Building a Family Library on a Budget

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The following is a guest post from Amy of Raising Arrows.

Building a Family Library on a Budget


It started with a box of required reading materials for a myriad of college English classes.  It has become a wall of bookshelves filled to overflowing in the hopes that someday there will be an entire room just for books, complete with an overstuffed leather chair, a Tiffany lamp, and one of those old-fashioned library ladders.  I dream in black and white, of the hardcover and paperback kind.

Buying books can get expensive.  It is not uncommon for brand new hardcover titles to cost upwards of $15.00 or more.  It’s tough to justify a cost like that when you have a family to feed.

But, don’t let the cost of books scare you away from building a family library of your own.  Most of the books in my library were not purchased at cover prices, yet I have an extensive collection of books that feeds the voracious appetites of my family.  Here’s how you can build your family library without spending a fortune:

  • Make a list. Keep a running list of the books you want in your library.  Go over it often.  Carry it in your purse.  The more familiar you are with the books on your Want List, the better able you are to make a purchase when you run across that title.
  • Shop online. Check out Ebay auctions and shops, search, peruse (also an ebay company), or type in keywords or ISBN numbers at for the cheapest prices on the net.  Many of the forums frequented by moms have a Buy/Sell section where you can find good deals on used books.  If you’re a homeschooler check out the great deals from other homeschoolers on or HSLDA’s Curriculum Market
  • Swap online. There are tons of places online where you can swap things.  Besides the sites specifically designed for swapping (like OurSwaps and SwapMamas), you can look to places like Freecycle and NeighBorrow.  One of my favorite sites for free books online is Paper Back Swap where all you need to get a free book are points accumulated from sending off your own unwanted books.
  • Frequent libraries and bookstores. With Wish List in hand, head out regularly to thrift stores to scan their bookshelves.  Go to used book stores where oftentimes you can trade in your used books for credit toward new-to-you titles.  Look for Library sales where they sell off their discarded books for cheap.  Some libraries even have sales year round run by their Friends of the Library program.  A church in my home town holds a used book sale every year where I stock up and save big.
  • Start a Book Fund. It can be as simple as a glass jar on the kitchen counter. If you homeschool, set aside some of your curriculum money to purchase books for your family library.  There are often vendors at the conventions who sell used books at a fraction of the cost of new.  Set a goal and work toward that goal with your book fund.  Perhaps you have a particular book in mind that you just aren’t finding for a reduced price.  Having a book fund from loose change will quickly add up to the price of that book and you’ll never even feel the cost.
  • Host a Book Swap & Shop. Open your home to other moms who are looking to unload unwanted books from their shelves and find some new titles to take home.  Give everyone a section in your living room or dining room to “set up shop” and then let everyone work their way around the room bartering or buying as they please.
  • Offer a Book Wish List to relatives who need gift-giving ideas. Amazon offers the option of a wish list that you can make available to your friends and family who are looking for gifts to give you and your children.  This is a great way to receive some of those books you are longing for and a great way for your relatives to give you something you really want!

I tell my children all the time that readers are leaders.  Having an extensive library of great books proves to them I mean it.  You really can stick to your budget and start your own collection of books.  So, it’s time to start dreaming in black and white with a Tiffany lamp or two!

Amy is the homeschooling mother of 6 precious arrows, with one on the way.  To read more about what life is like managing a larger-than-average household, and to find support for the grieving mother (Amy’s 5th child, Emily, died two years ago at the age of 7 months), visit Amy at her blog, Raising Arrows.


  1. Amanda says

    You can also get books for free! If you want to review books (all you have to do is read them and write a short review and post on your blog and on a retailer’s website), you can get free books for reviewing them from Thomas Nelson at and you can get free books to review from Bethany House publishers at

    Also, you can get free ebooks online at several different places.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Kroger Shopping Trip 02/03/2010: Saved 121! =-.

  2. Amanda says

    I forgot to mention the best part is that both of those publishers publish lots of Christian material!! :)
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Kroger Shopping Trip 02/03/2010: Saved 121! =-.

  3. Diana says

    My favorite swap site is I use it all the time and they trade not only books, but also CDs, DVDs and video games! You can trade an old CD you never listen to for a great new movie or book, for example! I’ve done about 40 trades so far, and have been pleased with the experience each time. Just pay shipping, which you can do online, as well. Just print a mailing label and your card is billed just once per month for all your trades. Just got Grease and The Sound of Music the other day! :)

  4. The Prudent Homemaker says

    I also buy used books at

    We turned our ining room into a library. Some of my online friends asked how big our house is when I said we have a library. It’s all in what you call it and how you use it :) If you line the walls with bookshelves, it’s a library!

    Mine still isn’t how I would like it to eventually look, nor is it the only room with bookshelves, but it’s still a library.

    I also have some homeschool friends who have shared some of their books with us that they had outgrown, so that has helped fill our library shelves as well–for free!

    • Alyssa Francis says

      I think that is brilliant. So many homes nowadays have formal dining rooms that are rarely used. Great way to put it to good use! Plus, how many kids can say they grew up in a house with a library? Very cool. ;)

  5. Shirley says

    This article caught my eye because adding to my personal collection has been a financial challenge. My husband and I have only been married for a year and a half, and we have had our share of financial decisions and upsets. I am normally very frugal when it comes to spending, but I get so tempted to spend a whole paycheck on new books. (I need to read books like fish need water!) Luckily I finally found some solutions including some of the ones you mentioned above. I am excited to have found two local book swapping shops. I have gotten quite a few good finds there since my discovery.

    Thanks for the tips, look forward to seeing more!
    .-= Shirley´s last blog ..Max Lucado’s Fearless – Imagine Your Life Without Fear. =-.

  6. Jay says

    Getting the books is the easy part, what about building the actual library?! Library ladders are a must in your new library, but you can figure out different ways to get inexpensive shelving. I’ve seen many small rooms converted to libraries, but if you have the money, go big!

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