10 Ways to Totally Rock a Book Buying Ban

We’ve all been there. We’ve all reached the breaking point, when a little voice whispers in your ear, “Do your really need that book? Can you actually afford to keep buying books and not read them?” You swipe your card, you pay your cash, you hit “Submit order” and banish the little voice, but it creeps in just the same…

Watershed moment: Realizing you need to do a book buying ban

Have you spent way too much on books lately? Are your shelves overflowing with books you haven’t read? Friend and fellow reader, join me on a book buying ban. I can no longer afford to keep buying books. This winter I realized that I really need to reign it in and do a book buying ban. First of all, I cannot afford to spend money on more books. I just can’t. Second, I have way too many books already, and I just know that there are some on my shelves that could become new favorites. My instincts are usually pretty good for purchasing things I might like, and I bet yours are, too. Third, my social anxiety is loosening up (as is my phobia of leaving the house), so I’ve been checking out some awesome libraries nearby and really enjoying it.

All of the above are good reasons to take the next month off from buying books. Are you considering a book ban, too? Check out these 10 ways to totally rock a book buying ban, stop buying books, and save some money (for a lot of us, save a ton of money).

  1. Start with a reasonable timeline

It’s tempting to want to go a whole year without buying books, but you’re setting yourself up for failure if you purchase something you’ve been eyeing three weeks in. Try a smaller challenge and work yourself up to a longer timeline. For example, say that you’ll go a week, then two weeks, then a month without buying books. I’m starting off with a month.

  1. Find an accountability buddy (this could be the world)

If you’re a bookish person, chances are you surround yourself with bookish friends, whether in person or friends you know online. One of the best ways to ban yourself from buying books is to buddy up with a friend who is also restraining from purchasing something. Even if your friend isn’t a book-buying addict like you, he or she might need to stop buying so many DVDs or so clothes. Partnering up with someone and checking in daily will give you both motivation and will make it harder to fail. You can also chronicle your epic journey online, through a post a day or a post a week about how you are doing. Ask for moral support, and for your friends and the Internet in general to cheer you on.

  1. Build a super shelf—strategically

I have this deliciously amazing bookshelf where I keep my “Currently Reading” and “To Be Read” shelves…it’s literally a physical manifestation of my Goodreads shelves. Pretty great! So one thing I recommend doing is challenging yourself to read through a shelf. Pick a few books (you don’t have to pack them all in) and commit to reading your way through it. Choose a selection of genres so you don’t get bored. Better still, make sure you add library books to the mix plus books you’ve had for ages. Don’t put too much thought into your selection–just go on instinct.

  1. Keep track of all the money you’re saving

Every time you want to buy a book but don’t, add that to a spreadsheet so you can tally up how much money you’re saving. My goal is to not spend a lot of money and save it, but you can also get yourself a non-book reward, like that purse you’ve wanted for a while now or some new art supplies from the craft store or even that journal you’ve been eyeing.

  1. Do mini reading marathons

Like you need another excuse to read, right? But what if reading books you already own or borrowed for 24 hours straight or 48 hours would help you finish a book quickly so you can know that sense of accomplishment? The KonMari method of de-cluttering says you should go at cleaning and decluttering intensely all at once rather than doing the I’ll take one thing each day and get rid of it. Marie Kondo says that by doing this you don’t get to see the benefits of going at something with all your effort, so you never know what it looks like if you spend all your energy on something and clean up. The same can be said for books. If you do a mini marathon you can finish a book or two and really see the results of your efforts when you stop buying books and only read those that you borrow or are gifted.

  1. Go to the library. As much as possible. Maybe even every day.

When I don’t go to the library and actually stand inside, run my fingers over spines, and pick up free books, I tend to buy more. This can be problematic if you’ve got social anxiety like I do and never want to leave your house. But there’s an energy I get from just being in a library and soaking up the reader’s advisory shelves (e.g. world literature for vacation season), the new books shelves, the ability to check out an arms’ load of books. It’s a kind of high you only get from being in a building full of free books. That’s one of my secret weapons for book buying bans: going to the library and stuffing books into your tote knowing you can get them for free. So I say go to the library as much as you can, maybe even every day, maybe even doing a BINGO and going to different ones in your county. This is a powerful way to survive a book buying ban.

  1. Limit your time on bookish websites (avoid Goodreads at all costs), blogs, and Tumblr

This is a big one. When you’re doing a book buying ban, stay the hell away from Goodreads, bookish Tumblrs, book blogs (even this one!), and other book websites. The temptation is just too strong to find a book you want to read and impulse buy it. This is one of the reasons why I like nonfiction books as a fiction reader–it gets me outside my usual routine and lets me break up the routine. So, in that spirit, watch some movies. Read some TV blogs. Spend time on your favorite fan websites (like Doctor Who meme sites) read some fan fiction, work on your art, cook/bake, or maybe even get out of the house–garden,  go for a walk, try out a restaurant…you know what I’m saying. Do not go to bookish websites during your book buying ban.

  1. Personalize your books and make them your own

One way to love your books even more is by writing marginalia and marking up your books. So take out a pencil or pen and underline, write questions in the margins, note what you love or hate. Some people do this with the update feature on Goodreads, where you can update your progress and make a note–at page 245 you note you’re feeling, “I cannot believe how much I love this book boyfriend” etc. This is one way you can totally “own” your owned books.

  1. Swap books with a friend or two over a bookish dinner party or brunch

If you have bookish friends, you can swap books at a fancy dinner party or brunch. You could do a blind date with a book, too, and just wrap the book up in wrapping paper or brown paper or even the comics and make it a gifting event. This way everyone gets something new to read, and you can swap among yourselves until everyone gets something fresh and interesting.

  1. Request books like a ninja

Of course one of the greatest things about Amazon is two-day or even one-day shipping. But did you know that most libraries can get you your hold requests in two business days or less? Amazon has really cut back on two-day shipping availability in my area, so often it’s easier just to request a hold. If you’re interested in a topic, request away. For my county there’s a 50 item hold limit at one time, but I’ve never reached that point. I’ve found this to be especially helpful during graphic novel and comic binges or when I’m studying a genre in focus. Usually all you have to do is go to an item’s record in the online catalog and “Request” it. For assistance as your circulation librarian or any other librarian or library fanatic. They’ll be glad to show you the power of “two day” shipping, library style.


Those are the strategies I will use to survive my book buying ban next month. I invite you to join me on a book buying ban, this week, this month, this year.

Are you doing a book buying ban or planning one? Which of the strategies above do you think will help you survive a book buying ban? What ones do you have to add? Leave a comment below and fill us in.

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  1. Liz

    Darn, why didn’t I see this post in February? I started my book-buying-ban January 1st, and made it until last weekend (ebooks didn’t count for me, as the issue isn’t money but SPACE!) without buying any. And then I bought 5 within 24 hours. Oops.

    • Sarah

      I know exactly what you mean! I have been on a library-book-only kick lately, but then something came out that I felt like I had to read right away (“All the Missing Girls” by Megan Miranda—supposed to be one of the “it” thrillers of the summer) and I broke down and bought it. July is going to be really difficult because there are so many great books coming out. You should still congratulate yourself on any book buying ban at all! I know how hard it can be, so kudos for making it this far. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, Liz!


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