Reading Hobby On A Tight Budget

Heading into 2008 my goal was to read at least one non-fiction book a week, that’s 52 books in one year. I quickly realized I would not be able to finance such an operation frugally if I purchased all these books through traditional book outlets.

Our local library is very small, and its business and finance section looks like something out of the 1980’s with worn copies of Dale Carnegie books and the entire “Real Estate for Dummies” series. Since I couldn’t read these books for free I would have to find the next best thing.

Start with a small “hobbies” budget. To allocate money to invest in my new hobby I relied on the same budget principles we already had in place using envelopes. In November and December we set aside $40 a month towards hobbies, and since my new hobby would be reading I spent the majority of my share on [tag]books[/tag]. My wife enjoys reading magazines, so she planned to invest her share on a couple subscriptions (a much cheaper route than newsstands). I consider this money “seed capital” and an investment in the business of self improvement. Because I wanted this money to last I need to minimize my costs to purchase, and maximize my earnings during resale.

Look for books at online retailers to maximize your seed capital. Traditional brick and mortar book sellers such as Barnes and Noble or Books a Million do a great job of creating a rich environment conducive to perusing the latest best sellers. What they don’t do, typically, is offer great deals on books. Store overhead, markups, and other associated costs generally keep them from competing with bargain [tag]online booksellers[/tag] such as I still love to visit Barnes and Noble and look through the books and magazines, but I usually put them back on the shelf and order online. To not look like a complete cheapskate, I recommend ordering a small coffee or other treat to support the store.

Sell books online to recover a majority of the costs. I recently provided some tips for maximizing sales on eBay. If you are not a fan of auction sites, a service like Cash4Books could work for you. At Cash4Books you simply plug in the ISBN and they make an offer for your book. They even cover the cost of shipping the book to them. [tag][/tag] Marketplace offers a site to sell your books back as well, as does With any of the sites my goal is to recover as much of the original purchase price as possible. Occasionally I flip a small profit doing this, but it isn’t going to make me rich. Besides, any money I make in the process is reinvested in “Me, Inc.”

I grew up understanding very little about the world of finance, and what I have learned can be attributed to reading books. Like Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You are the same today you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” Books offer the opportunity to learn on just about any subject imaginable, and using the techniques above you can do it at very little cost.


  1. Just a thought – you may have already looked into this – does your local library have an affiliation with any other libraries? Our library also has an ancient collection of finance books, but I can go to their website online and request a book from any of the county libraries to be sent to our local one at no cost. Our local branch gets my requested books in 1-5 business days, and they even call to let me know they are in. It’s a great service, but I didn’t realize they had it until I asked a librarian.

  2. I agree, if you can get an affiliation through another library that would be your best bet. We have two neighboring towns and you can pay $54 a year to get access to all of the libraries in town and outside of town. For some, that is a really great investment. I feel very fortunate because we have had the best library system I have ever been a part of and the libraries we had in the past were more like the one you described.

    I get a lot of stuff off of and I have heard great things about too. Those might be some other good options. Also one that is overlooked is They sometimes run really great deals on books and magazine subscriptions. I did some of my book shopping through them this year.

    I hope that helps- good luck in reaching your reading goals!!

  3. As moneylove and change noted above, you may want to see if your local library has a book program with other local libraries. I didn’t realize this until recently, but my small little local library has a reciprocal agreement with a ton of Minnesota and Minneapolis libraries so all I need to do to get a book is go online and order it. Then it is at my small local library within a few days to a week or so.

    My uncle even gave me a firefox script for greasemonkey that will allow you to search barnes and noble or amazon websites, and then order the books and movies from your local library directly from the amazon or website. Pretty cool! (this script is for Minnesota libraries only right now)