How to Build Your Library on a Few Dollars a Month

I absolutely adore a new book.

Jake and I used to shop for books a lot. We would come away from used bookstores with a big bag full of books, reading the chapter titles of each book to one another on the way back to each others’ apartments (oh we were so young and in love). During one Lent season years ago, we gave up buying books. Our obsession with book-buying never fully rebounded after that. Which is probably a healthy thing.

Fast forward nearly 10 years later and we are now working on not only our own personal library, but also a library for our kids. While we LOVE the public library and utilize it on a weekly basis (it’s not unusual for us to have 75-100 books checked out at any one time), we still like to have certain kinds of books around the house to read or reference on a whim. But, since we’re on a student budget, that means our book budget is very slim. Like, a few dollars a month.

“What are those tin can lids doing on their bookshelf?” Check out my hubby’s blog for the cool project he did with our Ikea bookshelf.


So, if you’re looking for ways to build your physical and/or electronic library but don’t want to spend a lot of money, here are a few things that have worked well for us:

1. Public Library Sales. Twice a month, our nearest public library has a book sale. It takes place off-site and is put on by the Friends of the Library. We have found so many treasures because people who love books are cleaning out their attics/playrooms/basements/personal shelves and donating them to the Friends of the Library so that the library can buy more awesome books. People who love books donate really great books, which means you get to buy really great books at super cheap prices ($.25-$1.00 a book). Everywhere we have lived (several states, several cities) have had such sales. You just need to ask your local library and I’m sure they’d be over the moon to give you the details (in smaller libraries, maybe they’ll have this sale once or twice a year).

2. Consignment Sales. When looking for children’s books, kid consignment sales have also been successful for us. It does take a bit of time to sift through book after book to find the diamonds, but when you do, it’s worth it!

3. Used Book Stores/Thrift Stores. About once a year we trade in a big stack of books for cash at Half-Price Books and that money goes back into our book budget. Many cities have great hidden used bookstores, so be sure to get to know them well! Sometimes store owners will get to know you and offer better than advertised deals :).

4. Garage Sales. Especially retired teacher yard sales or church pastor yard sales :). If you are into yard sales, ALWAYS look through the book box. You never know what you might find and because books are often hard to sell, haggling is in your favor.

5. Start a Blog. You love to read? Want to tell people what you thought of the books? Start a blog and get free books from the publishers in exchange for reviews. Children book publishers are a bit harder to do this with, but for adult books, I review through Booklook Bloggers (Zondervan/Thomas Nelson), Blogging for Books (Crown Publishing), and Tyndale Blog Network. After awhile, you can begin to email publishers and request books off their website without being a part of a certain program. That’s when it gets more fun because you get to read the books you really are dying to read! There are normally always print or ebook options.

6. Subscribe to feeds that let you know of free or discounted ebooks. Some of my favorites:

7. Swap books with other book-loving families. Sometimes I get tired of seeing a book around or just don’t want it anymore (maybe I’ve grown out of it, kids have grown out of it, whatever) and I’ll ask around and see if anyone wants to do a book swap. Meaning, everyone brings their books they no longer want as well as a yummy snack, and you just hang out, talk, eat, and grab a few new books for the road!

Your turn: What are your favorite tips for building your personal library? 

3 thoughts on “How to Build Your Library on a Few Dollars a Month

  1. There are a couple sharing sites like that help kindle users find one another to borrow Books. I will say there is some content problems with lendle because erotic lit tends to allow sharing, but so does a lot of Christian publishers.

    My blog posts free kindle books almost every day, not all are worth reading but I link to reviews and List ratings to help filter the good from the Junk.

    Also most libraries participate in ebook and audio book lending, no visits to the library required. and logos and audible all give away a free ebook or audio book each month

  2. Hey these are great tips! Thanks for sharing, Adam. I’ll have to check out your site now!

  3. Love your post. I had a similar post awhile back sharing my tips for building a book collection for cheap. I don’t do e-books or kindle myself. Only paper books. I’d estimate that when it is all averaged out (all my methods, and averaging out amounts spent), that I pay $1 a book on average. On occasion I pay regular price for a book, but I get many for 10 – 25 cents each. I’m only buying books for adults – primarily ones on Christian faith and theology, and non-fiction books about history, animals and travel.

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