Building a Personal Library on a Budget

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“I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson said. The third US president was a passionate bibliophile. In fact, he spent so much money on his favorite hobby that he went bankrupt, losing his beloved Monticello estate.

Building a Personal Library on a Budget

It is easy to get carried away with books. Nothing is quite so luxurious as curling up with your favorite novel. A full bookshelf adds elegance to your home and regular reading habits add power to your mind.

Furthermore, studies have shown that children who come from homes with books have higher grades and better careers than those who don’t. By keeping books in the home, you give your child a head start in life. But how does one avoid losing one’s estate?

A hardcover novel can easily cost twenty-five dollars. Art books are likely to cost twice that much. A set of encyclopedias is considered an investment. However, it is possible for you to build a book collection on a budget. Follow these steps and your favorite hardcover classics, children’s books and even brand-new copies of the latest bestsellers can be yours for a few dollars or even pennies.

Step 1. List Your Favorites
Sit down and make a list of the best books you have ever read. Pick the ones that you love to read again and again. The classics that changed your view of the world, the romance novels that made your heart pound and the definitive works on your favorite hobby. Once you have an idea of which books you want the most, you can shop for exactly what you need.

Step 2. Pick a Number
How much can you afford per month on books? $200?$25? Whatever it is, stick to it. Knowing how much you want to spend keeps you from overspending.

Step 3. Shop-or Swap-Online and Barnes & Noble’s website both have sections for used books. You can find three year old bestsellers in good or new condition for as low $1.99. You can find older out of print versions for literally one cent. Oftentimes, the shipping and handling costs more than the book itself. According to the article “Websites About e-Books and e-Readers”, electronic books also become increasingly more popular and cheap, particularly with the launch of Amazon’s Kindle in the UK and Europe (dbReaders).

It is also possible to find free books online. At websites like and, you start by posting your own books. When someone requests a book from you, you receive a point and can use it to get a book mailed to you free. Both of these websites include a wish list feature, so the minute someone posts a book you want to own, you can request it. All you pay is the cost of mailing a book to someone- usually less than $3.

Step 4. Buy Used
Used bookstores offer a great variety of books at the lowest prices, usually with a comfortable atmosphere. Many stores allow you to trade books and are likely to have editions that are no longer in print. They also tend to have piles of popular books at half price or lower. Books like Pride and Prejudice and the Works of Shakespeare are assigned to students who read them once for a grade, then bring them to the bookstore. Works by Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark and Nora Roberts are also given away after one read. So, if you love mystery and horror novels, buy a stack at a Mom & Pop’s style store instead of paying eight dollars per book at the big places.

Step 5. Pace Yourself
Don’t try to get your whole list in one sitting. If your budget is $20, don’t sneak in an extra $7.50 for your favorite Hemingway novel. There are other (probably cheaper) copies of The Old Man and the Sea in the world, you don’t need to overspend for anything.

The written word is mankind’s greatest achievement. It can broaden your horizons, show you new worlds and teach you new skills. No matter how much (or how little) money in your pocket, you can be confident that quality copies of the most important books are within reach for you and your family.

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