funny – I have a Barnes and Noble gift card that someone gave me and I have a hard time actually using it to buy books since I’ve found so many other frugal ways to get them!

  24. Meggan June 26, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    My favorite search engine for good deals on books (used and new) is it searches multiple sites and gives you the cheapest options!

  25. Michelle June 26, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    My friends and I have a 6-monthly book swap. About 8 of us get together for afternoon tea and bring all the books we no longer want, but think others may like. The books go in the middle of the table, and we have a free-for-all grab. In our case, all of the books that don’t get ‘claimed’ get donated to the local hospital and/or hospice.

  26. Rebecca June 26, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    Oh yes! is the best – much better than paperback swap, in my opinion. It costs about $2 for the shipping, and you can swap whatever books you have with other users. It’s pretty awesome!

  27. Jen June 26, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    These are great tips! I have also found that requesting books for the library to buy is surprisingly easy and successful! If I am looking for a book that they don’t have, I just put in a request for them to purchase the book (online in our library system). I have done this quite a few times and never been rejected and, best of all, when the book arrives, I get to be the first person to check it out! Another “frugal” idea!

    • Kim June 26, 2009 at 9:42 am #

      My sister-in-law recently wrote an author to ask her to donate a book to our local library because they did not carry it and she wanted to read it. The author sent my s.i.l. and the library the whole set (3 books) each!

  28. Anna June 26, 2009 at 8:21 am #

    Sometimes your church library may carry a book as well. Sometimes the church bookstore is a good source as well. They may not be as cheap but you know better where your money is going.

  29. Hallee June 26, 2009 at 8:01 am # has really good prices for new and used; is an affiliate of eBay – it’s just set prices on audio, video, and books – no bidding. You can find some amazing deals there.

  30. Colleen June 26, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Our family likes for good deals too (like amazon, but only books). Plus, our local used books stores have their catalog on the site. I can set my search options to their archives first and save myself shipping costs if they have what I want. Antique stores can also have some classic (and beautiful) treasures for less than $10.

    • Heather June 29, 2009 at 11:07 am #

      Colleen, How do you set your preferences to search a specific bookseller? Can you search all your local stores at once or only one at a time?

  31. Lisa K. June 26, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    Paperbackswap doesn’t always have the best Christian books readily available, but if you’re willing to wait and put them on your “wish list” they usually are available in time. I really like it because it’s so economical, plus I don’t feel nearly as guilty if I start reading a book and find it’s not as wonderful as I thought, or I have no interest. I just pass it on, it earns me a credit to read another. Plus, it’s been great for books for homeschool for my kids, I even found a teacher’s manual for Learning Language Through Literature!

  32. Jessie June 26, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    Another great resource is library book sales. A few of the libraries in my area have used book sales several times a year. Paperbacks are usually 50 cents and hardcovers $3.00. They run 2 or three days and the last day is always “bag day” where you can fill a shopping bag with as many books as you can for $5.00. You can’t beat it! It has been a great source for me, and then I pass along the books when I’m done. Check your newspapers and local library websites. Happy reading!!