The ULTIMATE Budget Reading Guide: How to Fill Your Bookshelves Without Breaking the Bank

Want to hear a not-so-secret secret?

I love books.

I love reading them, flipping through them, turning their pages, writing in them, and collecting them despite my minimalist tendencies. Bookstores are dangerous for me¬†because it’s rare for me to leave without buying at least one. Libraries are safer, but even then I struggle to limit the amount of time I’ll spend picking (too many) books to check out.

Now that I’m a new mom, both my time and my money are limited. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on finding new authors and books. Especially since we want to raise a child who appreciates — and hopefully loves — reading.

I don’t have the time or the money to buy all the books I want for myself and my family. (I mean, we have to eat, ya know?) So I want to share how I fill our bookshelves without breaking the bank.

This post contains affiliate links to help me keep my little blog up and running (and access good books for my family!). Check out my disclosure policy for more details.

Here’s my ultimate budget reading guide:

Amazon Prime

As a family, we’ve decided that $99/year for an Amazon Prime subscription is more than worth it. It gives us free two-day or same-day shipping for most things we purchase, access to Amazon Family (helloooo, 20% off baby goods!), unlimited movie, TV, and music streaming, and TONS of reading benefits, including:

  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is basically like checking out a digital book from the library (only with no due date! woohoo!).
  • Kindle First, which allows you early access to download one FREE new book every month.
  • Prime Reading, which lets you borrow books and magazines from the Prime reading library and read them on your Fire tablet, Kindle, or Kindle apps.

>Try Amazon Prime free for 30 days!<<

Kindle Unlimited

Speaking of Amazon, Kindle Unlimited is a service that lets you read as many books as you want for $9.99/month. Over one million titles are part of the Kindle Unlimited library. It also includes thousands of audiobooks. You can read from any device (I love reading from this) and you can cancel at any time. Try it for free for 30 days to decide if it’s a good fit for you.

BookBub is a free service that sends discounted books directly to your inbox each day. You can browse deals on their website and download ebooks for cheap or free. You can also customize your reading preferences when you sign up so they only send you books from genres that interest you. I have so many books on my Kindle right now that I downloaded for free that I could probably read for the next year without downloading more.


If you have a library card, you can check out ebooks and audiobooks for free from Their mobile app, Libby, also makes it easy to borrow instantly from your mobile device.


Audible is an app that makes it easy to download and listen to audiobooks. It’s a great option if you want something to listen to at work, at the gym, during a long commute, or while taking care of chores around the house. (Also great if you’re breastfeeding a baby!) At $14.95/month it’s not free, but you DO get a free download with your 30-day free trial.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll also get access to Audible Channels for free (which is $60/year otherwise).

PaperbackSwap is an online swapping club where you can swap books with other club members, including paperbacks, hardcovers, audiobooks, and textbooks. Mail your used paperbacks to someone else to get credits that allow you to order books from someone else. You can also purchase credits for a good price. It even has a wish list feature that lets you know when books you want to read become available. You have to pay postage for the books you send, but not the books you receive. Over 1 million books to choose from. *Happy dance.*

BookMooch is similar to Paperback Swap, except instead of being USA-based it’s worldwide. It’s another book swapping site where you can swap books with other members.

Title Trader

Again, is another swapping site, except it’s not limited to books. You can also trade CDs and DVDs. It works internationally and hosts a community forum where you can ask questions or get to know other swappers.

Book of the Month Club

Book of the Month Club is — you probably guessed it — a subscription box that delivers a brand new hardcover book to your door in a fun box each month. You’ll pay $10/month for a membership, but that’s pretty good considering how much you’d pay for a brand new hardcover in a bookstore.


BookCrossing is a unique program in which you leave your book somewhere in the world. Either a stranger will find it, or you can arrange a “controlled release” to another BookCrossing member. It’s a fun idea for those who enjoy more of a scavenger hunt when it comes to finding new reads.

Indie Authors

You can find new books and support indie authors by subscribing to their mailing lists. Most of them will offer you a free book or two just for signing up (here’s mine, for example). You can also peruse Twitter and Instagram using hashtags such as #IndieAuthor, #IndieAuthorsBeSeen, or even things like #KindleBooks, #FreeBooks, or #BookPromo.


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Host a Book Swap

You know how everyone is throwing direct sales parties these days (think jewelry, leggings, makeup, etc.)? Why not arrange a book swap party for your literary friends instead? All you need is some coffee and chocolate (or wine, depending on the time of day) and a few books you’re willing to part with. Get together, enjoy yummy food, and exchange book for book. It’s a fun way to get to know your friends’ book personalities, too!

Used Bookstores

We used to have a local used bookstore where I’d buy paperbacks for as little as $1 apiece. I think the owner was keeping it open as a hobby more than anything else, but it closed a couple of years ago and I’m still disappointed. Thrift shops are also good places to find hidden gems.



You know how you can buy used and/or discounted books on Amazon from independent sellers? Well, don’t forget about eBay. You might have to shop around for the right book at the right price, but a little effort can pay off. (Note: you can sell books here, too.)


I saved this for last, but it’s definitely not least. You can always check out a hefty stack of books at the library. Or, libraries often have paperback shelves where you can buy used books at an excellent price. Definitely worth checking out. There’s nothing better than a fresh library haul! Just make sure to return or renew the books on time.


The ULTIMATE Budget Reading Guide: How to Fill Your Bookshelves Without Breaking the Bank from >> books, book deals, free books, indie authors, personal finance
Photo credit: Maarten Van Den Heuvel via Unsplash

My favorite options? Personally, I love the classic route of checking out books at the library or buying used paperbacks. (There’s just something about holding a book.) But as far as e-reading goes, I’ve downloaded tons of books from BookBub and Amazon. I’ve also found several indie authors on Instagram and downloaded their books for free. I always try to leave reviews for the books I read because reviews are gold to authors — especially indies.

To keep the circle of books going and receive good book karma, keep the books you love and know you’ll revisit, but give all the other ones away. Once you’ve read them, donate them to libraries, schools, local bookstores, thrift shops, or specific families who need or want them. Donate them, have a book swap, or sell them. Keep the circle of literary goodness going so others can benefit from your books instead of letting them sit on the shelf gathering dust for the next twenty years. Don’t let your books be lonely.

Before you go:

Here are a few books I’m loving right now. I got all of them for free or for a very reasonable price. You do not have to spend a fortune to read good books!

What’s your favorite way to find new books and authors? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to join the Ladies in Read community on Pinterest for daily writing tips + inspiration!

The ULTIMATE Budget Reading Guide: How to Fill Your Bookshelves Without Breaking the Bank from >> books, book deals, free books, reading, indie authors, personal finance, writing, tips for writers, publishing

About Meghan

Meghan is a novelist, blogger, and copyeditor fueled by coffee and red lipstick. When she's not typing away you can find her reading, organizing, or watching old sitcoms and superhero movies with her husband, cat, and baby-to-be.

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