How To

Book Buying on a Budget

Mara Franzen

Staff Writer

Mara (They/Them) has accidentally on purpose made their entire life about books and stories. Mara graduated with a B.A in creative writing and theatre and is halfway through an MFA in Creative writing. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Mara also has written for The Independent Book Review, Wargamer, and The Other Half, to name a few. They also work as a fiction editor with The Minison Project. Nearly all of their published articles can be found here.

When I write out my monthly budget, a fairly large section is dedicated to books. I love them a lot, and so I spend a lot of money on them. However, often my eyes are a bit bigger than my wallet when I’m looking for new books to add to my collection. There are just so many beautiful books out there that I want to read! So here are my tips and tricks for buying books on a budget.

“What are the editions I care about getting?” 

There are some authors who I love and will almost always love what they write. So when a new book comes out, I’m going to want a first edition hardcover. Or maybe there’s a specific edition of one of my favorite classics that I’m holding out for, I know that those are going to be a large chunk of my book money. However, there are also a lot of books where I don’t necessarily care if I get a mass-market paperback edition or some well-worn secondhand copy. I highly recommend deciding which books you want that are going to require edition specificity on your end. 

Used Books In Person and Online

Used bookstores are the love of my life, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I love buying used books, and during the pandemic, I have been looking at a lot of online used bookstores. There are tons out there like Thrift Books, Book Outlet, and Abe books. Depending on where you live, there might be other online retailers who deliver to your region. I love getting a new used book in the mail. In-person used bookstores are also incredible, and I’m on a first-name basis with some in my area because I spend a lot of time there!


Ereaders are also a great option if you don’t mind reading from a screen. And even if you don’t have an ereader, some interfaces like Kindle or Audible allow you to make an account and download their app to your phone. All the benefits of an ereader without the cost and extra charging cables. 


Libraries are a lifesaver! Even if you don’t have a library super close to you, if you can make it to one and sign up for a library card, a lot of libraries have online resources so you can check out ebooks and audiobooks super easily. Even if you can’t get to a physical library often you can apply for an online library card to use. And for free! 

Keep a List of Your Book Wishlist

It can be frustrating when you’re on a budget because you just want all these books right now! But, if you keep a list, you can keep a lookout for books when they go on sale. As well as limit yourself when you are on a book shopping trip. A perk is that the next time someone asks what you want for a birthday/anniversary/holiday, you can send them your ever-growing book wishlist.

Public Domain Books

Once a book hits the public domain it’s free to access! There are tons of places online with lists of what books are in the public domain. You can find most of these books on ereaders, or places like Project Gutenberg. You can get your classics in without handing over all your money for a fancy illustrated edition. 

Thrift Stores and Garage Sales

I have found some absolute treasures at thrift stores. Because they don’t pay as close attention to the donated book as used bookstores do, you can sometimes find the first edition for the same price as the mass-market paperbacks! Garage sales also have great deals on books, if a usually smaller collection. 

Borrow From Friends

One of my best friends and I share all of our books. Before buying a book, I’ll send her a pic and ask if she has it. If she does, I can just borrow it from her, and if not, she can borrow it from me later. We even go so far as to have a shared spreadsheet so we know who is borrowing what. Just remember to always return the books you borrow! And you can always do a book exchange with friends to switch out old books for new ones.

Little Free Libraries

A great way to find new books, and get rid of old ones you don’t want anymore, are Little Free Libraries. It’s like a book swap for your entire neighborhood. You can look for Little Free Libraries near you on their handy-dandy map.

Follow the Authors and Publishers You Love on Social Media

Sometimes authors will have giveaways, or at least the inside scoop if their book is going on sale, or in a giveaway. If you follow them, you’ll be the first to know when something like that is happening. And you’ll get a heads up when they are releasing a new book. That’s a win-win!

I know that it can be hard to find good books at good prices, but with these tips and tricks, you’re bound to begin cutting your book budget.