Why I Love to (and Will Always) Buy Books

January 27, 2012

Earlier this week, Melissa wrote a great post about defining the grey area between needs and wants. As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to write something similar. I think the fact that my first reaction to her post was wanting to write a post of my own is proof that this is where personal finance gets really personal.

My passion for reading goes way, way back.  Thanks to Mom for reading to Baby Cait, I was reading on my own at the age of 3. At age 5, I catalogued all of my books and loaned them out to the kids in my cul-de-sac. (Seriously. I still have some of the books. I wrote “Cait – Book #” on the inside cover, so I could keep track of who borrowed what.) Since then, my passion for buying, reading and giving books has grown to become one of my favourite hobbies.

When other kids were going to dance classes or playing on sports teams, I was reading. And I couldn’t be more thankful that my family was willing to support this hobby. I have vivid memories of my aunt taking me to bookstores and libraries on the weekends, and me coming home with stacks of new stories. Sweet Valley Twin books almost weren’t worth purchasing, because I would finish them in just a few hours. Nancy Drew and I were inseparable. R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series was another favourite of mine. And don’t even get me started on how much I loved The Babysitter’s Club. I enjoyed classic children’s novels, as well, and one of my favourite books to this day is The Giver. (I just gave a new copy of it to Baby Bro for Christmas, because I want someone else to enjoy it as much as I did.)

While I can’t say that I am a collector of good books, I love the feeling I get when I stand in front of my bookshelf. Like I’m just a short reach away from diving deep into a new world. And it’s up to me if I want that new world to be happy, sad or dramatic, or if I want to read classic words written by authors so brilliant you cannot help but fantasize where they were sitting when they were writing them.

Building a library has always come easy for me. I remember constantly re-organizing my books as a child, switching between putting them in order of the colours of a rainbow to, finally the more grownup version, the author’s last names. Today, I have books I’ve read only once, more that I’ve read a few times, and a stack I haven’t had the chance to turn a single page of. And, believe it or not, I still have my entire collection of Sweet Valley books!

Now that I’ve romanticized my love of books for you, it’s time to move onto what this post is really about. Is my book buying habit a need or a want? Welcome to my grey area. I know that reading is a hobby and, therefore, buying books is a want. But when a hobby brings you joy, I think it’s worth every penny.

One of my best friends always says, “you only live once, and the money’s not going with you.” While I wouldn’t take that as advice to go out and blow your budget, it’s true that you will only get a certain number of years to enjoy the money you make. Building my library makes me happy. Sharing my books with friends makes me happy. And you’d better believe I’ll be sharing this hobby with my future children.

Do you have a want that you consider a need?

  • bibliopirate January 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    If you have to feed a vice, you could do worse than feeding a book addiction.

  • littlemissmoneybags January 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for keeping me in a job! :)

    Books are definitely one of my want-needs, and I think I’d put high-speed internet in that category, too. I would cut a lot of things out of my budget before I’d cut that.

  • beckyday6 January 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Well said, I couldn’t agree more. :) I too love staring at my bookshelf, I could stare at it for hours if no one bothered me. If I am feeling scared, anxious or nervous about anything, I just go back to my room and stare at the books on my bookshelf, and it all just washes away.
    Books are definitely a need for me, I don’t think I could stay sane without them! :)

  • cellenbogen January 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I prefer to buy books as well. I want to read them on my schedule and sometimes write in them. And sometimes get chocolate or spaghetti sauce on them.

  • deenadollars January 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I have always been obsessed with books as well. As I found minimalism, my collection of books (hundreds of wonderful titles that had survived many, many moves with me) was the hardest to part with. My collection is down to about 30 books now, most of which are textbooks from the last few quarters that I have not re-sold yet. I made a spreadsheet of all the books I sold that I really loved, telling myself that I can always get another copy or check them out of a library in the future. I feel you on how personal one’s book collection is – I wouldn’t try to tell you what to do about purchasing books. For me, it definitely wasn’t a budgetary thing so much as a wanting-to-be-lighter thing, if that makes any sense.

    • Cait January 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Makes perfect sense. :)

  • eemusings January 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Food is a need. Good food is not a need. I like good food, however.

  • melissaawilson January 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm


    I read all of those!! I had dozens, too! My mom got rid of them all when I was 10 or 12 or so, and I wish she hadn’t! (She made some sort of rational argument about how I had to make room for all of my NEW books.) I read recently that the Babysitters Club books are being updated for a new audience, replacing Claudia’s second line with a cell phone and stuff, and now I wish I had all my old ones! I actually occasionally consider buying an entire lot of them on eBay (Sweet Valley, too) just so I can have to pass down to my own kids one day.

    Anyway, nostalgia over. But you basically just described my whole childhood. I read all of those books. And I LOVE the Giver!

    I really do love owning books, which is why it falls into such a gray area for me. I like reading them in my own time, and being able to survey my library and loan them out to friends, and all that. I’m definitely trying hard to make better use of the library, just to keep my costs down, but this post has definitely inspired me to not sweat it at all if I do buy a book or two. (Actually…I bought three just yesterday. But they were used!)

    • Cait January 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      When I was a kid, borrowing books from the library was simple because I could read the stack I had borrowed in just a few days. Today, however, it sometimes takes me a month to read a book, simply because I don’t have the time. I cannot wait to finish school in July, so I can start reading for pleasure again. I always feel guilty, when I know I have homework to do…

  • Melissa January 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    p.s. That comment above was from Melissa from BrokeTO, by the way. I have too many accounts!

    • Cait January 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      I know. Recognized the last name. ;)

      • Melissa January 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm

        There are just too many Melissas out there! :)

  • Insomniac Lab Rat January 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I’ve always been more of a book borrower than buyer (I was fortunate to be able to go to the public library every weekend growing up, plus the school library), but I did get books, or bookstore gift cards, as gifts quite a lot as a kid.

    I hated Goosebumps (I was a scaredy-cat!), but liked Sweet Valley High…and I’m pretty sure my mom still has every Babysitter’s Club book ever published somewhere in her house, unless she ever got around to donating or selling them. And I love, love, love the Giver.

    Now, I don’t make as much time to read as I would like. Reading has become a want for me, instead of a need, but I’ve been trying to spend a little more time on it, and I’m willing to buy books rather than borrow them (sometimes).

    • Cait January 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I love how many commenters enjoyed the Giver as well! Such a classic novel.

      I remember borrowing books from public and school libraries, as well, but is it ridiculous if I say I just don’t have the time for that right now? Hmm.

  • MaldivianFinanceBlog January 28, 2012 at 3:27 am

    A good book is better than well anything else. I have lot of books and recently started selling them on cheaper price to locals so that I can buy new books without spending too much from my pocket. But every time someone offers to buy a book, it feels like I am giving away a part of me.

    I love books and wish have enough time to read.

    • Cait January 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      I hope you find more time to read, in the future. :)

  • Katie January 28, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I used to be a book buyer. I’ve written before that I associated my book collection with who I was. They were part of me, and so I couldn’t let them go. The difference between us, however, is that I hated loaning out my stuff. I remember a distant relative (so distant we had never met) was in the hospital when I was 15, and my grandmother had told her about my Dean Koontz books. Mamaw came to borrow some from me for this person I had never met, and I wrote my full name, address, and phone number inside. If my best friend wanted to borrow one, sure, but I was so afraid I’d never see my books again if I let them out of my sight. I also don’t read books more than once. Books are so time-consuming – you can’t do anything else while reading them. I’ve started reading books I really enjoyed again after reading them initially years prior, and I stopped halfway through when I remembered what happened at the end.

    With those things in mind – the fact that I prefer not to loan books out unless to close friends/family and that I don’t read anything more than once – I was in the perfect position to sell all of my books and become a reader of library books. It was hard to do, but now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Bridget January 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I have a similar affection for books (and I loved the Goosebumps series growing up) but I gave up most of mine. I probably only own about 2 dozen now — once over 300, but I sold/gave them all away during a minimalist binge. Now I just take books out from the library. Occasionally I buy some through the Kindle app on my macbook and iphone, but I find it annoying to read to read on the screen (which makes me want to buy a kindle! they are so awesome!)

    For needs vs. wants, I struggle a lot with many things. Mostly food I think. I mean, I need food, but I don’t need sushi or avocados etc. Anything that’s imported or expensive makes me feel super guilty.

    • Cait January 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      EEMusings made the same comment re: good food. But how expensive are avocados in AB? I would hardly call those expensive here in BC (usually $1.99 each). Plus, they contain some of the best fats you can eat. Don’t feel guilty over those. :)

  • addvodka January 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    OMG. You’re my soul sister. I LOVED all of those books. Babysitters little sister? I read those when I was 5. My kindergarten teacher laughed at me because she thought it was cute that I was “pretending” to read a chapter book at 5, but she made me prove it to her that I was reading by picking out a random book.

    I love reading. I hate school because it takes away time from my personal reading. When I was a wee little Daisy, I would walk and read. My mom was always worried for my eyes because I’d read in the car when it was dark and try to gobble up as many words as possible when we went under a street light (I was neurotic back then, too, obviously).

    I try to get books for free, but it’s not always possible, at which point I buy them. I can’t help it. I love them. It’s my hobby.

  • Captain Sweatpants January 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    I am going to confess something. But since its in your blog, I’m hoping most people won’t read it, but at least I can still say I confessed it. Ahem, here goes… I used to read my sisters copies of Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High, and yes… I had a mini crushes on Stacy McGill and Elizabeth Wakefield, if it helps to preserve my manhood any better…. I will pretend I had to Google those name… *cough* *shifty eyes*

    But yes. Agree, books are a need/want/need/want/need/need/need/screw it I’ll eat canned tuna for the rest of the week… must have latest release of favourite author NOAW!!.

  • Captain Sweatpants January 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Crap… I didnt mean that as in “im hoping most people don’t read it” comment above, as in people don’t read your blog… I meant that i hope it gets buried amongst all other comments from all your other readers! I really have to stop being so quick to hit that submit button,…

    • Cait January 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      haha, that *did* read wrong… but somehow I knew what you meant. Now, I just hope everyone reads all my comments and finds your dirty secret! :P

  • Ella January 28, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I also love my books and I think they are definitely in the grey zone…. When I moved from France to Norway I got all my books shipped to Norway and they were like several hundreds of them! So that says a lot about how much I feel like they are a part of me… But I feel I need to declutter my bookshelf and remove books I know I won’t read again or books I didn’t really appreciate. I will do that as part of My 1/2 dozen daily’s february challenge. Then I will see how I feel about the rest of the books :-)
    I think the fact that I own many unread books shows that there is a lot of wanting in there. This year I am not buying any new book cause I have enough unread books to keep me busy anyway…

    • Cait January 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Sounds like a great challenge for you! I got rid of about 30-40 books, after I moved. Now I love everything that’s still on my shelves that much more.

  • belowhermeans January 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I feel the very same way. There’s something special about holding the weight of heavy words in your hands. Hi, by the way. :) I’m B., a super long time reader of your blog and a lurker until a few moments ago.

    • Cait January 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      Hi! So happy you finally commented and started your own blog.

  • Hawaii Planner January 29, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I consider my gym membership and running shoes/workout wear a need, not a want. My gym membership is covered by my employer, but I would find a way to pay for a gym membership regardless. I’m in Seattle, and working out outside is just not a pleasant experience for the bulk of fall & winter. I need to work out to stay sane. :-)

    • Cait January 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      You mean you don’t like to workout in the pouring rain!? ;)

  • Country Girl January 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I love books. For me, good books are a need. I too loved the Goosebump books when I was younger, but I’m afraid I wasn’t much into the Sweet Valley or Babysitter’s club books. I was much more into the Redwall series and adventure series. I still buy books occasionally, but I’ve definitely cut back and don’t buy so many hardcovers anymore.

  • Bonnie January 30, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I buy a LOT of books and it’s money well spent–for myself and the joy that my personal library brings to me but also because I am passionate about the PRINTED word and I want bookstores as a cultural institution to not only survive, but also thrive. And I feel good supporting that with my money. I do check books out of the library as well. I read at least a book a week, even as an adult! ;)

    • Cait January 30, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      You bring up a good point about supporting the publishing industry. I’ve worked in print publishing since 2007 and know first-hand how little money it brings in. I also like to think that I’m supporting a writer that I love.

  • John | Married (with Debt) February 7, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Travel is a want that I consider a need. I will always do whatever I can to scrape together the thousands of dollars I need every two years. Great post.

  • Shoeaholicnomore February 11, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I have been reading your blog from beginning, trying to reach current. I just found this post and it spoke to me! I LOVE books. I really like how you talked about them being a gray area, as this is kind of along my lines of thinking, although I am still trying to reduce the number of books I buy and keep. Thanks for sharing!