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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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frugal living tips to saving on books

If you walk through my house at any given point in time, you will most likely find, scattered throughout it, five or six books open and flipped upside down to be picked up later and finished.  Between my love of reading and homeschooling our kiddos, we have lots of books in our house at all times.  After years of buying most of my books only to have them sit on the shelf and collect dust after I finished reading them, I’ve decided to be more careful about what books that I do purchase.

Here are some of my favorite ways to save money on books.

The Library

This one is often overlooked, but it is a staple in our house.  We go every other week or so and absolutely love our public library.  We can check out books, movies, cook books, CDs and even magazines.  Our library system is wonderful in that we can request books on-line, and then we are notified via e-mail or a phone call when the books are ready for us.  Some libraries also have fantastic interlibrary loan policies where you can request a book that your local library doesn’t carry and they will secure it from another library.  There can be a fee involved with this service; so it is good to ask your library what their policies are.

Paperback Swap

I get the bulk of my school books from Paperback Swap.  The concept is pretty simple.  Post books that you no longer want, Someone will request that book, and you ship it.  Shipping costs are around $2.46 per book using the media mail rate.

For every book that you mail, you’ll get a credit to “purchase” a book that you want from someone else.  You can also make a wish list of books that you are wanting, and then you are on the waiting list for that book to be listed by another member.  The site is easy to navigate, free of charge and easy to personalize.

Goodwill and Thrift

You can’t overlook the ease of buying items at thrift for a huge savings.  Our local Goodwill and other thrift stores have a large selection of children’s and adult books starting at 10¢ each.  I will confess that we never go in just to look for books, but if you’re already there it is only second to peruse what they have in stock that week.  Remember this is one store where the selection can be completely different from one trip to the next.

Better World Books

Next stop, I will price check at, Better World Books.  They offer used books with FREE shipping at great prices (and they have a cool vision for funding literacy and recycling books too!).  Use code BOOKS4GOOD to get 10% off 2 books.


Yep, this is my final stop.  I can price check here, see if the book qualifies for free shipping and look to see if it is a part of the great 4 for 3 program (buy 4 books and get the lowest price book for free).  Often, they will have a selection of used books for a discounted price as well.

I don’t want to ignore the obvious way to save on books.  You can purchase a Kindle, Nook, iPad or other e-reader and save significantly on the list price of books.  I still love the feel of a book in my hands watching the progression of the story unfold as the pages turn, but I won’t deny that the day will come soon when my frugality will override my nostalgia.  We are even able to save on most of our homeschool curriculum by selecting the eBook options.  For now though our girls are a little too young to not have real paper to write answers out on.  Tune in Friday for some big tips to save on textbooks and other school curriculum though!

How do you save on books?  Do you have a favorite website that I missed?

    • I really like BookLending.com for borrowing and lending Kindle books for free.    Most libraries also have e-books for readers and Kindle’s as well for check out.  I don’t like to buy a lot of used books from Amazon because seller’s have to pay 25% fee to Amazon.  Ebay is so much better for this, they only have about a 10% fee.  Less fees for the seller means less money they charge for the book.   We also do swaps at church, school, and work.

    • Wow, I wish our Goodwill had books that cheap.  Ours wants $1.00 for ratty old paperbacks…..definitely not worth the money unless you find something newer that you just have to have.

    • Abrileysaving

      Christian Book Distributors is one that I always check.  We love our library too!

    • rg

      for those of you trying to save on college books … often there will be a copy or two on reserve at the library.  it makes it trickier to plan your studying but could save hundreds.  the other thing i found is that often times you didnt even need the book required for the class, because all of the tested material was given in class/notes.  only a few (e.g., math class) really need it if you have to answer questions or problems out of the book. wait a week and get a feel for if you’ll really need the book before buying it.

    • Amelia

      I don’t know whether all public libraries do this, but my local public library has a “friends of the library” sale once a month.  It is a STEAL.  Folks donate the books that are sold, volunteers work the sale, and proceeds are used to buy books for the library.  The last town I lived in had a sale like this one, but only once a year.  I also like half.com, which is affiliated with ebay but not an auction site, for cheap used books.  Also, dealoz.com will compare online prices for you, which is especially nice if you have the ISBN number for, say, a textbook.

    • Crm114

      Check for friends of the library book sales. Great deals the last day of the sale!

    • Bradwinterton

      Dealoz.com helps me to find the cheapest price from hundreds of different websites.

    • Crash

      I like to buy used paperbacks on ebay. I find the cheapest copy available, then after I have read the book, I am able to sell it on ebay, usually for around the same price. Sometimes more!

    • Rachel

      I haven’t used Paperback Swap, but I have use a similar website called BookMooch. I look forward to that site out, since I often don’t see titles I want on BookMooch. 
      We have been using the Library a lot this Summer…especially for movies. Our library also has continuous used book sale in the front lobby area, as well as an online service with books to download for Kindle and E-readers.

    • Abjevans

      I buy and sell our some of our homeschool curriculum from homeschoolclassified.  So far so good – thanks Jenny!!

    • EWags

      For those in Upstate South Carolina, another option comes every August.   The Greenville Literacy Association offers the Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Used Book Sale is held at the McAlister Square Shopping Center this year on Saturday Aug 18th, 2012.  Last year over 14000 people purchased over 101,000 books providing $124,000 in funding to fight illiteracy!  Stock up for the year and redonate when finished!

      • Carmanm

         Yes!!!  My family makes a yearly pilgrimage to this sale!  My youngest has been counting down to Saturday.

    • Carmanm

      For homeschool materials/books, Vegsource.com is a great place to go for used (and sometimes even new) materials.  It’s not just a vegetarian site, but it has a great board for buying and selling homeschool materials.  It’s a place where homeschoolers can help other homeschoolers make room on their shelves!  I’ve purchased many things here for less than I could have found them elsewhere.

    • Kathy

      Parents of infants and preschoolers, don’t forget Dolly Parton’s free Imagination Library, open to all children in Tennessee and many others throughout the country.  Registered children get a free age-appropriate book every month until they start kindergarten. http://imaginationlibrary.com/

    • Drseusnc

      There is a store called Mckay’s in Knoxville and in Nashville Tn where you can take books, video games, CDs, DVDs, and game systems and sell them or get store credit. They have a great selection of everything and great prices! My husband and I love it!

      • Elliskit

         Going there Friday; McKay’s is awesome!

    • Willie

      Another good resource is http://www.abebooks.com/.  They have new and used books for sale from various book sellers.  You can sort by price to find the least expensive one!

    • Tonit2112

      Booksfree.com is a book rental company that operates similar to Netflix in that you add books to your queue and they ship them out to you with a return mailer for a flat monthly fee.  I really appreciate it for my hard to find more particular reading that you may not find in a library or used book store.  So essentially you are just borrowing the books like with a library, but there is a fee!  I found it to be reasonable and on average about $1.50 per book at the speed I read, very fast.  So you cannot beat it and you can avoid the extra clutter around the house.

    • kagil

      I get a lot of my books off eBay – it’s really good for homeschool books that might not have an ISBN listing – and sometimes you can get great books in lots – IE like cookbooks, sewing book lot, craft book lot or homeschool books.  People put them in lots and you can get them cheap!

    • onoudidnt

      I am in several Goodwills a week, and have saved nearly 75 dollars on required reading books for 2012/2013 school year alone.  Please tell me which Goodwill has books for 10 cents!!  Thanks for addressing this subject, huge help!

    • Jkk1110

      I save on college text books by buying from Amazon and not our schools book store but one run by neebo. They have a low price guarantee and will match just about anywhere that has the book for sale. (Except amazon market place) They will even match amazon and ebay. This means great savings for me and all in one stop usually. 

      • Jkk1110

         Also if you e-mail you instructor before class starts and see if you can use a later model book. (last year’s version) that would save a ton of money versus buying the brand new version. Some books don’t change too much from year to year.

    • BJ

      I saved hundreds each semester of college and this was my plan.  This also worked well when I took classes online and therefore did not have easy access to buy books directly from other students:
      1.  Email Prof as soon as you sign up for class to ask for ISBN.
      2.  Search free sites for the ISBN.  I have found books on google books, and my local and/or campus library’s free (with a library card #) online e-books.  If no luck or you like hard copies continue to #3.
      3.  Search Half.com and ebay’s “buy it now” (also add other sites like amazon or shopgoodwill, and even do a generic google search for the ISBN).  I usually do not have the time for the auctions to end and still do media mail.  
      4.  Search campus library’s online card catalog and locate book if possible.  Note if it is reserved or checked out.  You may need to use this book for a few days if shipping is slow via media mail.  Once I had a really slow shipper and had to borrow a friend’s book.

      Note:  For textbooks, make sure you get the US version and match up the ISBN–not the title or cover picture.  I had friends who got the wrong version.  The content was not much different, but the homework problems/assignments were often different, so they could not do the homework without borrowing book from a fiend.

      Also note:  My university did not have a guaranteed buy-back policy.  If you are in a technical major (I picked computer science), they may not buy any books back as the versions change quickly.  If you are in a relatively small major (I picked German) and there is small demand for the books they might not buy them back at all. If you are trying to sell a book back that thousands of others are trying to sell, then be prepared to get next to nothing for it.  I got $1 for a $25+ humanities book in excellent condition :-(

    • Kelley

      I’ve been a member of Paperbackswap for years and often hit up thrift stores for new finds. However, I had not heard about Better World Books. Thanks for letting us know about it! Love that many books cost the price of media mail ($3.99) and have FREE shipping. This site will also pay for you to ship your used books to them! I love it! Have a box of books needing to be given away and now I know the perfect way!