This post brought to you by Chris, Debi, Nymeth, and Kelly!
Dursley-ish parents throwing a fit over their kids reading a curse word or about—gasp!—magic, books thrown into bonfires, kids having to make do with My Friend Flicka when the mean people make Captain Underpants go into hiding. These things are not good, I think we can all agree.
But there is one situation when banning books is a good thing. And that’s when you’re addicted to buying books.
Addicted? Surely You Jest!
My name is Kelly, and I am addicted to buying books. There was a time when I couldn’t walk out of a bookstore without spending over $50. And we’re talking weekly visits, if not more. My husband knew not to take it personally that I never made eye contact with him while inside a bookstore.
When all 5 bookshelves in our house were overflowing and I had to choose between installing bookshelves to span every wall and putting our animals in storage to make room for more books…I knew I had a problem.
And I’m not the only one. So Chris, Debi, Nymeth, and I put our heads together on the topic of book-buying addiction to share what we’ve learned.
What’s So Bad about Buying Books?
I know, it’s fun. Reminiscing about the good ol’ days up there made me a bit twitchy to get myself to the nearest bookstore NOW.
Even if I could afford to spend that much on books, there’s something about finding a book, holding it in my hands, and deciding I want to own it that gives me a high. Maybe it’s the possibility that the story within will be an instant favorite. Or I could be about to discover a hidden gem that I can tell the world about.
But what I learned is that I don’t have to spend my hard-earned money on a book to fall in love with it. And if I do find a new favorite, I can always buy it after I return my library copy.
Even if you’re not addicted like we are, cutting back on the new books you buy has a few benefits:
- Save money—A couple years ago, I was spending thousands of dollars on books each year while trying to pay off credit card and student loan debt. If you have a financial goal, this might be an easy area to cut without much of an impact to your quality of life.
- Save your sanity—Debi has reached the point where it’s downright stressful trying to figure out where to put the new books that make their way into the house. Not to mention that the more books you have, the more you have to dust.
- Save space for what matters—When you buy only the books you truly love, your own personal library becomes a little more special because it’s filled with the books that have earned a place in your heart.
- Save time—If I buy a book I haven’t read before, I feel like I have to finish it and get my money’s worth, regardless of whether I’m actually enjoying it. Your reading time is finite, so don’t get yourself in a situation where you feel obligated to finish a book that makes you go “meh.”
- Save it for a treat—When you’re buying books left and right, it’s nothing special. When you buy books with deliberate intention, it becomes a treat. Nymeth is approaching 20 books read since her ban started—the point at which she’s allowed to buy one book. It’s been a long time since the idea of buying one little book has felt so good!
- Save your excitement—As more time lapses between when you buy a book and when you get around to reading it, the excitement wears out. You may like it when you finally get around to reading it, but that first blush of booklust has long since faded. Nymeth’s goal is to get back to the habits of her pre-blogging days, where she’d get a couple of books, read them, then get some more and read those.
- Save the planet—By switching to the library and buying only your favorites, you’re still supporting your favorite authors, but you’re also cutting your carbon footprint by 30 pounds a year.
8 Tips for a Book-Buying Ban
Ready to try it out? We pulled together some handy dandy tips to guide you in your journey to healthier book buying habits:
- Set your purchase parameters—Sounds common sense, but it really does help to explicitly articulate the circumstances in which it makes sense to buy a book. My rule is that I need to read the book before purchasing it. If it’s a nonfiction book I think I’ll reference later, I can buy it. For fiction, if I think I’ll read it again, I can buy it. Nymeth’s rule is no impulse buys.
- Give yourself an allowance—Cold turkey didn’t work for us. So give yourself permission to buy once in a while. Try setting a dollar limit or a limit on the number of books you buy in a month. Or copy Chris: For every 15 books you knock off your TBR list, you get to buy one book. Debi says Paperbackswap doesn’t count for her, but she’s not allowed to buy credits.
- Decide on a punishment—As Nymeth pointed out, “a good behavioural plan also requires penalties.” If you slip up, maybe you have to take one of your books to a used bookstore. Or like Nymeth, you can donate a Bookmooch point to charity.
- Learn the ins and outs of your library—Where’s the web site, and can you use it to put titles on hold? If they don’t have a title, can you suggest it or get it through interlibrary loan? Is there a limit on how many books you can check out? Becoming familiar with how your library works will build confidence that the books you want will be there even if you don’t shell out the cash yourself. Chris has learned to love his library since he started his ban—it’s like a giant bookstore that’s free! (You don’t get to keep the books, of course, but that’s just a small complaint.)
- Make a TBR list—If your “to be read” list consists of gazing upon your many bookshelves of purchased books, try a virtual list. LibraryThing and Goodreads both have a way to record the books you want to read.
- Don’t go into a bookstore alone—Bring a weapon. A piece of scratch paper will do, or a little notebook if you want to do it up right. If you feel like picking up a book, do it. Pick them all up. But before you get in line, sit down with your paper and look at each book in your hands. Do you really need that book right away? If not, write the title down and set the book to the side. Odds are you’ll walk out with just your handy list, which you can then upload to your virtual TBR list!
- Enlist support—Ask someone to remind you of your ban if you start to get weak in the knees at the thought of a new book. Spouses work well here, since they usually like the idea of saving money. Debi lives in a house full of book-buying addicts, so she had to look for support elsewhere. Her book-blogging friends have already been invaluable in keeping her on track, with Chris saving her from a momentary lapse.
- Try it, you might like it—If the idea of not buying books gives you the shakes, just try it for a week and see how it goes. You can always go back to your regular routine, but you might find that you still get to read what you want, just with extra cash in your account.
But Wait, There’s More!
For more great tips, check out these posts!