I love books and the written word, that’s pretty much a given, but a very very long time ago I developed the compulsion to own all the books. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it is a very slight one. Years upon years ago when I started working in my mid-teens I developed a habit of making physical and online visits to book retailers every two weeks, like clockwork…well a clock that coincided perfectly with payday. I’d trot into Chapters/Indigo, the biggest book retailer in Canada, giddy as can be and outfitted in my comfy, practical sneakers because I KNEW I was going to be in the store for hours. I perused almost every row and picked up numerous books, not only those I wanted to buy during that visit but also to compile lists of books that I would buy at a later date. I occasionally still find these lists in random places when I visit my mother’s house.
I have absolutely no problem with how I used to approach book buying, which was to spend all my spare money on books. After all the bills, essential savings, groceries, and miscellaneous things were financially taken care of I spent ALL my leftover money on books e-v-e-r-y paycheck! Now in theory there is absolutely nothing wrong with this and I would still be practicing this behaviour to this day with absolutely no qualms. But as life would have it, about a year and a half ago I had to drastically revamp my approach to buying/acquiring books because I had to begin intense savings for some upcoming life events. Initially I was petrified and devastated at the thought of not being able to buy books whenever I pleased, having to figure out a way to change the way that I had been buying books for so many years, and having less money at my disposal to spend on books. After some much needed mourning and internal tears for all my children (books, mangas, comics, graphic novels) that wouldn’t be able to have any new friends, siblings or cousins anytime soon…I began the torturous journey!
I was well aware of the fact that I had absolutely no willpower when it came to denying myself of buying books. So I thought that that should be where I started, developing some much needed willpower to make this work. After about two month of denying myself of all things I perceived to be a temptation-visits to book stores, promotional emails from book sellers, recommendations from Booktube and Goodreads, upcoming new releases-and vehemently ignoring the gaps for sequels on my shelves…I deluded myself into believing that I was “cured” and had developed willpower. What I had actually done was given myself a false sense of having a strong will, because denial of something does not equate to having given myself any of the tools I would need to actually change my age old habits when I returned to the “tempting” situations listed above. So, of course as soon as I returned I caved and spent money that was not intended for book shopping. Safe to say my attempt at honing and developing the elusive skill “willpower” was a bust.
2. Identifying my weak spots and patterns of overspending
a) I like books that I purchase/acquire to be in perfect condition.
b) I’m a sucker for reward systems.
c) I’m also a sucker for promotions where you receive additional (5x or 10x) points on aforementioned rewards system.
d) I like to be able to easily and quickly return/exchange merchandise.
My supposed failure made me feel like garbage, but it helped me to realize that I was approaching this process wrong. Instead of trying to outright stop buying books for a set period of time or trying to not spend money on books when I “shouldn’t” be…I would need to find a better way of getting away with buying books without breaking the bank, so to speak. For as long as I can remember I have preferred to buy books from Chapters/Indigo because of habits a) through d), which are listed above. I wasn’t ready to change that about myself, ESPECIALLY not having my books be in as good of condition as possible. Another weak spot for me is that I absolutely love the reward points system at Chapters/Indigo and have been collecting points on their PlumRewards program since 2011 and before that I had an iRewards card with them too. Critically assessing my previous book purchasing habits I was able to be absolutely honest with myself about the fact that I just didn’t want to save money on books by the more obvious methods such as buying books at thrift stores, used book stores or remaindered online book stores (where it is expensive to return items that were not in satisfactory condition when I received them).
3. Getting Creative
There are a few different things that I have done that have worked for me for over a year now that allow me to buy books from my preferred retailer and that leave me guilt free. The first great thing is effectively utilizing gift cards and maximizing on the potential that they can provide. Chapters/Indigo allows you in-store to start a gift card with any amount. What I chose to do was initially put $10 on a gift card and add money to it in store whenever I have some money to spare. I then allow it to accumulate so that when there is an amazing deal or a good promotion that I would like to take advantage of I can do so without having to come up with the money on the spot or be tempted to spend money that I shouldn’t be spending on books. Another great advantage is that most book retailers (even those that sell mainly remaindered books i.e. BookOutlet) allow you to purchase giftcards online in increments as small as $5. You can buy these for yourself to use at a later time when there is something that you “must have”. You can also request that relatives, friends, and co-workers give you a gift card for holidays, gift exchanges, special occasions and birthdays. Then just accumulate them for times when you want to purchase books. Those have been the two most effective things that I have adopted into my book buying routine in regards to reducing the financial strain of purchasing books.
Another great approach that I have taken to book buying is prioritizing the items that I want to buy. Many book retailers provide their patrons the option on their website to create wish lists and/or gift lists. In there I organize the books I want by novels, mangas, and graphic novels. I also have lists set up for when the next rewards program promotion will occur and lists for sequels and new releases.
I love the fact that I am able to still buy books while being on an incredibly tight and restraining budget. I found out the ways that work best for me and that’s an amazing feeling. So much of my identity since childhood has revolved around books and reading. I’ve always been known as the Unicorn who always has a new book in their hoof and I think I would be miserable if I hadn’t found an efficient way to be able to continue to buy books. Unfortunately, for me, I won’t be able to return to my previous habits anytime in the near future, but at least I don’t have to feel too deprived. I hope this post will also be helpful to anyone who may be trying to change their book purchasing habits. If you are not one of us poor souls, enjoy buying books at your hearts content and as long as you are not causing any harm to yourself or others with your book buying addiction…just tell all the nay-sayers to go unicorn themselves lol. Happy Reading!