How To

Uncommon Bookmarks: How To Save Your Page In A Pinch

Brandi Bailey

Staff Writer

Brandi can be found writing about books and dreaming up outfits on her blog, Book Style. She'll probably be reading something with mythology, Brits, unicorns, a feisty heroine, or (ideally) all of the above. She has lived in too many cities, but has settled down in Portland with her awesome husband and almost-as-awesome cat. Follow her on Instagram @PinkBBWhiskey.

We’ve all been there. You’re engrossed in a good book but you have to put it down. Maybe you’re not into breaking spines, or it’s a borrowed book and you have respect for other people’s belongings. Maybe you’re on the go and can’t just leave it open to your page because books don’t do that that well inside of bags. So how do you save your page when you don’t have a bookmark handy? Uncommon bookmarks to the rescue!

I’m the queen of never having a bookmark handy. I read a lot on public transport and I’m usually too cheap to buy “real” bookmarks. I do admit to having no issues dog-earring a page, but don’t like to do that with borrowed books and the bulk of my reading has transitioned to this category in recent years. While I had a lot of ideas from personal experience, I decided to take a small survey of my social network, including fellow Rioters, to get an idea of what uncommon objects other people felt inclined to mark their pages with, too. (In addition to some cool, odd, and personally troubling suggestions, I found out that 50% of respondents also had no problem dog-earring their pages. Sweet vindication!)


Apparently some people, thankfully no one I know personally, use bacon as a bookmark. I have to imagine that these people eat their bacon a lot more crispy and a lot less greasy than I prefer it. Come to think of it, this might explain some of the odder stains I’ve found inside library books. If you’re going to use food, I would suggest something in a wrapper or non-meat based like dried nori or a dried fruit strip. Still crumbly and sticky, I suppose. This is such a weird idea. Not recommended.


Adhesive bandages

Unused, of course, adhesive bandages make great bookmarks. They’re about the right size. They’re flat. They’ll help with any impromptu paper cut emergencies! Plus, even if you have to use the actual bandage, you still have the wrapper to mark your page.

Pens + pencils

Writing implements aren’t ideal because they aren’t flat, but in a pinch they will work to hold your spot and most books can close around them far enough to make this a transportable option, too. Not the best for spines, but we do what we must. Just make sure that your pen is capped/retracted. Using a pencil might require an eraser later.


Receipts + Library Slips

For a lot of people, the newly acquired book is the one in most immediate need of an impromptu bookmark. You leave the bookstore and head to lunch where you’re forced to close the book and engage with your lunch date. (So annoying, I know.) The easiest thing to grab? The receipt from your recently purchased book! This is honestly why I always print a checkout slip at the library. I don’t need my due dates, my library app reminds me of those, I need the page holder! This was the most common response I received on my survey, with over 86% saying they used this method.


Business cards + Pamphlets

My husband and I spend a lot of time at craft fairs and window shopping in the boutiques around town. We meet a lot of talented artisans. We have a habit of collecting business cards to remember the vendors and shops we like and be able to spend our money with them when we can. As a result, I have accumulated a stash of business cards. They’re usually really cool designs and the size is perfect as a place holder. Some people also told me they use informational pamphlets and flyers as bookmarks in a pinch.


Index Cards + Post-its

My mother makes lists on 3×5 index cards. I make lists on Post-it notes. We both use them as impromptu bookmarks. The great thing about this option is you can make notes on them without feeling bad! I particularly like using Post-its because I can stick them at the actual line I leave off on. They’re the exact same as the official book flags/book tabs option that exists, but they’re just more likely to be on my desk at home or at work.


Gum + Candy Wrappers

My husband is a crumpler : fast food wrappers, napkins, receipts, candy wrappers. I have learned to live with tiny balls of debris lying around on all of our flat surfaces. (This is a lie, I complain about it in the naggiest of fashions.) I am a folder. Be it a burrito wrapper or a Starburst wrapper, I fold and crease and create neat piles to be discarded once I’m not too lazy to get up off the couch.  Sometimes those meticulously folded candy wrappers make it into my books as impromptu bookmarks.


Envelopes + Postcards

Mail and envelopes was another popular response to my survey. One respondent even mentioned that they had recently used an old pay stub to hold a page. It’s paper that’s handy, and not in use. The jagged edges on opened envelopes stress me out, personally, but I can see the appeal. Plus, much like using a Post-it or an index card, you can jot down notes while you read. Postcards are just plain pretty and usually evoke happy memories. I mean, don’t keep a postcard if it makes you sad, and definitely don’t use it to hold your page.


Playing Cards

Playing and trading cards (a fellow Rioter informed me she’s currently using a Pokemon card) make excellent bookmarks. I like this idea as a long term solution, too. Why not take a pretty deck and write a quote on one side? Or punch some holes in it and add some ribbons or glitter? Or both?


Other paper products

I have a deep-seated issue with toilet and facial tissue – it’s soft, overly absorbent, and sheds fluff. I’ll use it for it’s intended purpose but won’t touch it otherwise. If toilet paper was the only absorbent material around to sop up a spilled drink, I would use my sleeve. Seriously, I am gagging just thinking about it. I tell you this to say that the people who told me they use toilet paper as bookmarks are never allowed to borrow a book from me. The people who use old straw wrappers and napkins are okay but I’d rather not use any of those things myself. the flimsiness of the paper makes them too much like trash in my mind.


Money + Coupons

I agree that money and clipped coupons are ideal bookmarks. They’re already bookmarked size. But, what happens when you need to use the money or the coupon? I would say this is only really ideal as a one-off, temporary solution. Just don’t forget where you hid the cash from yourself.


Bobby pins + Paperclips

This is one of my favorite go-tos. As someone who seems to be in a constant state of growing my hair out, I almost always have bobby pins in my pockets or bags. Paperclips are pretty prevalent in most work spaces, too. The great boon of using this method is that you can mark an individual line! I’d recommend only clipping a couple of pages at a time, any thicker and the paperclip or bobby pin can leave dents in the paper.


Photos of loved ones make great bookmarks. And they make you smile while you look at them. I have a love affair with photo booth strips, and carry a couple in my wallet, so that’s what ends up in my books. The only caveat I would give if you’re going with this option is to be careful that you don’t return a borrowed book with them inside. It’s one thing to lose a bobby pin or a business card forever, it’s a very different story to lose a treasured photo forever.


Say you’re out at a restaurant or bar reading a book. Maybe you need to head home or maybe the rest of your party has finally arrived. Either way, now you need to shut your book. Alas! You forgot your bookmark. Fear not: Those cardboard coasters, ubiquitous as bars worldwide, make excellent bookmarks. Just ask for a dry one if yours is sopping wet.

Other Books

I’ve done this. It’s not that great if the books in question are going to be carried in a bag, but to hold a place while the book stays sitting on your coffee table or nightstand it works perfectly. You can place the whole second (preferably smaller) book inside the one you’re reading, or you can sort of shuffle them together, so they can both semi close.

Tablets + Phones

Similar to the Other Books method, this isn’t a transportable solution, but sliding your Kindle or iPhone into the pages to hold your spot for a short amount of time will work. Although, truthfully, if I don’t have a book in my hand, I probably have my phone in it, so I probably won’t be using this one.


Paint Sample Cards

Since I was a child, I’ve impulsively hoarded paint sample cards every time I enter a home improvement store. I love color, what else can I say? I pretty mine up with fancy hole punches and ribbon, but I think this is a cheap, fun alternative to bookmarks embellished or not! The ribbon addition is very tempting to cats, just as a fair warning. You might set your bookmark down beside you only to discover it shredded into submission by your feline companion when you’re ready to use it again.



To my friend who said she uses clothes, I have questions. I can only assume that she is using articles of clothing as a temporary bookmark when the book is remaining at home, similar to to book within a book method. If not, maybe a thin scarf or handkerchief? Your guess is as good as mine on this one.


COLLAPSEd cardboard boxes

This suggestion comes from someone who uses butter boxes as bookmarks. Realistically any small cardboard/paper-stock box can be collapsed down and used to hold your page. I think you could even gussy up these packages like I do with paint sample cards for a more permanent solution.


Incidentally, because I know you’re curious, the grossest thing that anyone brought up during my research? A used Q-tip as a placeholder in a returned library book. *Shudder* Whatever you end up using as a bookmark, just make sure you remove it before you try and sell it, return it, or lend it out. Particularly if you’re in the toilet paper as a bookmark crowd. That’s just gross. And if you’re in the used Q-tip crowd: no. Just no.

Have any other suggestions? Drop ’em in the comments below!

Want more bookmark ideas, purchasable and creatable? Check out our bookmarks tag.