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Tag Archive: Q&A Tuesdays

8 Ways to Get Books for Free (or Almost-Free)

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Do you love reading but also want to make sure you don’t break your budget with book purchases? 😉 Reading doesn’t have to cost very much money at all, I promise! This post covers my top tips on how to get FREE books!

8 ways to get free books

Marlena emailed in and asked the following question:

I’m motivated by all the books that you read! I’ve made me a list of (just) TEN books for this year for myself. My library only carries two on my list. I can’t afford to go out and buy all these books. (I doubt you do the same). How can I find all the books I want to read on my tight stay-at-home-mom budget? Thanks for ALL you do! -Marlena

Way to go on making reading a priority, Marlena! I promise that you won’t regret it.

How to Get Free Books

I’m constantly on the lookout for new book ideas to add to my crazily-long list of Books I Want to Read. Since I read so voraciously, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to feed my reading addiction without running us out of house and home.

Not all of my ideas may work for everyone, but here’s a list of eight tips I’ve used to get books for free or almost free throughout the years:

1. Earn Free Books from MyReaderRewards

My Reader Rewards Club is a site that gives you the opportunity to earn free books and audio by filling out surveys, referring friends, and more.

It’s very easy to earn a free book — without even having to refer a friend!

Free Books from MyReaderRewards

My Reader Rewards Club offers Christian books from Tyndale, including Nonfiction books, Fiction books, Parenting books, Kid’s books, Audiobooks, Ministry Resources, and more! They even have Adventures in Odyssey audios and books!

Our family has gotten a number of free books from them over the past few years and I have loved being able to get brand-new books completely free!

Read more on how to easily earn books with MyReaderRewards.

2. Download Free Audiobooks from Libby

It’s no secret that I absolutely love books. And I try to invest at least a little bit of time in reading every single day.

But on really full days, fitting in reading time can be a challenge. Which is why I’m so grateful for audiobooks! They are the perfect solution to making reading a priority — even if you aren’t able to physically sit down and read a book.

Psst! Do you struggle with finding time to read? Read this post, plus check out these practical tips on how to find more time to read each day!

However, if you buy audiobooks online, they are often quite expensive — typically more than you’d pay for the paperback or hardback copy. Which is why I’m a fan of finding ways to listen to FREE audiobooks.

Free Audiobooks on Libby

Back in 2016, I told you about 8 Ways to Get Audiobooks for FREE. If you haven’t read that post, you’ll want to go read it right now.

I talked specifically about the Overdrive and Hoopla apps in that post — apps that allow you to “check out” audiobooks for free from your local library. Most libraries have since switched over to the Libby app, an app that is much more user-friendly and less clunky to use. And I have become a huge fan of it.

I liked the Overdrive app and the Hoopla app, but I LOVE the Libby app! There are so many different audiobooks to choose from on it and they are all at my favorite price point: FREE!

Read more on how to listen to free Audiobooks with the Libby app.

Home Library

3. Check Out Free Books at the Library & Through Inter-Library Loan

Of course, no list of how to get free books would be complete without a mention of the library. I’ve checked out countless books from the library over the years; it’s an invaluable resource!

If you have a relatively small library that doesn’t have a great selection, check and see if they offer Inter-Library loan. Most libraries do, and this offers a much, much broader selection. You have to request the book and then wait for it to come in, but it’s free–which usually makes it worth a bit of a wait!

You can also suggest books for your library to purchase. They might not heed your suggestion, but it’s always worth a shot.

4. Borrow Free Books from Friends

I’m always swapping books with friends–and this is a great way to keep your reading materials varied! Just be sure that you keep track of what books you’ve borrowed and loaned out.

Also, it goes without saying, but return the books in the same condition they were loaned in. Otherwise, your friends might not be so excited to loan you books again. 😉

Crystal Paine reading

5. Download Free Ebooks

If you have any sort of mobile device — an iPhone, iPad, iTouch, or other mobile device — there are dozens upon dozens of free books you can download on a daily basis. We even post free eBook round-ups to make it easy for you!

You don’t need a Kindle tablet to read the free eBooks. Just download the FREE Kindle reader app to access your free eBooks on any mobile device or computer.

Tip: Most public libraries also offer free ebooks on their site that you can borrow and download to your device for a few weeks.

6. Check Thrift Stores, Used Book Sales, and Garage Sales

Thrift stores, used book sales, and garage sales can be a goldmine for book lovers. Best of all, they’ll often have fill-a-bag sales where you can fill as many books into a designated bag as you’re able to — all for a few dollars.

You can also find bargains on hot titles that you can swap/trade on PaperBackSwap, at a Little Free Library, or at your favorite local book store! This is an easy way to get titles you want for very little money out of pocket!

Pile of Books to Read

7. Sign Up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Station

Okay, so this one is for kids, but I still had to share it! If you have a child between the ages of 0 to 5 and your local area participates, you can sign up to get free children’s books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

We’ve never personally used this, but I’ve heard from others that they send nice, high-quality books really regularly.

There are participating communities within the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Republic of Ireland. Check to see if your area participates here.

8. Buy Used From Amazon or Barnes & Noble

When I do actually “buy” books, I use my Swagbucks credit to buy them. Swagbucks offers a great deal on Barnes & Noble and Amazon gift cards, so I often request those as rewards.

Not sure how to use Swagbucks? Read this post on how to earn Swagbucks gift cards.

However, I usually do not buy books brand-new, unless I’m buying them to support an author (which I’ve become pretty passionate about doing after releasing books myself!). Instead, I typically purchase the book used from Amazon or Barnes & Noble Marketplace. I’ve been amazed at how much money I’ve saved just by being willing to go with a book that has a little wear and tear on it!

In addition, Barnes and Noble sometimes runs free shipping deals or I’ll find a coupon code. Combining that with shopping through a cashback site, I can usually get a great deal on a book I really want – all for free because Swagbucks is covering the tab!

Pile of Books

Bonus Idea for Bloggers: Request Review Copies From the Publisher

If you’re a blogger or review books for another type of social media, you can fairly easily obtain free review copies from publishers. Just search for the publisher of a book (you can often find this on Amazon) and then find their website and look for contact information for review copies.

Most publishers state their review copy policy right on their website and many are extremely generous in their willingness to send review copies to bloggers. However, please don’t take advantage of this. Only request books you are truly interested in, and those that you truly plan to actually review on your blog.

Many publishers are also more than happy to do a giveaway along with your review and see this as extra exposure for them. So it never hurts to ask, if you’re sure you’ll like the book!

I no longer actively ask for review copies, but I do receive a few each week from various publishers who are hoping I’ll mention their book on my blog, social media, or podcast.

What are your favorite ways to get FREE or cheap books? I’d love to hear your ideas!

How do you find good friends?

How do you find good friends?

Hi, I always read about your friendships and having authentic relationships. I’d love to read more about this. How you determine relationships to pursue versus those to not kindle? I always seem to end up with friends who take advantage of me and would love to have another person’s opinion -Lael

If you’ve read my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, you know that I struggled with friendships for the first 28 or so years of my life. A lot of this had to do with my insecure, people-pleasing personality.

I had been hurt deeply by people close to me in the past, so I had spent years of my life too scared to open up or be authentic for fear of getting hurt again.

But finally, I was so tired of living life feeling so lonely, that I knew something needed to change. And that something was me.

How do you find good friends?

I had to stop trying to please people, stop staying closed up and closed off so as to avoid getting hurt, and start reaching out, being authentic, and being 100% me.

As a result of this shift in my thinking and change in my heart, I’ve developed some incredibly deep and authentic relationships… which have been such an immense blessing to me! And I’ve also learned a lot about what great friendships are made up of.

How do you find good friends?

Here are 4 components I believe are key to any strong relationship:

1. Honesty

If you want authentic relationships, you first have to be willing to be authentic yourself. You have to stop hiding behind a fake, people-pleasing persona and start being genuinely you.

Put down the plastic smiles, don’t keep people at arm’s length, and start letting people see you for exactly who you are — messes, struggles, and all. True friends don’t want you to be perfect and all put-together.

Tip: If someone doesn’t love you for who you are but instead wants you to be who they want you to be, that’s a good sign that they aren’t a true friend.

How do you find good friends?

2. Commitment

True friendship requires commitment. It means that you will believe the best, you will speak the truth when it’s needed, and you won’t gossip or slander.

It means you are FOR the other person. You want them to succeed. You celebrate them. You appreciate them. You build them up when you speak to them face-to-face and when you talk about them to others.

Tip: If someone just wants to be your friend for what you can do for them — not because they love you for who you are — they aren’t a true friend.

How do you find good friends?

3. Effort

A good friendship requires effort. It doesn’t just happen. It means that both parties make sacrifices for each other.

Want to have great friends? Start by being the friend to others that you wish you had yourself. It means picking up the phone, taking time to text or email, and making time to get together for coffee.

Deep relationships take time and investment. They rarely happen overnight. Instead, they are the result of much cultivation, time, and effort.

Tip: If you have reached out to someone multiple times and they are always too busy to spend time with you, that’s probably a good indication that it’s time to move on to investing in another relationship.

How do you find good friends?

4. Forgiveness

Close friendships will result in misunderstandings and hurts, at times. No one is always going to do everything right all the time. And the closer you are to someone, the more possibility there is for there to be misunderstandings and hurts.

Some days, your friend might say something that frustrates or offends. Some days, your friend might not respond how you wished she would have. Some days, she’s just plain going to bother or upset you.

On those days, you have two choices: you can either choose to forgive or you can choose to be hurt and bitter.

How do you find good friends?

Friendships that stand the test of time are ones where both parties choose to forgive when offenses and hurts come. It’s not easy and it means having hard conversations and sometimes saying things that are difficult to say. But good communication, working through issues, and having a heart of forgiveness will only deepen a friendship.

Tip: If someone is easily offended and constantly being hurt or upset by you, there’s a good chance they aren’t a good friend.

How do you find good friends?

How to Be a Good Friend

  • Take initiative — Don’t wait for others to make the first move. Ask your friend to meet for coffee, invite your friend over to hang out, text her to tell her you’re thinking of her. Reach out. Focus on blessing others and you’ll often be richly blessed in return. If you are thinking of someone, let them know you’re thinking of them. Oftentimes, just taking the time to text or email someone to let them know they are on your heart that day can mean the world to someone.
  • Have a listening ear — People feel valued when you look them in the eyes and genuinely listen to what they have to share. Give them your undivided attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Just listen wholeheartedly.
  • Ask good questions — Be interested in others’ lives. Learn about what they are excited about. Find out what their passions are. Ask about their goals and long-term dreams. Find out what they are struggling with. Ask how you can pray for them… and then actually follow through with praying for them! A question I sometimes will ask is just: “How can I be a better friend to you?” The answers to that one might truly surprise you.
  • Find the good and praise it — Constantly be looking for ways you can celebrate someone else. Take time to express appreciation. Don’t just think it in your head; stop and verbalize it.
  • Learn their love language — How does your friend feel most loved? Is it by words of affirmation, a letter, gifts, acts of service? Knowing this can help you know how to love her best.

How do you find good friends?

Questions to ask yourself:

What are you looking for in friendships?

Make a list of qualities you are looking for in friendship and then think of who in your circle has some of those qualities. Start initiating things with them and see where it leads.

Who can I begin investing in?

Look around you — in your small group, church, play group, etc. — and think of a few people you already know who might be interested in a friendship. Begin investing in them. Sometimes, taking even a few tiny steps can lead to a beautiful relationship.

How can I be a better friend?

I ask myself this question often. Occasionally, I’ll even ask it to my close friends. Pour into others. Care deeply about them. Show them that they are a priority. Go out of your way to let people know how much they mean to you. Instead of spending time lamenting the fact that you don’t have better friends, focus your energy on doing all you can to be a better friend to others.

Tip: I highly recommend reading Safe People. It’s a great starting point for determining how to develop genuine friendships and how to be a genuine friend to others.

What advice, tips, and suggestions would the rest of you add to answer Lael’s question? I’d love to hear!

Q&A: How do you plan for unexpected expenses?

What to do when you have unexpected expenses

How do you plan for unexpected expenses (like a broken boiler, car repair, or medical emergency) and stay on your budget? Every month, I feel like we have a $400-$600 chunk of money that we spend and didn’t plan to. -Christa

Christa, thanks for asking this question. It’s one that many people wonder about and struggle with. I thought about your question and talked to my husband to get his input and here are our thoughts:

1) Plan in Advance

While there are some expenses that blindside you, there are many more expenses that you can plan for. For instance, your car will eventually break down or need repairs, you will have medical expenses at some point, and your home will need repairs.

Start expecting these things to happen and begin planning for them ahead of time. Look at your budget from the last year and see what categories were most likely to have those unexpected extra expenses.

2) Pad Your Budget Categories

You won’t know exactly how much you’re going to need in each budget category, but begin thinking ahead to what could possibly be breaking down or needing repairs in the next few months or few years and start preparing for those extra expenses ahead of time. By doing this, you aren’t completely caught off guard or put in a bind when you need to pay those repair bills.

How to plan for the unexpected

We put extra money aside in a number of our budget categories each month — money for medical expenses that may be coming, money for home repairs that may need to happen, money for car repairs that will likely be needed. Each month, if we don’t need this extra money, we just keep setting it aside and building up a reserve. This way, when the “unexpected” expenses pop up, we’ve already planned ahead for them.

Note: If you don’t have the extra wiggle room in your budget to pad your budget categories, look at your budget as a whole to see if there are any areas you can cut back in to free up money to pad those categories that you’re continually in the red in right now. If there aren’t any areas or things you can cut, it’s probably time to start looking for ways to increase your income.

3) Beef Up Your Emergency Fund

I also highly recommend beefing up your emergency fund. If you end up with extra expenses one month and your pre-budgeted money doesn’t cover it, you have your emergency fund to fall back on. This makes the unexpected expense an inconvenience rather than a true emergency.

Consider making short-term sacrifices, taking on a few short-term side jobs, or selling items you own to give you some extra income to put toward building and increasing your emergency fund. (Need some ideas? Check out my series on 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas.)

What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Christa? I’d love to hear!

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Q&A: What are your best tips for people wanting to live on one income?

How to Live on One Income

“My husband is an Iraqi War veteran, now safely home still in the reserves, and a Police Officer for our city. We are SO thankful for a great job that is secure. I am a stay-at-home mama to our sweet 11-month-old baby boy. Living off of one income can be tough, especially trying to build your savings and dealing with things like holiday shopping (we have large families). I was hoping you could post some tips, budgeting strategies, for families living on one income. We have a monthly budget thanks to Dave Ramsey, but it’s hard to stick to sometimes, feeling restricted from more fun things. All advice is appreciated. -Kirstin”

Thanks for asking such a great question, Kirstin! There are so many different things I want to say in response, but I narrowed my thoughts down to six points:

1. Adopt a Can-Do, Creative, Committed Attitude

Your attitude makes a HUGE difference in your success. If you are committed to make the most of what you have, instead of spending your time wishing you were in a different situation, you’re well on your way to thriving.

You’re not stuck unless you choose to be. View hardships and setbacks as challenges to be conquered, not impossibilities that will tank you.

2. Find Freedom With Boundaries

A budget can be viewed as restrictive ball and chains on your life or it can be viewed as a freeing asset to aid you in financial success. It’s all in how you view it.

We’ve chosen to see a budget as one of our greatest assets — and we find freedom in the boundaries it provides. Why? Because we don’t have to stress over how we’re going to afford to pay our electric bill or whether we’ll have enough for groceries. Sticking with a budget removes a lot of anxiety and stress from our plates.

3. Budget for Everything

It takes at least three to six months to really get a handle on living on a budget, but it’s well worth the effort. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to stick with a budget is that they fail to budget for everything.

If you’re on a tight budget, you have to plan ahead for future expenses. Don’t wait until November to try to figure out how to afford Christmas, start putting money away every month at the beginning of the year to pay for Christmas at the end of the year. Even if you can only squeeze $10 to $15 per month out of your budget to put toward Christmas gifts, do it. You won’t regret it when November rolls around next year!

Plus, the more you start planning ahead for future expenses, the less you’ll have to worry about unexpected expenses. This, in turn, will help you to slowly inch your way to a better financial place with more wiggle room in your budget.

4. Focus on the Long-Term Benefits

Don’t just pinch pennies for pinching pennies’ sake. That gets old really, really quickly. Instead, constantly remind yourself of the why behind your what.

What are your long-term goals? Do you want to have an emergency fund? Do you want to be able to pay cash for your next vehicle? Or maybe pay off a credit card?

Whatever your why is, make it a clear goal and remind yourself of it over and over again. This will fuel your motivation and drive to stick with those hard, short-term sacrifices.

5. Create a Blow Category

If you want to live a long-term frugal lifestyle, you have to give yourself a little budget breathing room. This doesn’t have to be hundreds of dollars every month, but you need to carve out a little extra from your budget to make a blow category — money that you can spend on whatever you’d like.

If you’re married, I highly recommend a His and Hers Blow Category. Even if you can only afford to put $3 in each envelope per month, do it! That little bit of fun money can go a long way in helping preserve your sanity.

6. Find Some Frugal Friends

Don’t go it alone! Surround yourself with folks who “get” your weirdness and inspire you to continue to learn and improve in the area of saving money. It’s so much easier to stay the course when you have partners who are running alongside you.

What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Kirstin? I’d love to hear!

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Help! We Just Became a One-Income Family!

We have recently become a one-income family and I am very nervous. I am couponing and it really helps. I want to be a home tester, but I am so afraid of getting scammed. I am new to the internet. Can you offer any advice?

1. Take a Deep Breath

While this can be a scary time, this can also be an exciting time. There is a world of possibilities before you and I love your can-do attitude. That will take you very far!

I encourage you to take a deep breath and focus on the blessings and opportunities instead of getting overwhelmed and nervous by all the “what ifs”.

2. Get on a Budget

The best thing you can do for your family right now is to get on a written budget. Many times, people don’t have an income problem, they have a spending problem. So before trying to increase your income, make sure you are being very intentional in how you spend what you’re already making.

I highly recommend getting a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey from your library. If you can afford it, I also heartily suggest looking into going through Financial Peace University.

Both of these resources will walk you through how to set up a budget and how to stick with it. And Dave will motivate you and inspire you to dream big, work hard, and get your finances in amazing shape.

3. Do Your Research

If you’re thinking of doing any at-home work, do a lot of research before jumping into anything. There are many legitimate opportunities out there, but there are also dozens upon dozens of scams.

Dig around online, talk to friends, and take time to investigate before moving forward with anything. If you’re looking for some tried and true ideas, check out my series on 31 Ways to Earn Extra Income Before Christmas.

Note: Never, ever, ever pay a company to sign up and take surveys, mystery shop, or do at-home research. Any company that asks you for money upfront is almost 100% guaranteed to be a scam.

4. Focus on the Best Return on Your Investment

There are so many different things you can do to save and make money. I encourage you to start slowly and set limits.

Try a few new things every month and figure out what works best for you. As you experiment, determine what things you find you enjoy doing that also give you the best return on your investment of time.

It might take you a number of months and experimenting to hit on the best things, but don’t give up. Keep at it and you’ll eventually learn what works well for you and your family.

Once you’ve found those things, focus your energies and efforts there and don’t let yourself feel guilty if you’re not doing everything else that some of you frugal friends are doing. You can’t do it all, so do what works for you — and be free from guilt!

What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Sheila? I’d love to hear!

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Q&A: What is the best thing you’ve done to grow your site?

Christa from Brown Sugar Toast emailed in three blogging questions that she’s given me permission to address as Q&A’s over the next three weeks. I thought some of you would find my advice to her helpful, so I’m posting my answers to her here.

Here’s her first question:

What are the best things you have done to grow your site? I suppose my main question is how to find women {or help them find me?} who “fit” in my blogging niche. The purpose statement of my blog is “to encourage women to live creative lives in Christ.” Should I be doing guest posts, participating in the dreaded linky parties ;), paying for advertising? Perhaps all of the above? -Christa

First off, the fact that you are asking questions and seeking to be intentional says a lot about your character, motivation, and drive. You have amazing potential, Christa! Your blog is beautiful and you have some fantastic ideas. Keep up the great work!

When I started, I had a huge advantage because I already had a mommy blog that I had grown to have around 4,000 to 5,000 pageviews per day (you can read the whole story on how I “fell into” blogging here). In addition, blogging was still pretty new so there weren’t so many incredible voices out there like there are today. Honestly, I think that’s one reason people read my blog — just because there weren’t that many others to choose from! 🙂

As far as specific things I did to grow my blog, here are some ideas:

1) I Set Big Goals

For years, I’ve been setting specific blogging goals. Not only detailed numbers that I wanted to grow my traffic and social media sites to each month and year, but how much income I wanted to make, features I wanted to add, series I wanted to write, people I wanted to network with, and more.

I haven’t always hit these goals, but they have motivated me to aim high, work hard, and think outside the box. Plus, they challenged me to step outside my comfort zone. It has well been said, “If your goals don’t scare you at least a little, they might not be big enough.”

2) I Linked to Others

You can never be too generous. So many, many people have graciously reached out and helped me — especially when I was first starting out.

I want to do the same for others. I can’t help everyone, but I do my best to try and help as many people as I can — especially when I see someone who is working really hard and being creative, not just hoping for someone to spoon feed them some success.

From the beginning, I’ve seen my blog as a conduit. I can’t meet everyone’s needs, but I hope that my blog can serve as a hub to point you in the direction of other sites, blogs, and resources that can be a huge help to you wherever you are at in life.

3) I Networked With Others

Building relationships with other bloggers, website owners, authors, and speakers is a great way to not only learn much, but also to open up doors for networking. Look for specific people whom you’d like to have a relationship with and then go out of your way to promote and encourage them. You never know what this might lead to.

Be creative. Think outside the box. Find ways to work with other bloggers that will be mutually beneficial. That’s what networking is all about!

4) I Wrote Guest Posts

Guest posts are a great way to get your name and writing in front of a new audience. Plus, they are a way to exercise new writing muscles and build up thick skin when you receive a rejection email.

Psst! I love to consider guest posts from my readers. See our guest post submission guidelines here.

5) I Didn’t Give Up

Honestly, I believe has been one of the main keys to my success. It’s so easy to want to give up. In fact, I still have days when I’m ready to close up shop (I had one just last week, in fact!). But if you stick with it and keep at it, eventually your efforts will pay off.

As far as what you should specifically be doing, Christa: I’d encourage you to make a list of all the ideas that come to your mind. These could be things like guest posting, commenting on other blogs, participating in Linky parties, experimenting with Pinterest, interacting on Twitter and Facebook, running giveaways on other blogs, and more.

Then, pick one or two ideas to experiment with for a few weeks. See what kind of response you get and track your results. Over time, you’ll start to learn things that work — and many things that don’t work. Chuck the things that flop and stick with the things that work.

Keep learning, keep asking questions, keep experimenting, and keep pressing on. I’m excited to see you succeed!

For more suggestions and ideas, be sure to check out my How to Make Money Blogging series. In the first few posts, I share some practical ideas for growing your blog traffic and setting up your blog for success.

What advice do the rest of you bloggers have for Christa?

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