Hi. My name is J.D., and I’m a biblioholic.

I gather and hoard books. I have shelves full of them. I have boxes full of them. One of the high points of my life was the day I saw the marquee in front of a used bookstore: ALL BOOKS FREE. (The store was going out of business.) I believed I had died and gone to heaven.

It used to be that I spent more on books than I did on food. The new frugal J.D. has learned to keep his book habit on a short leash. I still have the urge to buy books, but I rarely indulge it. I’ve learned the value of money. (I’ve also run out of space!)

But once every year, I allow my urge to run wild.

Portland’s Mulnotmah County Library holds a book sale every autumn. Thousands and thousands of used books are piled into a warehouse, priced at a buck a piece (give or take), and a swarm of readers sets upon the loosely organized mess.

This year I exercised restraint. I budgeted $50 for the trip.

I looked through the pamphlets first. This section contains half a dozen boxes filled with leaflets of various types — religious, political, historical, educational — each priced at 25 cents. A bargain! This time I picked up:

  • How to give Parties with a Theme (from the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women — somebody needs to devote a web site to these books (sample, sample))
  • Three small books on Oregon Historic Landmarks (published in 1973 by the Daughters of the American Revolution)
  • Several gardening books (berries, cold frames, cover crops)
  • Some pamphlets extolling the virtues of trains, perfect for my Thomas-loving nephew
  • A few stocking stuffers

(Last year I found a couple dozen old booklets from opera multi-record sets. That was a jackpot.)

I had hoped to find some good personal finance books. I had really hoped to find some old personal finance books, like the 1903 Orison Swett Marden I picked up in June from the Milwaukie Public Library book sale. (I’m always hoping to find old comic strip compilations, too, but this is the fourth year that hope has gone unfulfilled.)

In past years, I’ve always found one or two prize books, especially considering the $1.50 price tag. I found no treasures this year, which is just as well. I spent only $30 of my $50 budget. Among the books I bought were:

  • Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
  • a book on public speaking
  • Money-Making Hobbies by A. Frederick Collins (from 1938 — This book will be a source of endless amusement)
  • The Power of Will by Frank Channing Haddock (from 1907 — another source of amusement)
  • a nice illustrated version of Wuthering Heights

My wife, on the other hand, proved to be a closet capitalist. Kris found seven old Nancy Drew books priced at $1.50 each. After the book sale, we stopped by Powell’s so that I could pick up a book I want to review for Get Rich Slowly. Kris took the Nancy Drew books to the bookbuying station, and they paid her $22 for them. In half an hour, she doubled her money. (Maybe she should be posting entries here!)

Don’t confuse frugality with depriving yourself. If you know you have a spending weakness, don’t try to squash it. Doing so will only lead to guilt and, most likely, to further spending. Instead, allow yourself a small budget. Make it a game to stay within that budget. I came away from the book sale feeling doubly good: I had a stack of new books, and I’d spent less than I’d planned.

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