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Reader Tip: Three ways to get children’s books inexpensively

Here’s a tip Ali Kirby who blogs at emailed in:

Since the time my oldest was two, we’ve helped our children stay entertained in the car by keeping a crate of books by their seats. Instead of using special books we’ve received as gifts and risking them falling out of the car, I’ve found three ways to acquire books inexpensively to use in the car:

1. Paperback Book Exchange Store: My husband and I went through our book collection and cleaned house. We took those books to the paperback book exchange store and received in-store credit for them. We used that credit to purchase “new” books for the kids.

2. Secondhand Store: Most of the secondhand stores I have been to have books for around fifty cents each. We’ve found some great books this way — for pennies on the dollar.

3. Garage sales: Most people sell children’s books very cheaply at garage sales. I have paid anywhere from ten cents to fifty cents per book.

Want more ideas? Check out my post on Five Ways to Get Books for Free.

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  • Karen says:

    We also love

    We’ve gotten tons of books in the last couple of years-many like new.

  • Good idea keeping a crate of them in the car!!

    Down here just before school starts back the school librarys seem to donate a TON of books to the local Salvation Army. And then January is also a popular month for brand new kids books {C’mas gifts parents pass on is my guess!}

  • heather says:

    I love buying books at garage sales when I was pregnant I got such a big collection for my daughter! I probably spent no more then five dollars! Very good advice!!!!! 🙂

  • Lee says:

    having books loose in a crate is not a good idea, if you are ever in a car accident they become projectiles. We keep a few books and other busy things secured with lids by the kids when we travel.

    • Kayla says:


      My SIL is a car seat tech and said the containers should be stowed away under the car seat but not touching. Keep in mind seat belts aren’t meant to hold containers and the containers can slip if belted. Quite a few kids/ adults have been injured severely by objects becoming projectile.

  • tania says:

    My daughter just started reading and I went to a second hand store this week and was able to get 12 of the level 1 reader books for $5!

  • Kristen Andrew says:

    We have a thirft store here that has children’s books for 33 cents each. I go there once a month sometimes more and stock up on ones we don’t have yet.

    And no offense Lee but really anything in an accident is a projectile and unless your kids put them up real quick before a collison or just admire them in their safe lidded place what is the difference? All she really needs is a seat belt around the crate and voila problem solved.

    • Heather says:

      @Kristen Andrew, That;s what I do–seat belt the book crate in. One really does have to strike a balance between “just in case” and actually living a functional life. I just drove from IL to CA with a 2 yo, a 3 yo, and a 10 month-old German Shepherd. The crate of books and toys between the kids’ carseats DEFINITELY played an important rule in how smoothly our trip went!!!

  • Alana says:

    Don’t forget library sales! Ours has two a year, and they are massive. It’s like a holiday for me. 🙂

  • Rae says:

    Our library has a book sale rack at the front where they sell books for $.25 each. Some are old library books that they are replacing but some are just donations. I have gotten some really nice hardcovers there and the money goes to help the library 🙂

    I have also gotten free books off of freecycle before.

    And always look at thrift stores and yardsales whenever I’m at one.

  • Emma K says:

    Some public libraries sell their older or worn books.
    Scholastic Book Clubs also have a catalog Honeybees, that include board books. Almost all of their catalogs have $1 books in them.

  • Emma K says:

    or Dolly Parten Imagination Library

  • Sarah says:

    Ebay! I bought a whole box worth on Ebay. The price was cheaper than garage sale prices.

  • Nan says:

    Sign up at They will send you an email when a library in your area is having a sale. Most kids books sell for .10 to .50. At our local library the second day you can fill a grocery bag for $4.00.

  • Krystine says:

    Around here, libraries have annual book sales. They tend to start in the spring and there’s usually one a month somewhere in a neighboring town (I’ve been to at least 5 this year!). They’re all set up so the final day is a “stuff a bag” day – they give you a shopping bag for a set price ($3 or $5 usually) and you can stuff it with as many books as it can hold! I just got about 100 books (mostly children’s books, but probably 20 regular novels too) for $10. Some are even free on the last day, but you have to get there early or all the good stuff will be gone!

  • Mel says:

    We have an Ollie’s Wholesale in our area now. And while I often buy books at yard sales for my own son, we also puchase books at Ollie’s for gifts, etc. You can often find very nice Christian childrens books for $0.99-$5. If you’re looking for a book with a specific message, this is a great place to check out.

  • FrugalMom says:

    Great tips!
    I have a thrift store around the corner, where children’s books cost 45 cents a piece. The best part is that it must have a school/teacher connection, because we get some fantastic educational books there.

    Another great way to get free children’s books is to win them. It is amazing how many children’s books are being given away, and quite often the entries are very low.

    I host a book giveaway linky, and it’s amazing how many book giveaways there are in the blogosphere. It is ongoing, but I update it every Thursday. This week there are 60+ book giveaways listed so far.

    If you are looking for great book giveaways check out the Book Giveaway Linky

  • Cindy says:

    I always get my kids bargain books at library book sales. Most are 50 cents each or less!

  • Sara says:

    Book exchanges are fun too. A friend and I will exchange 10 books every so often. I give her the ones that my daughter has lost interest with (or the ones I’m tired of reading over and over!). We put our name in the front covers to help keep track of which book belongs to who in case we ever need/want them back. It works very well because we get “new” books without spending money or adding to an already large collection (limited bookshelf space!).

  • Jennifer says:

    Our local library has a book sale section every week. Then a few times a year they have a BIG library book sale–you can find some really good deals on kids books there. I still love garage sales and the Good Will for buying a lot of my books. Can’t beat the price and my daughter loves when I come home w/’NEW” books to read.

  • Tonya says:

    Nice to see someone with a child correctly buckled into the car seat. Too many times, parents carelessly put their children in a seat with twisted straps, chest clip somewhere near their belly button, straps so loose that the child can easily slip their arms out, etc.

  • Mary says:

    Our local library just had a book sale….All childrens books only 50 cents each. Childrens books also included such books as Little House books, Chronicles of Narnia, etc. I went back 3 different times.

  • celia says:

    I keep a crate o f magazines( given to me in big batches by a friends mom) for when I have to breastfeed in the car. It’s a way to keep myself entertained especially since I really find most books to heavy and awkward to read while breastfeeding. It also acts as a handy camoflauge if someone walks by.

  • Mary says:

    I’ll agree with others and suggest library book sales as a great resource for children’s books as well as books for adults. When we were very strapped financially and my oldest was a toddler, I went to monthly library book sales at a neighboring city/town and bought batches of books for 25 cents each. It was a fun and low-cost way to expand our library, and we still have many, many of those books still. I live in New England now, and summer is the peak time for most of our sales, although there are some sprinkled throughout the year.

  • Jen says:

    I use to trade books/dvds/cds/games I don’t want anymore for ones I do. All you pay is shipping

  • Tina says:

    If you live in Tennessee you can go here
    to sign up to have a book sent to your child each month….FREE!!!

  • Debbie in PA says:

    in addition to the great library book sales…..don’t forgot actually using the library to BORROW books! I still have wonderful memories of going to the library as a kid, and take mine regularly. Our library often has activities geared to kids of all ages, so it’s a great social resourse as well.

  • Meredith says:

    First. You can go to the dolly parton imagination library and see if there is an affiliate in your area. We have one and get a free book monthly. Sometimes they are nice hardback books and they are books with great illustrations.
    Second, I am a frequent garage saler. When choosing which sale to go to, try to find ones in middle to lower middle class neighborhoods. Townhome complexes tend to have the best sales. When I hit up the higher income homes, they want much more for their items. I mention this because they were selling kids books for 2 to 3 bucks. I have purchased many kids books at garage sales.
    Third, do t forget ebooks. They can’t replace real books but for a change your kid will have fun on the computer. A lot of sites offer them for free!

    • Nikki says:

      @Meredith, I’m a true believer in not overpricing your garage sale items, but if a hard cover children’s book was $20 to begin with, as many of them are, I don’t know that $2 would be too high if it was in great condition.

      • Meredith says:

        @Nikki, I agree. I did buy the cat in the hat book for two dollars but I find a lot of families have the scholastic paperbacks for around the same price. I’m starting to believe that with the economy that people are trying to get as much as they can out of items. The article mentioned 10 cents for books which is pretty low. I can get most books for 50 cents to a dollar.

  • Rachel says:

    I agree about the library book sales! Our old library (before we moved) used to have these book sales every 2 months or so- and they were ‘fill a bag for $4’. I got a huge bag of children’s books this way when I was pregnant with our daughter. Even though she can’t use them quite yet, I’ll have a nice stash built up for her when the time comes! I couldn’t imagine paying much more than $1 for a children’s book!

  • Missy says:

    If you live in the E Tennessee area – be sure to register your children at the local library. “Imagination Library” sends one book each month for FREE to all children five years and under. It’s great!

  • Melisse says:

    Ditto for Missy! Even if you don’t live in that area sometimes you can sign up. They are age appropriate and hard back. I’ve loved the ones my boys have gotten. Dolly Parton ROCKS! Check out Imagination Library.

    • Brandy says:

      @Melisse, While I think this is a great program, the money for the books isn’t really all coming from Dolly Parton (though I’m sure she’s still very involved with this). Each community has to have sponsors to pay for this…that’s why some communities don’t have it…not enough money coming from the community to do it. It’s why my area doesn’t have it, but the one next to me does….or at least this was what I was told by our library.

  • Nikki says:

    Our local literacy program gives books to the Pediatricians’ offices around town. We can always leave with a sucker AND a high quality book, which is awesome.

  • Rachael says:

    If your children are in school, book orders are reasonably priced, and the teachers earn points for books for their classrooms when you buy from a book order. Also, if your school doesn’t partake in the RIF (Reading is Fundamental) program, encourage your principal to look into it. Children receive a free book about every three months. Having a large supply of books in your home is a wonderful way to encourage reading, and there is ample research to support this. Also, remember that it is also important to look for quality in children’s literature when shopping, which is usually very possible with these ideas mentioned previously.

  • claudia johns says:

    I was at the Salvation Army yesterday. They have All their books for sales at 20 for a dollar. YEA!!!!

  • cathy says:

    My town has a ‘book nook’–it’s basically structured like a rabbit hutch without a front (to keep out the bad weather). You can drop books,magazines,a small toy,an overload of zuccini,etc. and/or take something someone else leaves. There is a small donation box (that goes to the local SPCA), but that is voluntary–and you could certainly start one that did not have a donation box. Ours is outside the library, so every time we go to the library we MUST stop at the book nook to see what is new:)

  • Dianna says:

    We signed up to receive free books when my oldest was a baby through United Way and Dolly Parton. They want to increase literacy and our local library promotes the program. We receive one brand new book a month until our child is five. You can sign up as many children as you have and you don’t (most of the time) get the same book multiple times.

  • Emily says:

    We love using our local library for the ultimate money saving book borrow. If you want to get hands on your own, all the above are ways we’ve found cheap ways for take homes. Also, try your local consignment sales; and I also like online used books from amazon or For ideas on what to read; visit

  • Kim says:

    We also enjoy receiving a free book each month from the Dolly Parton “Imagination Library.” My toddler loves looking forward to getting her new book each month!

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