How to stay supplied with reading material when you're busy and budgeting

Friday, January 12, 2018
by Kate Stericker

young adult woman reading in armchair

In a past blog post, I discussed how valuable it can be to adopt a recreational reading habit as a student. Although you may not have hours each day to spend powering through novels, there are plenty of ways to carve out some reading time in your busy schedule. In fact, I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to regular reading is often not a lack of time to read, but a lack of reading materials when I do have time. Sticking to a student budget typically involves cutting out expensive bookstore purchases, which means many students stop buying books entirely during their university years. The public library can be a great solution to this issue, but it’s hard to find the time to travel off campus for regular visits, and it’s always discouraging to find that a book is due back before you’ve had a chance to finish it. Over the years, I’ve discovered some helpful techniques for keeping myself constantly supplied with reading material without huge expenses or the stress of due dates. 

  1. Check out the book selection at your campus library. For the first couple years of my degree, I assumed that university libraries were just for academic texts like journal articles and research books. However, while school libraries should have plenty of material in both these genres, they almost always carry a selection of popular fiction as well. For instance, the University of Waterloo library offers the Waterloo Reads collection, which contains hundreds of popular books for recreational reading. Once you find out where your campus library shelves their fiction, grabbing a new book to read involves nothing more than a detour on your walk to class or a break from a study session in the library carrels. And there’s no need to worry about missing due dates, since renewing or returning a book is just as easy!
  2. Give audiobooks a shot. Ever since signing up for an Audible account this September, I’ve gone from having zero interest in audiobook to being a devoted fan. Having a book playing through my headphones makes trips across campus much more engaging, and hearing an actor emote their way through each line helps bring stories to life. As a student, though, perhaps the most valuable aspect of audiobooks is that they’re so accessible--downloading a new one takes less time than checking Twitter, and you can start listening right away. And, although Audible is a great service, there are also options for people who prefer to skip the monthly fee. For instance, Librivox is a website featuring crowd-sourced audiobooks which offers readings of virtually any book published before 1922 at no cost to the listener.
  3. Explore local books sales. Every time a new term starts and I have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a stack of new textbooks, I like to imagine how many novels I could buy if I could spend the same amount of money at a regular bookstore. Although this idea may seem like an impossible dream for a student on a budget, you can achieve a remarkably similar effect by attending used book sales in your neighbourhood. Many cities have yearly sales run by community organizations; in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Canadian Federation of University Women runs an annual sale where thousands of books are available for $2 or less. Similarly, public libraries often designate days throughout the year when they sell books discarded from their collection, rarely asking more than a dollar or two each. I often visit these sales and stock up on tons of books so that I can keep reading during busy periods of the school year without worrying about due dates. If you’re a book lover, browsing through eclectic stacks of books and buying all your favourites without spending more than a few dollars is the perfect way to pull together a recreational reading collection.

Try out some of these tips this semester and see if they work for you! After all, the best way to establish a steady reading habit is to make sure you always have a book on hand that you’re excited to read.