Paying Less for Children’s Books

19 May

As the parent of a toddler, I know how important reading is to my daughter’s development. As an avid reader, I am thrilled that she seems to be developing the same love of books that I have always had. It’s so tempting to pick up a book here and a book there as we’re out running errands. But as a stay-at-home mom on a tight budget, I know that paying full price on children’s books just doesn’t make sense.

From least to most expensive, here are some alternatives to buying books at your local Borders or Barnes & Noble. Let’s pretend I’m on the hunt to pick up the popular book “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney (a really, really cute book that I have been wanting to buy my daughter for months).

  1. The library. With your library card, books are free. We visit our local branch twice a month to stock up. It’s hit or miss, and it can be a challenge to find what you are looking for. Many times the more popular books are checked out. Our library system allows you to place a hold on a book, which includes transferring it from another library to yours, for 25 cents. And the best part is you can do it online and they will notify you when the book comes in via e-mail. Cost for “Llama Llama”: free, or 25 cents (more likely).
  2. Garage sales. Do your research. If you check the classifieds or Craigslist the night before, you can target the garage sales most likely to have children’s books for sale. Look for the ones with “toys” or “kid’s books” in the description. Garage sales are definitely hit or miss, but sometimes you can find great books for 50 cents or a quarter. Cost for “Llama Llama”: unlikely to find.
  3. Thrift stores. Similar to garage sales, thrift stores are hit or miss with children’s books (although a great place to find adult paperbacks). Prices generally range from 50 cents to $2 a book. Cost for “Llama Llama”: unlikely to find.
  4. Ebay. Buying single books on Ebay isn’t always the best deal, since most sellers will tack on several dollars for shipping. Finding a “lot” of books will generally get you a better price. I found a lot of 12 books including the one I’m looking for, listed at $36 with free shipping. At $3 a book (new), that’s a pretty good deal – if you’re interested in the other books included.  Cost for “Llama Llama”: The cheapest I found for a single copy was $9.86 including shipping, in “very good” condition.
  5. Costco (or other warehouse clubs). Costco’s prices on books tend to be very competitive, although you can’t go there expecting to find a particular title in the children’s section. Your best bet is to check back often, especially during the holidays when the bulk of the toys are displayed. Cost for “Llama Llama”: not currently in stock.
  6. Amazon. Amazon consistently beats the prices at major book retailers, and in almost every case you can get free shipping on a purchase over $25. You can also check the “new and used” section to see if anyone is selling it for less than Amazon, but this includes a $3.99 shipping charge and resellers often don’t ship as quickly as Amazon would.  Cost for “Llama Llama”: $11.55 with free shipping on orders over $25.
  7. Barnes & Noble. I can’t deny the allure a large bookstore holds for me, and it’s very difficult to leave without buying something. The instant gratification is a plus, but the higher price is a con. You can save a few bucks if you buy it online (and B&N offers free shipping on orders over $25 as well), but Amazon’s price wins. Cost for “Llama Llama”: In store $16.99; online $12.23 with free shipping on orders over $25.

The bottom line: If you want to buy a specific book new, whether as a gift or for your own child’s library, Amazon is usually the most reliable source, although hunting on Ebay or the warehouse clubs may cost less if you get lucky. If you aren’t looking for anything in particular, browse the library or peruse some garage sales for the best deals. And if you want to buy several books at a time by the same author or you don’t mind used books, try Ebay.


3 Responses to “Paying Less for Children’s Books”

  1. Gerard May 24, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    We’ve been using paperbackswap for books:

    Every horizontal surface in the house is a bookshelf now – this is partly a joke and partly serious.

    • admin May 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

      Very cool – I’ll have to check this out!

  2. Mommaefvie May 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    you forgot consignment sales — in my area, Rhea Lana’s and DuckDuckGoose. you’re not likely to find a specific book, but i’ve picked up bags of several books for $5 before. you just have to get there on the first or second day, usually, or the books are mostly gone.

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