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Buying Books on A Budget

by Karl Mabutas

There I was, walking past shelf after shelf, my heart threatening to jump off my chest, when suddenly… Oh my! The book I have been looking for so long is finally in front of me! All these months I have tried reaching out for you but you were never there. Now, the time is right for us to be together. Just let me check my wallet firs—Oh f—!

Stated above is my current book situation in a nutshell (to drag it out would only induce more pain). Being a college student on a budget means wants cannot be fully satisfied, especially for us poor bibliophiles since books can be quite expensive. So even when your heart and mind say, “Yes, it’s a good book! Grab it, buy it and stop talking to yourself because you’re starting to go nuts!,” your budget maintains a firm “No! Just keep talking to yourself and be nuts forever!” *evil laugh*

For those of you who share my sentiments, I’m here for you. It’s natural to freak out over your book budget because, well, how can you not when your most awaited book is right at your fingertips but the price makes it feel as if you’re paying your entire college tuition fee? So here are things you might want to consider when buying books on a college budget:


Acceptance is the first step: Yes, you can’t afford the book, but only at the moment. Trust me when I say that you will feel guilty buying a new book when you exceed your limit. It’s hard keeping track of your daily budget because it feels like every move you make, even simply breathing, will cost you money, so you have got to exercise restraint.

Instead, what I do is “force” myself to resist the temptation and think to myself, “The next time I see you, you will end up in my bookshelf forever and always!” Just take Robert Frost’s poem:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

(Especially in the case of one’s budget… yaaas #poet)


I know the feeling of seeing a shiny new book and instantly needing it in your life. So, let me say this straight: disregard newly released books. It’s difficult to stay updated with what’s “hot off the press” when you’re living on a shoestring. Besides, book prices eventually get lower after a few months (or, okay, years more likely). At some point in the future, you will probably see the book of your liking at a bargain shop and it will be affordable then and definitely worth the wait!


Yes, you heard me right. You. just. have. to. If you think hardcovers will do you any good, you will realize soon after you start college that hardbound books take up too much space and are not at all handy. You should also keep in mind those people who borrow books and return them in a 50/50 state (e.g., with pages just barely hanging on to the spine). Do you really want to spend that much money on something your roommate will use as a cup holder? And you know what some people say, “Hardcovers are for show-offs!” (Just kidding, of course, they aren’t. But it’s better to buy a secondhand copy and make it a collector’s item instead. Your wallet won’t complain as much.)


This has worked for me for a couple of months now. Book sales get me exploring through every shelf, and help me find the titles I have long been searching for. For instance, I managed to snag Night Film by Marisha Pessl and Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for less than $14 total, and they were all brand new! Book fairs are also a good place to empty your pockets and fill them with new reads.


Seriously though, don’t spend on books when you really have nothing more to spare for yourself. Sacrificing meals just to be able to buy that new Rainbow Rowell novel? As Ron Weasley once said, you need to sort out your priorities. Remember—even when they have feelings with each filling, books will always be just books, pieces of paper that will one day wither and no longer serve a purpose. *sob*

But if you do give in to temptation and bust your budget, know that you can always sell your book… after you’re done reading it, of course! We are, after all, organisms that need sustenance to survive, and you cannot live a healthy college life if food was never your top priority (yep, food trumps even education).

(Oh, and another tip: Collect your aguinaldos (a fiscal yuletide present) for Christmas and never waste a chance to books! Or other stuff… But mostly books!)

After all that’s said and done, enjoy the moment when you do get to buy a new book. Savor the words and hold the stories close to your heart. In the end, all the waiting and saving up will be worth it. ☁


One response to “Buying Books on A Budget”

  1. […] in reading what I have worked on during the months that I’m cramming for the college duties, here it is (some parts may have been polished by the editorial staff of this site. But hey, it’s still […]


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