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8 creative ways to read more on a budget

"Books are meant to be shared," English teacher Liz Daly tells This is how readers are sharing theirs.

If a book lover's eternal problem is "too many books, too little time," then their second eternal problem is, "too many books, not enough money."

This year, Read With Jenna is encouraging people to build or bolster their reading habit with Streaking With Jenna. The rules are simple: Read every day, and keep track of your days spent reading. Your streak will make you eligible for book giveaways, shoutouts in the newsletter and on the TODAY show, and other opportunities.

Download a printable Streaking With Jenna calendar here.

But if you're reading every day, you might be going through more books than usual. Maybe your wallet can keep up — or maybe, you're looking for resources to help books remain your favorite escape.

As any book lover can tell you, book budgets are often hard to keep — especially with the number of new releases coming out. "I know a lot of people that set book budgets, but I have never met anyone who successfully sticks to it. Myself included," Carrie Deming, BookToker and and owner of the Dog Eared Book of Palmyra, N.Y., tells

Below, we've listed a few tricks for filling your bookshelf without breaking the bank, beyond taking advantage of your local library (though that's a start). With these cheap (and free!) books, you'll be able to stick to your budget — or you may find that you don't need one at all.

Keep up with book deals on social media

Thanks to social media communities like Bookstagram and BookTok, readers have found new ways to gather and share information when it comes to book recommendations and deals.

Amazon, for example, has a continually updated page of Kindle e-book deals. Erika Oppenheimer, creator of the Instagram account @dailyebookdeals, sifts through the extensive list to find the best picks.

Oppenheimer, who began the account in 2020, says e-book sales make it easier to try out books and discover what resonates with you.

“There’s a lower barrier to entry when you’re paying two to five dollars per book than when you’re paying 30 dollars,” Oppenheimer says. “Not everyone wants to spend the time that I spend hunting for deals, so hopefully if people want to connect with the account … it will make their lives easier."

You can set a notification to see her newest posts on Instagram or follow her Amazon storefront, or monitor Book Riot's curated Deals page or sign up for BookBub's e-book deals newsletter for similar e-book snags.

Use your wish list wisely

If you have an e-reader, be patient about when to buy. Anthony Robinson, an avid reader and the creator of astrophotography website Skies & Scopes, details his strategy, which involves keeping a running list of the books you’re interested in reading, then paying attention to when the price drops.  

First, Robinson creates an Amazon Wish List, where he purchases e-books. Then, he periodically sorts the filter from “Price: Low to High.”

“That way, you can then see all your saved books sorted by the cheapest first and those that are currently available as part of daily or monthly deals,” Robinson says. 

Get to know your library's resources

Of course, libraries offer physical copies of books. But now, you can take the library along with you on your phone, computer or e-reader.

Use resources like the Libby app, a digital e-book catalog linked to your library card (search for your library here). Hoopla expands the offerings to include music, movies and TV shows borrowed through your library. Further, your specific library system may have its own method of doling out electronic resources.

If you're not enrolled in a library system, check out Open Library, which allows you to borrow up to 10 digitized versions of books at a time. See what's available here.

Catch up on the classics

When a book is in the public domain, that means its copyright has expired. Copyrights normally expire 70 years after publication, and all books published in the U.S. before 1926 are in the public domain.

So, if you're looking to brush up on the books you might've missed in high school, you can do so at a low price.

Founded in 1971, Project Gutenberg has more than 60,000 free e-book offerings. Other sites to browse for free books are the Internet Archive and Planet eBook, which elegantly lays out downloadable classics.

Look out for pre-owned books

For those who don’t want to return books and instead want to purchase their own to pile up in a “to be read” stack, there are options beyond surfing the sales at your local book store.

It's fun to wander used bookstores and thrift stores. If you're looking for something more targeted, websites like AbeBooks, ThriftBooks, Book Outlet and Better World Books, which donates a book for each one purchased, are worth browsing.

English teacher Liz Daly, who also runs the blog The Lit Lady, is a proponent of stopping by yard sales for inexpensive print books. "People are always trying to lessen their book load through yard sales! I have found treasures, both contemporary and classics, for less than a quarter each," she says.

Organize a book swap, in person or online

Tap into your local community of readers. A book swap is exactly what it sounds like: Invite people to bring books they're finished with, so they can pick up new ones. “People who enjoy reading as a pastime also love connecting with people who enjoy reading as a pastime,” Oppenheimer says.

The idea also translates to online opportunities. Book Mooch is a site that encourages people to keep their libraries in a state of motion. Type in books that you want to give away from your collection. Others will request those books, giving you "points" necessary to request your own. Paperback Swap works similarly.

Walk by your local Little Free Library

They're little, they're free and they're libraries. Little Free Library is a nonprofit organized based in St. Paul, Minn. that encourages people to set up book-sharing boxes guided by the philosophy that people will drop off and pick up books.

Daly is steward of her local Little Free Library. She stocks the structure up with books, which are then taken by members of the community. “People come from all over my city and beyond to use my library," Daly says.

You can find a map of Little Free Libraries near you here. "I recommend visiting a few to find one that has books for your interests," Daly adds.

Join a Buy Nothing group

Many communities have a Buy Nothing group on Facebook, where community members can gift items, including books.

"People in my community are always sharing books this way," Daly says."I have even seen people trade stacks, which I love to see as I truly believe that books are meant to be shared."