How To

10 Tips to Help You Buy Fewer Books

Emma Nichols

Staff Writer

Emma Nichols is a career bookseller. Though she expected to grow up to be a librarian, or a witch, she's quite happy with how things are working out. Officially, she specializes in children's books and manages their book fairs; unofficially, she is passionate about short stories and spreadsheets. When not evangelizing her favorite books to unsuspecting customers, she can be heard discussing books and bookselling on her podcast Drunk Booksellers. Her other hobbies include organizing her books, taking pictures of her cat, and binge-re-watching her favorite TV shows. Blog: The Bibliot Twitter: @thebibliot

I think we can all agree buying books is awesome. Walking in to a bookstore and browsing for hours, or bringing a list of books you want, or asking staff for recommendations—however you spend your time in one, bookstores are cozy, lovely homes-away-from-home. But sometimes you walk out of said bookstore with a full bag and an empty wallet, realizing you’ve just blown your budget for the next two months. Come on, I know that hasn’t just happened to me.


Some people attempt a full-on book-buying ban. I am amazed and impressed by anyone with that kind of willpower. I don’t have it. I’ll make an attempt and then find a dozen excuses for why this purchase doesn’t count. Then I’ll feel guilty and buy myself another book to feel better. I told you, in the face of books I have no willpower.

That said, I recently spent a LOT of money on books when I visited 19 bookstores in one day, after which I decided I needed to calm down a little. So I’ve come up with a few tips to minimize my book-buying habit. Maybe they can help you too.

1. Avoid bookstores. I hate to suggest this because I love bookstores. But the best way to prevent yourself from buying books is to avoid places where books are sold.

2. Use your friends as a bookstore instead. If you surround yourself with fellow book addicts, I’m guessing you’ve got at least a few people in your life whose massive bookshelves you can browse and borrow from. Just don’t be a book hoarder… like me.

3. Go to the library! It’s like a magical FREE bookstore. You can browse, bring a list, ask librarians for recommendations, etc. It’s all the trappings of a bookstore… except you do have to bring it back eventually.

Ok, so you just need that bookstore fix and the library isn’t doing it for you. Or you work at a bookstore. Or, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t stay away. I know I personally must enter every single bookstore I see no matter what. I was clearly cursed as a child. But it’s ok, I have plenty of tips for what to do when those beautiful books are seductively fanning their pages in your face.


4. Leave your cash/wallet/monies at home. You can enjoy the bookstore without fear of purchasing as you have no purchase power.

5. Record the books you’re tempted to buy. Take a picture or write them down. If you still want them in two weeks, go for it.

6. You know how they say don’t go grocery shopping while hungry? Only visit a bookstore when you’re in the middle of an awesome book. Tell that new release with a cherry red cover you’re quite satisfied with your current read, thank you very much.

7. Start reading your potential purchase in-store. Buy it only if you get twenty pages in and want to keep reading. This will prevent you from bringing a book home that’ll just topple your TBR pile.

8. Speaking of the TBR pile, use yours to shame yourself. If you have a physical TBR, take a picture and reference it every time you’re in a bookstore. If not, make a Goodreads or LibraryThing shelf of all the books you own and haven’t read. (If this seems like an insurmountable task, I may be able to help.) Look at all those sad, lonely books you’ve already spent money on and are currently neglecting. Don’t buy more. Read one of those instead.

9. Keep a budget for book purchases and stick to it. If you don’t use the budget all in one month, you can let it roll over and buy EVEN MORE BOOKS the next month. Reward yourself for that self-control.

10. Only buy a new book once you’ve read X number of books you own. Say every fifth book you read from your shelf, you get to buy another.

Hopefully one or more of these tips will come in handy the next time a new book catches your eye, the next time your heart says yes while your wallet sobs quietly no. From others who have attempted to curb their book-buying habit, I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.