Feeds:
Posts
Comments

If you love to read, you know the cost of books can really add up. A tempting new hardback can run $25 or more. It’s a small price to pay for hours of enjoyment — and sometimes, years of memories, a new skill or a new perspective on life. But when times are tight, books are an area where you can trim costs.

Not so cheap

As a writer myself, with writer friends, I find the idea of not supporting authors to be really sad. And yet, in the interest of both money and decluttering, I know all too well that books take up a lot of room — and very few get read again, even for a household of avid readers like ours.

Books are collectible, you say? Perhaps a signed first edition. But my grandmother died with a house full of thousands of books — many of them collected intentionally — and more than 500 are still in my garage, listed online for sale but unsold. And we kept only the best.

I also like to support my wonderful local bookstore. Unfortunately, the nature of expanding information means they very frequently don’t have the title I want — so supporting them means planning ahead and having them order the title, which they happily do.

As a solution, I buy books of friends, and I often buy and have autographed a copy of a book when I attend an author’s reading. This isn’t a huge expenditure; I attend a reading every year or so, sometimes a few times a year. These books are special to me. If a book is not so special (like the reading where the author acted put upon to be there, insulted our city, and then the book wasn’t even good), I resell it.

Cheaper

New books are available at a discount on Amazon.com (where, for instance, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day costs $16.77 instead of the cover price of $27.95). Discounts on bestsellers and classics are available at Barnes & Noble online (where AAA members save an additional 5% and get free shipping) and Borders.

Used books are available online aplenty, and they add the benefit of re-use to that of saving money.

Used books on Amazon are even cheaper than new ones (usually  — but do double check). And Alibris and ABEBooks have millions of used books, from inexpensive paperbacks to valuable collectibles — including textbooks. Do a search online and you’ll find services comparing prices for the book you need. Be sure to check shipping costs for the total cost to receive a book.

Cheapest

Thrift stores typically have a motherlode of books. In our area, prices range from 50 cents for children’s paperbacks to $10 for special volumes. On a half-price day, those prices are cut in half. Also, stores now assign their colored stickers to books, too, and those tags are featured on sale for half off on certain days.

During garage sale season, books can be found even cheaper — sometimes 10 cents each or whatever you can bargain the seller down to. Face it — they’re just glad to get those dusty tomes out of the basement, so your gain is their gain.

Local used book exchanges can be a great deal. My grandfather, who is far cheaper than I, made a science out of getting cheap reads when he and my grandmother traveled the country in their fifth-wheel trailer. He would take a grocery sack of paperbacks to a used bookstore in any location and trade them the sack for a sack full of different books. Grandma didn’t get to pick and choose what she read — but she had a plentiful supply to carry her to their next stop, without cluttering up their tiny portable living space.

Online book swaps serve the same function, but you do get to pick and choose. PaperBackSwap.com currently has over 3 million books available; BookMooch.com has some 500,000 and has ways to share books with charity. The books themselves are free: You list what you have to give away, and then you earn points to claim others’ books. The only cost is postage for shipping. Use the U.S. Postal Service’s “media mail” option to save significantly on shipping costs, although transit will take a bit longer.

Free books

If you like the idea of book swapping with a “random acts of kindness” angle, a nod to “Where’s George,” and a dash of geocaching, check out BookCrossing.com. On this site, you give your book a tracking number, “release” it somewhere in your community, and note on the site where you left it. Other participants can “catch” the book, log it at the site, read it and pass it on.

Many communities have places where books are available for free. Check your work lunchroom, your local coffee shop, sushi restaurant or bar for a discreet stash of books. You can read while you sit, and in some places, you can take a book, leave a book.

Have similar-minded friends over for brunch and a book swap. Everyone can bring books they no longer want and go home with a few good reads, prescreened by friends.

The library is, of course, the queen of free reads (well, funded by your tax dollars). If your library’s collection leaves something to be desired, learn your way around Interlibrary Loan. Even in rural areas with small libraries, readers can access the world’s collections this way.

And I just found this great service — if you’ve always wanted to read War and Peace, but you just never found the room on your nightstand, you can now do so, one day at a time. DailyLit.com will deliver a manageable chunk of a book to your e-mail every day. In just 663 installments, you’ll be done with War and Peace – and you can read it guilt- and back-pain free on your smart phone while waiting for the kids at soccer, or have it arrive for a fast pick-me-up at work in the afternoon.

What have I missed?

What are your secrets for finding great values on books?

Spring is here, and it’s a great time for all of us to create backyard replicas of those classic springtime images of clean clothes whipping dry on a clothesline.

(Why is there no ACTUAL image today? I tried, but the camera is not cooperating.)

Anyway … as you very likely know, hanging clothes out to dry has many benefits:

  • Uses natural solar and wind energy to dry clothes instead of electricity, natural gas or propane.
  • Adds that fresh, outdoor smell.
  • Does light sanitizing from the sun’s rays.
  • Saves $70-$80 per year if you can hang out laundry for 7 months (compared to using an electric dryer).
  • Eliminates 1,500 pounds of carbon emissions if you do it 7 months a year.
  • Gives you a little bit of exercise and a chance to get outside.

If you haven’t hung out clothes before — or haven’t done it for years — here’s a primer on how to make it enjoyable:

  1. Launder clothes the night before (if your climate doesn’t cause them to mildew by morning) or at the crack of dawn, then get out and hang up the clothes in the morning. I guarantee it will be one of the best parts of your day. Take them down in the evening for a few minutes’ respite. Breathe the fresh air, enjoy the sun pouring vitamin-D-generators into your skin, listen to birds, and be happy you are not stuck in traffic, sitting behind a computer, listening to babies cry or whatever comprises much of your time.
  2. Make it easy. Get the tools you need. Set up a clothesline (a traditional line, a retractable strung between home and garage, a line across your patio or a revolving “umbrella” clothesline).
  3. Get enough clothespins. The wooden ones are more eco-friendly and more lasting. Find them at dollar stores, large Asian markets like Har-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc. Put them in a hanging basket (even a milk jug cut out for access) to easily reach them.
  4. Save your back by elevating the basket. I put my basket on an upturned large flowerpot next to my umbrella clothesline. My former neighbors had put wheels on a basket so it rolled along their line.
  5. Fight wrinkles. Many garments — like linen — come out less wrinkled on the line, especially if it’s breezy. Give woven cotton garments a good shake (or three) before hanging to shake out wrinkles. Take a look after hanging to make sure a cuff isn’t turned up — it will dry that way if it is. For extra wrinkly garments, or “wrinkle-resistant” clothes that wrinkle on the line, throw them in the dryer for a few minutes while damp to get out wrinkles. If you’ve washed the garments several times, they should be fairly colorfast when they are nearly dry, and all colors can go in one load to conserve energy.
  6. Crowd synthetics. It’s not mandatory! But if you are running out of clothesline, remember that 100% polyester and polar fleece dry very rapidly and without wrinkles. In a pinch, I hang my daughter’s fleece PJs by one clothespin and crammed together — and they still dry faster than other clothes.
  7. Simplify socks. I pull socks out of the load as I remove it from the washer (or hang up the load and leave socks in the basket). Then I drape them over a folding rack instead of hanging them on the line. Somehow, working a clothespin onto every single sock just ups the annoying factor a little too far.
  8. Flip shirts over. I hang shirts upside down (from the hem) to minimize wrinkles and ensure that if there are any weird nipply things from the clothespins, they are at the hem instead of the shoulders. (There’s nothing like glancing in the mirror at lunchtime only to see that you have a knob of fabric sticking up from your shoulder.) Or, hang clothing on hangers — but for the broad- or narrow-shouldered among us, double check to be sure the shoulders lie smoothly on the hangers. For button-placket shirts, I hang the shirt upside down with a clothespin at each side hem. Then I lap the plackets over each other and clip the center, too.

If you have a virtual stack of digital photos waiting to be put in albums, scratch that project off your list this weekend with some good offers on photo books from Shutterfly and MyPublisher.

  • At Shutterfly, you can get one 8×8 photobook FREE ($29.99 value) and receive 20% off additional photobooks. Use code PHOTOBOOKS. This offer ends Tuesday, March 10, 2009.
  • MyPublisher is offering special deals to Costco members through Monday, March 9, 2009. Get 45% off on orders over $100 (perfect if you have a few years of photos piled up), 25% off orders over $50, and 20% off orders under $50. Savings will be automatically applied at checkout. Enter their site here or through Costco.com.

I haven’t used Shutterfly’s service, but I did have good luck with MyPublisher around the holidays.

Ladies and gentlemen, grab your wrenches …

The EPA has announced “Fix a Leak Week” in mid-March. It’s the perfect time to save water by fixing those household leaks. You’ll also prevent home damage, avoid cleaning those nasty hard-water stains, and feel good about the environment — and maybe save a few pennies.

The EPA site says:

Did you know that an American home can waste, on average, 11,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks? Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year.

Does it matter?

Yes!

When I wrote about hiring a plumber to fix a leak a couple of years ago, I noted that one leak in my laundry sink dripped out 8 gallons of water a day.

Since that time, I’ve fixed a j-bend pipe under a bathroom sink (would have been easy as pie except that it was a pedestal sink whose pedestal was in the way) and fixed a leaky toilet. Then I replaced my other bathroom sink myself. All in all, I figure I’ve saved $700 in labor — and countless drip, drip, drips.

My “fix a leak” projects

I don’t feel too bad about my current leaks, because they are fixable manually. That is to say, I hear the “drip, drip” and run in and tighten the faucets or wiggle the valve to make it stop. But the projects I’ve been postponing include:

  • Replacing a washer in the hot-water faucet in the upstairs shower.
  • Replacing a washer in the hot-water faucet in the downstairs shower.
  • Replacing the ballcock assembly in the downstairs toilet.

These should be a snap, because I’ve even already bought the parts (now if I can find them …). Famous last words.

Do you have a leak you can fix?

What do you do when you get that final dial tone or your screen goes blank for good? Hopefully, you’ll recycle any piece of electronic equipment. Here’s why — PC Magazine reports:

Consumer electronics—including TVs, computers, peripherals, audio equipment, and phones—make up almost 2 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This percentage may seem small and inconsequential, but the quantity of electronic waste is steadily rising.

In fact, the EPA estimates that the number of obsolete consumer electronics sold between 1980 and 2007 is 235 million; a total weight of 2.25 million tons. Where are these 235 million units now? Eighteen percent of these products were collected for recycling; the rest are, unfortunately, sitting in landfills. Toxins (lead, mercury, flame retardants, and the like) from these electronics can seep into the soil and ground water, posing serious health and environmental risks.

In Denver — March 7, 2009

Denver-area residents, a reader notified me that LG is sponsoring electronics recycling bashes all around the metro area this weekend! You can drop off your unwanted computers, phones, TVs, VCRs, and much more for FREE recycling on Saturday, March 7. Check out all the information here.

Other electronics recycling resources

Not in Colorado or not ready to give up the VCR this weekend?

On May 11, the U.S. Postal Service will increase the cost of mailing a first-class letter to 44 cents, two cents more than the current 42 cents.

If you use 10 stamps a month, this increase will cost you $4.80 more a year.

Save a few dollars on this year’s postage:

  • Purchase “forever stamps” (pictured at right) now. Buy a roll of 100 and you’ll pay 42 cents for stamps that you can use for the 44-cent first-class mailing cost later this year.
  • Go online to credit card and loan providers and sign up for e-pay. Enter your bank account information, confirm some security information, and then arrange to transfer funds online. With most lenders, you can either pay automatically (for instance, have the full balance paid automatically each month) or arrange a specific payment on a month-by-month basis.
  • Have bills paid automatically. Check with your credit card company, bank and/or vendors to see if you can be billed automatically. For instance, my gym and cable company charge a credit card automatically. I get points toward a cash-back rebate, and only have one bill to pay. My mortgage, insurance and utility bills are automatically withdrawn from my checking account on a certain day each month. Note: This is also a good way to hang onto a credit card that you’re concerned might be closed in this economic climate. Have one bill — such as cable — charged to the credit card, then pay it every month.

How else do you save on postage?

My daughter’s wonderful Brownie leader has helped the girls choose to focus on a green theme for troop activities this year.

A couple of weeks ago, they completed their first project for their “wearable art” experience. Mlle. Cheap chose to focus on a composting message featuring some wildlife:

The mother horse is admonishing her child to compost the apple core she dropped. Mr. Bald Eagle implores the horse, “Do it for my sake.” I’m so proud.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers