Empty the bookshelves and start filling your wallet. The library's cooler than you think.

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I grew up a book lover. I’d read all the books I could get my hands on in school and had quite a collection at home as well. So it was only natural that when my first kid was born, I wanted him to have a compendium of his own, filled with all the Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton that he could ever want. I even went as far as to scour the internet for out of print books of my youth that I loved dearly and wanted him to love as well.

The downside to all of these books is that they take up a lot of space and a lot of your bank account if you aren’t careful.

By his third birthday, we had run out of room in the bookshelf, as well as on top of the bookshelf. New books now had to be stacked on the floor to the side, or precariously balanced on top of the already precarious tower.

We moved, and I got another bookshelf for our new baby’s room. Not for new books, but to help clear some space on the existing shelves that were so crammed. It helped until my son started receiving the Scholastic Book Club Reader catalogs at school. I was so nostalgic and excited, I couldn’t help myself and bought some new books.

(Obviously this is a bad habit of mine.)

The books kept creeping  — another pile next to his bed, even one ON his bed. It was out of control.

How could I continue to foster this love of reading when I couldn’t fit another book in the house, and didn’t want to get rid of any of our old books because our new baby hadn’t had a chance to enjoy them?

A Free Solution

Enter, the library.

As a devout “Parks and Rec” fan, the idea of the library was comical.

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But for all the jokes, I had been a member of the New York Public Library system, so why not join here in Los Angeles? My biggest concern was that it wouldn’t have the breadth of books, or the tech capabilities to handle e-reading, book lending, or audio selections.

At this point, I had nothing to lose and I had to stop spending on new books. I went to the library, filled out the online form and got my library card.

Not only could I rent books, but also e-books, audio books and even DVDs. It’s like a free Redbox.

My son had discovered the animal section within the kids area and had already picked out four books in the time it took me to get back. I happily checked them out and took them home, knowing they would have to go back in a few weeks.

I have since started working on a book of my own, and have turned to the library as a resource like back in my college days. While I do miss the Dewey Decimal System and the old catalog cards with the stamp telling you when your book has to be back, I am grateful for libraries and all the knowledge and entertainment they have to offer my children as well as myself. I am also grateful that I’m not spending hundreds of dollars on books every few months.

I realized that I had gotten a tad out of control with my spending as well as with my collecting of books. Try not to fall into the same mess I did with these tips:

Use your local library

I promise it’s not outdated like you might think. I prefer actual books, but my husband prefers e-readers — your library should have both options available to you, plus a lot of other media. Use the library for your kids and to also “test out” books to see how much they really like them. If you find yourself checking out the same book over and over, it might be worth purchasing.

Book Swap

Create a book swap with some local families or friends. Gather up a stack of books you’ve read plenty of and are ready to trade for some new text. This allows you to get rid of some of your books while acquiring some new finds. It’s not necessarily clearing space, but it’s giving you some new material without needing more room to house them.

The Book Purge

This can be a tough one, as children grow attached to books even if they’ve outgrown them. And you will find that once they start reading on their own, those young books become a great place to practice sounding out new words and letter combinations and you won’t want to get rid of them. Instead of just taking the books for younger ages, look for the books that have sat on the shelves and were never read. I recently scanned our shelves and found 10 books that we’d either never read, or disliked because of their messaging or poor writing/editing. I put them in a box to donate to a local family shelter, because while we may not have enjoyed them, there are likely others that will.

Sell your books

Books can be a bit easier to part with if you are exchanging them for cash. Books sell best when they are sold in bundles of similar genres or authors. If they are larger children’s books though, they can also be sold individually. Make sure not to overprice them — someone can easily go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy if you aren’t easily parting with it.

Limit your book buys

Don’t just test out books for you kids, test them out for yourself. Set yourself a limit to how much or how many books you can buy in a month. This will help save you cash and shelf space. If you don’t want to part with owning books try Amazon Audible and get two free audible books now!

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Meet the Author

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel


Jessica Patel is an award-winning editor and writer living in Los Angeles. She previously served as deputy editorial director of T Brand Studio at The New York Times and as Senior Editor and Analyst of Bankrate.com.

Budgeting & Saving, Lifestyle

Very Personal Finance

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Article last modified on November 13, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: How To Save Money And Space At The Library - AMP.