Books on a Budget: Second Hand Books

Generally, I’m rather good at sticking to a budget. The only exception is when it comes to books.

I love buying books.

I’ve gone out in the past to buy some milk from the grocery store and come hope with a few new novels and no milk to be seen….

But lately I’ve been trying really hard to try to stick to my budget. I’m moving house soon and have a lot of expenses associated with that so I’m trying to cut down my spending on everything.

Including books.

One of the best ways so far that I’ve come up with to save whilst still satisfying my need to purchase new reading material – buying second-hand.

In Brisbane last weekend they held another Lifeline Bookfest. The Lifeline Bookfest is a giant second-hand book sale where all the proceeds go to the Lifeline charities.

Look at all the books to choose from!

I manage to attend on Tuesday afternoon and picked myself up a whole stack of books that I had wanted to read and a few cookbooks as well.

Some tips I have for buying second-hand:

1. Go with an open mind

You can never tell what you’ll find when you’re buying at a giant second-hand sale. You may find many books you like or none. But going with a preplanned shopping list is probably not the way to go.

2. Past years bestsellers – this years secondhand treasures

If it’s been a best seller in years gone by then there’s a very good chance that someone will have decided to sell it on. I saw an entire table with over a hundred copies of each of the four Twilight Books on sale. I could have picked up the entire series – good condition too – for around $10. I could have also bought many Dan Brown novels, Harry Potter, The Secret – if it was incredibly popular a few years ago, I saw it. And for only a fraction of the price of buying it new.

3. Same book, Different name…

Sometimes books get sold under different names for the same book and it’s easy to be caught out. If you see a book being sold by an author you love but haven’t heard of it before and you have a phone with internet connectivity then I recommend that you google it or look it up on goodreads to make sure it’s not a book you already own under a different name. I’ve been caught out before when I was buying books for my brother. I knew that he loved a certain author and I found a few books that I didn’t think he had. He did own them just under the names they’re been published by a few years prior.

4. It’s what’s on the inside that matters…

Sometimes second-hand books aren’t in the best condition. But sometimes they look worse than they really are. If a book looks a little worse for wear, open the cover and see how the book inside looks. Does it have all its pages? Can the cover be repaired with just a little bit of clear book covering contact?

Last year I picked up a copy of Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome. It had seen better days – the front cover was falling off – but the book itself was in great condition. I bought some clear book covering contact and covered the book and now it looks fantastic. The book was only 20 cents and the contact that I used (I was using off cuts that I already owned) was probably around 10 cents worth.

I think the main thing to look at with regards to condition is the pages themselves. Are there any missing? Are they moldy or water damaged? If they are then that’s a book that I’d pass on.

5. The diamond in the rough…

Sometimes second-hand book sales manage to hold a whole horde of treasures. If you look hard enough sometimes there are rare books that are out of print or limited editions. Second hand stores (not so much the giant sales but the stores) have been places that I’ve found books that I’d been looking for in regular bookstores and been unable to find. As they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

6. The Golden Rule 

One of my brothers is rather conservative with his money. Not to say that he’s stingy because he isn’t. But he has always been someone who never impulse buys. And he has a saying that whilst it used to annoy me like crazy whenever he’d criticize something I’d buy has always stuck with me.

If you weren’t going to buy it, then you’re not saving a thing

Basically it means that if you see something on sale, it’s still costing you more than you’d be spending anyway because you were never going to buy it in the first place. (I hope I managed to make that make sense)

For me, with regards to buying books, this means that if I’m not going to read a book then I shouldn’t be buying it no matter how cheap it could be. And not just with regards to my finances. If I buy a book then it means that no one else can buy it. I may be unknowingly be taking someone’s next favourite book just so it can still in the dusty recesses of my bookshelves.

7. Plan ahead…

This one is probably just one I need to tell myself. I took the train up to Brisbane the other day and forgot one very important fact: I had to get the train home. Along with everything that I purchased.

So this final tip is remember that whatever you buy – you have to carry. So make sure that if you aren’t parked close to wherever you’re shopping, don’t buy too much.

Or you’re get home and the next day you’re be complaining about back and shoulder pain all day long 😛

I spent $29 and brought home 26 books – most of which were ones that I had on my wish list for a while now but a few ones that just took my fancy when I saw them there. Now I just need to find some place to put them all before I have to move them to my new place next month 😛

The accidental bonus copy of the Prodigal Daughter has already found a home with my neighbour. So I think that counts as good karma too 😛


  1. What an awesome haul! Our library has a little book store inside, and also has a great book sale twice a year, like yours, only smaller. I love coming home with new (to me) treasures!

    • I think that’s so cool that your library has a store inside. Mine doesn’t. I go to the local library that is run by the local city counsel. They never have sales but they donate them to the lifeline charity – which is why a lot of the books I bought all have the library stamp on their inside covers 😛

      • Kate,
        We have one “big box” bookstore here, and no independent bookstores and no used bookstores, with the exception of the library. There is another library bookstore a town over, but they have rented a separate building, so their prices are higher, so I usually just go to my little library bookstore where you can get any hardback for $1, and any paperback for $.50!
        I do miss Texas and their “Half Price Books” stores.

  2. Nice! $29 for 26 books, can’t beat that!

    I should make my way to the lifeline here too – but, maybe I’ll wait til we’ve moved… ha ha ha

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