A Guide to Buying Books on a Budget

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Picture this: you’re ambling around a bookshop. Judging multiple books by their covers, you’ve decided that several are must-reads. Your arms grow heavy as you juggle all these books between your hands. You head closer to the till and just hope that you’ve done the maths right. 

Any book-lover knows that reading can be an expensive hobby. The maximum enjoyment a book brings is in the time it takes to read it but if you enjoy a book, unfortunately, this is probably not a long time. And yes you can resell on Vinted, Depop, or at the local car boot but you’re very unlikely to make back the money you spent. So how can you get books cheap and minimise the loss?

Libraries 

Did you know that authors get paid every time you loan a book from a library? If you can bear only owning a book for the time it takes you to read it, libraries are the cheapest option because they are completely free to use. Borrowing rather than buying is super eco-friendly too. Head to your local and sign up for a library card before choosing from the wide array of available titles. Even better, libraries double up as cosy reading/working spaces that you are free to stay in all day. 

Local charity shops

If you prefer to own a book, whether to annotate the pages, decorate your bookshelf, or dog-ear the corners (I won’t judge), a great place to search is your local charity shop. Often located at the back will be at least one bookshelf full of titles costing only a pound or two. Charity shops are especially great for classics and autobiographies that get donated time and time again. Sometimes though you also find random books that surprise you. A top tip is to look for books with creased spines – though aesthetically not the most pleasing, these are books that have clearly been loved by someone else and may soon be loved by you. 

Go digital

Some people find themselves unable to get into a story unless they can physically feel the pages in their hands. Others are far less fussy. If you are the latter, add an e-book or an audiobook to your reading list. It’ll save you money and storage space, perfect for the reader constantly on the go. 

You can buy individual e-books or audiobooks for a few pounds or choose a subscription to access more books at once. With Kindle Unlimited, as the name suggests, you have unlimited reading for £9.49/per month after a two-month free trial. Meanwhile, Audible and Spotify Premium are both worth checking out for audiobooks. With their free trials, you have a good chance to try listening and see if it works for you.

Online marketplaces 

Shopping online is a fantastic idea if you have a very specific book in mind that you cannot find in person. Not only this, you can price compare between different sites to find the best deal.

World of Books is an amazing website to check out as they sell second-hand books for around three to six pounds and offer great value deals such as ‘buy 3 get one free’ which is perfect if you’re buying in bulk. 

Another shoutout goes to LoveReading where books are sold for 10% less than the recommended retail price and they donate 25% of your purchase to a school of your choice. Like World of Books, they have a fantastic variety on offer. Between the two, I’m sure you’ll find the niche title that you’re looking for. 

Indie bookshops 

Independent bookshops admittedly aren’t always the cheapest. Their prices often equal mainstream competitors as this is what they need to do to stay afloat. However, many indies do have surprise bargains. I’ve been to a few before that sell classics for £5 or have a cheaper second-hand section. Many also do blind dates with books where you buy a wrapped-up book based on a bookseller’s written description at a set price regardless of the individual title.

Your friends

My final and favourite option. If you love reading, chances are you have at least one friend who loves it too. So why not revive the books that lie on both of your bookshelves and do a book swap? A friend who knows you well will likely give you great recommendations and you’ll have someone to rant and rave about the story with once you’ve both finished. Like the library, this requires sacrificing permanent ownership (unless you want to cut the book in half), however, it is worth it for a free read. 

There are so many different ways to find books on a budget (or even for free). It takes a little more effort, and there are pros and cons to each option. However, the next time you’re going out to buy a book, try researching if you can buy or borrow it from somewhere else. Your bank balance will certainly thank you.

Words by Jennifer Cartwright

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