Buying Books: How A Frugal Mindset Gradually Changes Your Behavior

Lately, I’ve been noticing a very interesting change in how I do things. It’s been a progression towards frugality, and I thought I would give an example of it using books. Readers of this site know that I’m a very avid reader and that I just truly love holding a new book in my hands and cracking open the cover.

A year ago, if I heard about a book I wanted to read, I would simply go to whatever source was most easily available and buy it. Period. Obviously, this solution is ridiculously expensive, especially considering I can easily read several books a week.

Six months ago, I would still buy books almost on a whim, but I had started checking online sources first for the best price before running to the bookstore. The biggest change here is that I had killed off impulse buying. I would know what I wanted to buy before I walked into a bookstore. It was during this time that I really discovered how to leverage the Borders Rewards program, for example. This saw some serious savings, but nothing compared to what was to come.

Now, I’ve got a very clear system for buying books that saves a ton of money and doesn’t really take all that long, either.

First, I check my local library’s online service. If I see a book that I am interested in reading, I check to see if my library has it before anything else. This allows me to read it for free. Now, there are many books that (a) the library doesn’t have or (b) I actually wish to own for long-term reference.

Second, I check for the book on PaperBackSwap. Basically, this service lets you swap books for free via the postal service. Using USPS Media Mail, I have access to a million different books – for keeps – for only $1 or so.

Third, I check online booksellers. I visit to get a “baseline” price, then check several other sellers for prices. I typically deal with amazon if no place beats their price significantly because I’ve had many good experiences with their customer service.

Only if all three fail me do I turn to a brick and mortar bookstore.

Because I’ve gradually become committed to this procedure, it’s now easy for me to visit my local Borders and just browse. If I bump into something interesting, I don’t buy it: I just make a note of it in my handy pocket notebook and then look for it when I get home.

This process has saved me a lot of money in just the last few months and is emblematic of my more frugal mindset.

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