Feeding Bookworms On A Budget - Part 1
Or, What's Your Book Buying Process?
Hello! I'm Sri Juneja and this is my children’s book recommendation newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:
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I hope I’m not the only one who enters a superstore with my kid, jaw clenched with a white-knuckled grip on the shopping cart wondering what hot mess awaits when we go through the tricky sections that beckon kids like siren calls. Every piece of neon-colored plastic makes me grimace; loud, screechy toys threaten a headache; and small pieces make me wince as I imagine my future self stepping on them. After saying “no” for the hundredth time, we make our way into the book section.
As someone who adores books myself, I struggle to say no here. How am I supposed to battle my own penchant for purchasing those beautiful, glossy paperbacks on display and then turn around and do the same for my kid?! How do I overcome my fantasies of my kid and I cozying up together and cracking open that brand-new book spine for the very first time? Thank goodness for libraries, where I drag us immediately after these shopping trips so we can both let loose some of our pent-up delayed gratification.
Something that’s helped me a lot is coming up with a few rules to buy books that feel good to me and are reasonably responsible at the same time. I absolutely do NOT adhere to these rules all the time. But I manage it enough of the time that I can enjoy my indulgences without any guilt or regret. The rules my family has in place apply to everyone so it’s been fun for my kid to see me say “no” to myself too. In this two-part newsletter series, I want to discuss how you can build and grow your book collection in a way that serves your and your family’s needs.
Do you already have a book-buying philosophy in place? Leave a comment and tell me more about what’s working for you!
What are your limiting factors?
First and foremost, outline your limitations. It’s awfully easy to let a book-buying habit get out of control and that becomes a really big problem if, for example, you also don’t have lots of space. I’ve seen some people be really creative with their (ahem, pun incoming) bookkeeping but, as someone who likes minimalism in my physical space, that is sadly not me.
As you develop your philosophy here are a few common limiting factors to consider:
Budget - there are so many things we can spend on and when it comes to kids, it feels endless! Like anything else, take the time to think about how much you would feel comfortable spending be it on a single book or on a monthly basis.
Space - Think about where you plan on storing all the books you’d like to buy. Do you have significant space restrictions? How frequently do you plan to sort through and rotate out your book collection?
Phase - Don’t forget that tastes change as we grow and, with kids, books get outgrown in a blink. You may find that the board books of the toddler years are only being read by dust bunnies now. What’s your plan to keep your book collection current and evolving as the readership in your home changes?
As you think about these three points (and others!), also consider which of these is the hard-stop factor. Maybe you have an unlimited spending budget but not enough space or vice versa. This will help you establish some guiding principles on the quantity and quality of the books you want to purchase.
What’s your buying philosophy?
Now, it’s time for the fun stuff: transforming our limitations into a buying philosophy! Come up with reasonable ways you can build your book collection that are fun and nourish the bookworms in your family all while being respectful of your limitations.
To explain what I mean, here’s a sampling of philosophies I’ve come across:
Monthly Books - A few people I know will buy one book per month for their kids and the average budget they have for that book is ~$15. It’s a big to-do as the kids get excited and there’s a great deal of discussion on which book to buy.
Book Bribes - Rather than using desserts to entice kids into doing something, some families prefer to use books instead. This was my family’s M.O. growing up. As a reward for going to the dentist, we kids would be taken to a bookstore afterward to pick out a book to buy. Since we didn’t have a ton of space (or money!), this worked out well as the occasional treat.
No Book Limits - some families choose not to place any restrictions on book buying at all. They might restrict the number of toys or other things but if a kid asks for a book, it’s bought with no hesitation. Many families I know with this system in place will often buy a mix of brand-new and secondhand books and have regularly programmed clean-up schedules to prevent their bookshelves from looking too weary.
Favorites (my personal philosophy!) - what is working for us right now is to buy the favorites. We try to get as much as we can from the library but if we see ourselves pining over a particular book or there are always repeats coming home with us, then that book qualifies for a spot in our permanent home collection.
At the end of the day, you can try a few different things and see what makes the most sense for you. I find that the easiest way to adopt a book-buying philosophy is taking into consideration what you’re already doing. Maybe what you’re already doing is enough of a philosophy! Maybe you’re not quite satisfied but with some experimentation and a tweak here or there, you’ll have some solid principles in place.
Be happy with “good enough”
This may be a lot to think about just for buying books. But when you have a tendency to be easily tempted (🙋🏽♀️) or have a growing, insatiable bookworm on your hands, it’s actually pretty liberating to have some general thoughts or guiding principles around how and what you buy. There’s always room for splurging and indulgence; I find them to be even sweeter because I can fully appreciate it and do it without any guilt or remorse. It’s not about restriction but rather ways to feed reading habits that make you feel good at the end of the day (and considers the health of your wallet!). Having these conversations with kids is a great way to reinforce how to approach making thoughtful purchases.
Also, leave space for fun book traditions and rituals. There were always books in my house growing up and 90% of them were from the library. The other 10% were often rewards/bribery. And I never considered anything wanting. Having said that, every year, when the magical Scholastic Book Fair rolled into town, I would get a $10 bill ($20 today) and get to buy whatever I wanted. In the days leading up to it, I would sit with the Scholastic Book Fair “catalog” (seriously, how did those fragile, delicate sheets of tissue paper even make it through the printer?) and, after great deliberation, would circle the items of most interest. Then I’d shortlist by starring the ones I wanted to buy. It was a drawn-out procedure but I can still viscerally remember how giddy with excitement I was. It was a part of our family’s book-buying traditions and resulted in a memory I deeply cherish. Whatever makes sense for you and your kids, I promise, it will deliver a magical experience.
Do you have a book-buying philosophy or personal rules you like to follow? Let me know what they are and how it’s working for you! Drop a comment by hitting the button below.
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