Zero Spending

Bookshelves upon bookshelves when we had the painters in.

Overlapping & sagging laminate bookshelves.

Like Susan Hill, the author of Howards End Is on the Landing, I should spend a year reading only books I own.

I like the idea of zero spending.

Well, perhaps an iced coffee here, a paperback there.

Here’s the thing.

In London I got in the habit of using credit cards instead of money.  The relationship of the credit card to money is like the relationship of the e-book to the book.  What’s real and what’s not? Who knows? How many books did I buy?  I tucked my receipts in a folder and decided to calculate it later. Turns out I only spent $400 on books, including shipping.

High five!

But I have continued absent-mindedly to use my cards in the U.S.

I thought I had an instinctive feeling for low spending.

And then I got this month’s bills.  Between Amazon and Barnes and Noble…

If you have Amazon Prime, you know the temptation of shopping at Amazon.  Two-day free shipping.  When I absolutely must have Volume I of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, I order it from Amazon.

There is also the temptation of buying on the Nook.  There you are–you want to read Peyton Place when you have insomnia–so you click on Buy, and you have it.

All right.

I CAN’T spend so much money.

I have to turn off the money-spending thing.

I’m not getting rid of my cards.

There are other options.  I have read a surprising number of books in our huge home library (“Please let’s just open a bookstore,” my husband says), but there are hundreds I haven’t gotten around to.

Then there’s the public library if you’re not too fussy.  Ours is not the best,  but you can check out what I call a “library” read–one of the  latest books that won’t be the latest in six months.

Some people worry about privacy at libraries.  Records of internet searches, etc.  Now that we know about the NSA, who cares?  Well, we do care.   One librarian I know rudely tried to define a friend’s character by the books she checked out. “Mainly mysteries,”  she said scornfully.  (For all she knows, this person Is BUYING most of her books, like us.)

So let’s just say not all librarians have taken a vow of silence.

Some librarians are passionate about civil liberties, others will sell out their patrons.   I wish they were all like the small-town librarian in Alice Hoffman’s novel, The Ice Queen.

The Ames public library is excellent about protecting your privacy: for years they have put the books on reserve in envelopes.

It’s not that I check out anything outlandish.  Right now I have Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, but what if that’s a controversial book?  South American, hm?  Could be, right?

One thing I like very much about my cousin the librarian is that she never reveals what the patrons are reading (except me:  she gets a kick out of posting on Facebook when I reread Villette.   “She is reading the V book again.”).

I plan to limit myself to buying only a book a week for the rest of the summer.

I’m avoiding book reviews and reading the trashy book news instead.

Yes, some of it really IS trashy.

Perhaps if I never read any book reviews or book news…


10 thoughts on “Zero Spending

  1. This was the purpose of my blog when I started. I did very badly last month though. I was home for Dublin Writer’s Festival so I kind of had to buy some books at events, but then went and splurged in a bookshop too. It’s not easy….


  2. I am like you, with ever-increasing piles of books I haven’t read. It’s not so much the cost that’s a problem – most often my books cost no more than £3 a time online and the local charity shop ones can be as cheap as 50p. Space is the real problem over here at the moment…. Good luck with the zero spending challenge!!


  3. (Incidentally, those bookshelves of yours look like *my* kind of shelves – lovely collection of titles!!)


  4. Cailinobac, I’ve never seriously tried to cut back on book-buying before. It will be tough, but a good habit, no? Collecting books (not rare books, but books to read) is part of the fun, so I would never have been able to resist the Dublin Writers’ Festival. Perhaps that’s why my husband never wants to take me to literary festivals…

    Karen, buying used books is always a good thing, and I don’t usually go as wild about new books as I did in London. (That was my vacation money.) But space matters: we’re not living in a library here.:) I weed them periodically, but sometimes find I need the weeded book back. Buying bargains, as you do, is so much fun, especially when you come home with such high-quality books. I would never be able to resist those used bookstores in London.


  5. I had decided to weed out the 100+ boxes of books in the attic (plus the new ones piled up on the floor up there because I’m too lazy to box them) when it got too hot to go up there. I think I brought down about 20 that I know I don’t want to read. But then two weeks ago we went to our bookstore and bought 6 or 7 more and this weekend we came home from the Berkshires with 5, including a Drabble that I had never read. What to do?


  6. I know that feeling. We’ve donated SOOOOOOO many books to the charity book sale and sometimes buy them back because I realize the book is so good I want to read it again. I think five books sounds like the right number to come home from. I must admit I broke the record in London with three boxes. No, we must buy books: there’s no doubt. I just have to cut WAY back for awhile.


  7. We have similar sagging laminate bookshelves, and so many titles on your shelves are on mine as well, but you have far more lovely green-spined Viragos than I do, alas. I took my husband to Barnes and Noble for his birthday on Saturday and we left with two bags. So much for resolutions, it was a birthday!


  8. Gina, two bags! I have to laugh. The bookstores definitely need us.

    Yes, It’s always nice to have the “green” books, and we do manage to keep Viragos together because the covers match. It’s so hard to organize books when there are too many, as there are here. My husband fondly remembers a time when we kept some of them in a garage. And so I try to weed…


  9. Well, there was a half off sale on Criterion DVDs, and i am working toward having all the Powell and Pressburger films before they stop making DVDs, so it was inevitable. So few things worth spending time watching on cable, and I cant justify satellite, nice to have some good films to pop in when the modenr world palls (as it so frequently does!). I am still in mourning for Borders. I buy too many things from Amazon, nice to actually see something in reality befor you buy it!


  10. Oh, I LOVE DVDs and am very tempted by, say, old Bette Davis movies. Our library is a mixed bag with DVDs: they got rid of their videotapes and honestly some of the best movies were on those. I think I actually do have a Barnes and Noble coupon. Hmm, maybe if I but a DVD it doesn’t count as a book? But, no, why can’t I just be a zero spender!


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