Why I Ignore Frugality to Own a Book Collection

I’ve made a BIG frugality exception to own a 400-plus book collection.  AND to house them in a dedicated library.  Even if the books only cost around $5 each on average, I’ve still spent thousands on having a book collection. But my books mean more than money. Here’s why.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

My book collection means more than just money.

My book collection means more than just money.

I read a lot. I started keeping track of how much in June 2006. Since then, I have read an average of 25 books a year. That is 225 books since I began to keep count. The thing is that I buy the books. And I keep the books after I have read them. That is definitely not the frugal way to do my reading. But I have made a conscious choice not to be frugal about this. Here are my reasons.

The public library would be the frugal way to go. I am less than 5 miles away from the local public library. I have a perfectly good library card. I go to the library just about every week to check out DVDs. And I am sure there are plenty of library books I would enjoy reading. But I do not read books from the library because I do not just read books.

I collect books. Not rare books or first editions or anything like that. What I do is “thematic” book collecting. I have a nonfiction book collection covering pretty much the entire historical scope and breadth of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, ancient Near East civilizations, New World Indian civilizations, medieval Europe and the Viking age. My military history book collection pretty well covers World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the American War of Independence and Civil War — as well as the American-Mexican war, the British-Zulu war and a few others. Add to that my biographies. And top it off with a fiction book collection that captures the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie and more. That is a lot of books. Over 400 books. I must be keeping them for a reason.

I love having books. That is my bottom line. I love being surrounded by books. I love sitting down to read among books. I love being able to browse my book collection to select what I will read next from the 200-plus books on my shelves that I have yet to even open.

In a special place. I do not just have 400+ books scattered around the house. I have a room dedicated to my book collection. A comfortable reading room with built-in bookcases organized by topic. When I was a young kid, I loved going to the library. And now I love the fact that I have a library. A true library! And I have been and continue to be willing to unfrugally put a lot of my money into it.

Money is (almost) no object. The money to pay for my book collecting has always come from my discretionary fund. That has been true for the roughly $2000 that the books have cost as well as the $1000 or so it has taken to build the bookcases. Yes, I have been smart about getting good value for that money. After all, my average cost per book is a modest 5 bucks. But that does not change the fact that I have spent the money on an emotional want.

And that $3000 does not include the biggest expense connected to my books. I have bought an entire room to house those books! According to my home insurance policy, it would cost just over $15,000 to replace that room. So in total I have sunk at least $18,000 into book reading when I could have done it for free. But, of course, it isn’t just about reading at all… is it?

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Image courtesy of bluebay at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. You have the financial freedom to make a decision like this. Isn’t that great? The financial habits of some people are so amazing to me – like buying food and drinks all the time from gas stations, someone who lost their house but they go out to eat for very expensive meals, etc. My husband works at a grocery store and it blows our minds that some of the employees buy food from the vending machines in the break room when they could go out on the floor and buy the same thing for quite a lot less money. Well, I guess I got sidetracked. :)

  2. What’s not to love about books?! I have a sizable book collection, too. In fact, I’m in need of yet another book case because they’re jammed in all over the place.

    Over the years, I’ve tried to be a little bit frugal about collecting books. If it’s available, I borrow the book from the library first. If I love it then I’ll buy a copy for my collection. I regularly re-read my favourite books so I figure it’s an investment. I can’t always do this with non-fiction books but as a general rule of thumb it works pretty well.

    My dream is to have a room dedicated to books… :-)

    1. Hello, fellow book lover!

      What you do with books (reading them from the library and then buying them) I do with DVD movies. I have hundreds of DVDs but have never bought one I had not already seen. Of course, if I like a movie that also means that I like rewatching it.

  3. Good for you! No one should deprive themselves the things they like to own, especially if they have a passion for such things as you have described yourself with books, and that you can afford them.

  4. To me, frugality is simply making a conscious decision to spend money on those items you value most. Books are important to you just as travel is important to others. We spend a lot of money updating our home. It’s important to us even though we will never get a full return on the investment. I guess the big difference is that you have already reached financial independence. However, I still feel as if our investment in our home is worth the trade-off.

    1. Sounds like a reasonable approach to me. In retrospect, I could in truth say that I chose to be frugal so I could “spend money” on being able to retire earlier and thus having more free time sooner.

  5. I buy a ton of books too. I think frugality is about not spending money on things you don’t really need. All of my books are how-to, psychology, or self improvement related. So I see spending money on books as more of an investment in my own life.

    1. Investing in one’s own life is always good.

      My books are overwhelmingly history, military and otherwise. It’s my intellectual passion.

  6. What’s not to love about consciously spending money on things or experiences you value?

    I also happen to love books, keep them in every room in the house, and buy them inexpensively (amazon.com, local thrift stores, library book sales, etc.). I have a Kindle as well, but it is SOOOOO not the same as having physical paper copies of books.

    I love that you have your own library!

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