How To

10 Painless Ways to Stick to Your Book Buying Ban

Jessica Tripler

Staff Writer

Jessica Tripler is an academic who lives in Maine. Follow her on Twitter @jessicatripler.

It’s January, and you’re trying to hold off on buying new books for a while. If you’re like me, you went a little overboard buying books for the holidays. Maybe you needed a new book for your vacation, or an excuse to retreat from the family for a few hours, or because those “Best Of” lists and year-end deals were impossible to resist. Or maybe your TBR pile is just guilt-inducingly large.

Whatever your motivation for a “no buy” January, here are some ideas for sticking to your resolution, ranked from riskiest to best bet:

10. Visit your favorite online book retailer, and download a free digital book. Or add books to your wish list. Reorganize and purge your wish list. Spend time trying to figure out which book you’ll buy on February 1st as a reward.

9. Ignore #10. My Instant Gratification Monkey wrote that.

Exposure is very dangerous for your book ban. If you have less than an iron grip on your will, stay far away from any book retailer. In fact, many impulse buys start with shopping for something totally unrelated. So, in general, try to limit visits to any shops if you want to curb the book buying urge. And if the point of your book buying ban is to reduce consumption and your TBR, free books are a bad idea anyway.

8. Reflect on how you use social media and bookish websites (including this one). There’s no avoiding ads, promo tweets, and the general chatter about new books in the bookternet. It’s one of the reasons I love it. But in January, I plan to try to consciously emphasize personal connections and book content over investigating and acquiring new books. Make it a point to boost the signal of books and authors you already love, or start literary conversations that shut out the noise of the new and shiny.

7. Keep your end goals in mind. A book purchase fits your immediate, exciting, and urgent-seeming desires. Step back from those and think about your reasons for your book buying ban. Don’t let instant gratification distract you from harder-to-obtain, delayed, but ultimately more satisfying rewards.

6. If you have tactics that work in other areas of your life, like writing, or nutrition, or exercise, or meditation, adapt and import them to this goal. Group support, goal tracking apps, or keeping a journal can help. Something as simple and quick as closing my eyes and taking a deep cleansing breath has changed my mind about making an impulsive book purchase.

5. Visit the shelves of your book loving friends and family. Maybe they’ve just finished a great book they want to lend you. (Just make sure they don’t offer to take you out for coffee and book shopping.)

4. The TBR is your friend. Treat your TBR like a pop up bookstore. Don’t agonize, just pick one. But here’s the trick: if you don’t like it, move on quickly to the next book until you find one that scratches your new book itch. The problem with the TBR is that it can feel like a chore, whereas a new book is thrilling. So don’t force yourself to stick with something if it isn’t working. Keep plowing through until you hit on one that you can’t put down.

3. Review your shelves and donate books you no longer need. This sounds counterintuitive, but it reduces the TBR and provides a visceral reminder of how much privilege is implied by the idea of having to work hard not to buy something that many people consider a luxury, in comparison to medicine, food, or rent.

2. Reorganize your book shelves. Maybe according to date, or color, or some other funky scheme. Or at least dust them. I guarantee you’ll have a new appreciation for what you already own. And it might pique your interest in a forgotten, unread purchase, or send you down several miles of memory lanes with old favorites.

1. Visit your local library. To make it feel like more book shopping, don’t go to their website and pick your books in advance. Just walk in and check out the new books shelf. Or visit some unfamiliar areas. Or ask a librarian for a recommendation. This is a great way to experience some of the rush of acquisition of a frontlist title with none of the cost or guilt.

If you’ve ever tried to go without buying books for a period of time, whether it’s a month or a year, what worked for you?