Reading Hobby On A Tight Budget

By Staff

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.