Books on the Cheap

While I am preparing posts about our ginormous Christmas book collection, I thought it’d be a good time to share some ways to collect books cheaply. As a lifetime lover of books and being a reading teacher, I am constantly adding books to our collection. Here are some of the ways I acquire books:

If your child is in preschool or school, you probably already receive Scholastic Book Club flyers; these are the little multi-page paper sales flyers for books that get sent home roughly once per month. If you are homeschooling your child, you can register your homeschool with Scholastic and be able to purchase books from their book clubs; I did this with no problems! Once registered, you can order books online or over the phone. The things I love best about SBC are that the books are often cheaper than retail/Amazon prices, almost every flyer contains a $1 book, and there’s a decent selection of age-appropriate non-fiction books to choose from as well!

Many, many books on Amazon qualify for their 4-for-3 promotion. In my experience, this tends to apply mostly to paperback books. If the special offer applies to the books you are buying (the page will say “special offers available” near the top and further down will say “This item is eligible for our 4-for-3 promotion,” if indeed it is), when you add 4 books to your cart, the cheapest one’s price will be deducted from your total at checkout.

If Craigslist is popular in your area, you might try checking there for someone selling a book lot or even a specific book for which you are looking. Craigslist listings are free and local to your area. You would have to contact the seller and arrange the details of paying for and picking up the books.

Freecycle is a local group, so check to see if you have a Freecycle group in your area. Our local Freecycle is run through a yahoo group, so I get all the emails in my inbox (if you are going to set this up and you have a very active Freecycle, I’d set up a dedicated email for this purpose). People post items they are giving away for free, or you can post wanted ads for items you want for free. Books are often listed here.

Thrift Stores:
Check out your local thrift stores. You never know what you’ll find. I just loaded up on probably 30 or so “new to us” books at a Once Upon a Child near my in-laws while I was visiting for Thanksgiving. I don’t think anyone had looked through their books recently because I got LOTS of really nice hardcover books, including several Christmas ones. The best part was the books were marked from $0.50-$2.50 each and when I checked out, I got all of them for 50% off. Can’t beat that! 🙂

I love these! Warehouse sales are exclusively for teachers and school personnel, but also for HOMESCHOOLERS. Follow the link above to see if you have a Warehouse near you and when the next sale is. Even if you have one that’s not so close, it might even be worth a trip if you are looking to add lots of books to your collection. All books are 25-80% off, with most being 50% off list price. Additionally, they often do “pack a box” deals or offer a big last day sale. There is also usually a coupon that prints out with your Fast Cart pass.

Used books on Amazon:
Buying used books on Amazon is my latest obsession. To find a used book, search for the book title the way you normally would. Look down under the price a bit or over on the right. Often you will see a “used” link to click on. The used books typically have a shipping fee of $3.99, but occasionally you will find one that offers free Super Saver Shipping. Sometimes the used prices are more than the new prices, so beware, but in the right circumstances, you can save some money this way if you don’t mind your book not being brand new.

Homeschool curriculum swap sites:
These tend to be more for curriculum than just your average books, but you might try, The Well Trained Mind’s Sale and Swap board, Homeschool Library Builder, or Free Home School Classifieds.

Check for book lots or specific titles.

Yard Sales:
Children’s books are often dirt cheap at yard sales. You might check on Craigslist for yard sale postings that specifically list children’s books.

Let your friends, neighbors, siblings, in-laws, etc know that you don’t mind hand-me-down books that their children have outgrown. If that is too forward, you can always mention that you love used books and would they mind if you looked through any books they decide to get rid of first; you can even offer to buy them or trade them something for them! 🙂

Add to wishlists:
Add books to birthday and Christmas wishlists that are shared with family and friends.

Alternative to other gifts:
Perhaps this doesn’t save money, but consider giving your children books instead of other gifts at times like Easter, Halloween, when the tooth fairy comes, as the treats in the reward basket, etc.

Consider what type of book to buy:
If buying new (or even used), the type of book often affects the price. Paperback books tend to be cheapest and hardcover the most expensive. Keep in mind the age/development of your child though; a paperback book may be cheaper than a board book, but if you child is going to rip it to shreds if left unsupervised, it may not be the most cost effective choice after all.

Organize a swap:
Get together with your Mom’s group, neighbors, friends, family, etc. and swap books. Agree to the conditions of the swap beforehand so everyone feels that it’s fair. This way you get to have a new selection of books while passing on some that you no longer need.

Go to the library:
Of course, one of the best and cheapest ways to bring books into your house is by visiting the library. Just be sure to take care of the books so that you don’t rack up lots of fines for lost or damaged books.

Library Sales:
Often libraries will have sales once or twice a year to sell discarded books. Ask at your local library when and where that takes place. The books are usually very cheap and in good condition.

Do you have other ways of acquiring books cheaply? 🙂

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Amanda says:

    Paperback Swap! I’ve saved over $200 in books this year. It’s basically a club where you list books you are willing to mail to other users and you can search and find the books you want (or put it on a wish list if it’s popular). You could even buy credits for $3.45 which is cheaper than used on Amazon.

    You can get two free book credits for signing up (it’s free) and listing 10 books you are willing to part with. I love it! (If you haven’t signed up before, it is an affiliate link fyi, I get one credit for spreading the word. It helps fuel my book obsession!)

  • Nicole says:

    The Scholastic Warehouse Sale around here is open to the public!

  • Morah D says:

    We also have free books every 3rd visit to our lIbrary story hour! And you can choose from a pretty varied selection!

  • Jenn says:

    Another option for Scholastic is to check with a nearby school or preschool. My pre-school opens their online order up to several nearby homeschool groups. Once they come in I email everyone that they are here and they come pick up. This helps out the preschool because the larger the order the more bonus points and combined bonus points we get. I pass along the benefits by sharing the free books that scholastic usually puts in our large orders and sharing coupons that they send me.

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