How to Grow Your Home Library on the Cheap: Library Book Sales

How did we grow our kids’ library to several hundred titles without feeling it in our budget? (And I’m married to an accountant, so I would certainly feel it in our beautiful, elaborate, custom made budget spreadsheet. Like, there’s not even a column for books- for real.)
Library Book Sales!
We have literally been enjoying Christmas in July the past two weeks as TWO local libraries have hosted their book sales in back to back weeks! Today I added 15 books to our collection for $5!

Move It! Builders by Mike Brownlow

Move It! Builders by Mike Brownlow. Oversized board book with lots of movable pieces for your little construction workers!

Here are my best tips for making the most of library book sales:

  1. Plan to Go! To find out when and where the sales are, you can take a look at They have great detailed information, including the prices of each sale’s books. Be sure to click on the links to libraries in your area for the details as the top of the page is just a list of towns by date.
    After you’ve shopped a sale, they will likely give you a list of upcoming dates, and they typically schedule them out for the entire year. Yay for planning ahead! So go ahead and record that in your calendar! You don’t have to plan your vacations around them like I do. 😉 I typically visit 3-4 different libraries’ sales, and they each are held 3 times per year!
  2. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: The prices can vary, but typically in my area paperback books are 3/$1 and hard cover $1/ea. Often the volunteers who run the sales are sweet, older bibliophiles who are thrilled to see people buying books for littles. It’s a good idea to remind them ask if board books are priced as soft cover. I’ve yet to have a stickler who considers them hard cover. It helps if you pile them in groups of 3s aside from your hard cover books to expedite the checkout process for them.
  3. Strategize: if at all possible, plan to go on the first day of the sale, and even better within the first few hours after they open. They don’t restock as the sale goes on! Or, if you aren’t able to go early on, the final day is often “stuff your bag for X amount” (often $5 for whatever you can carry out in a reasonably sized bag). I arrived at today’s sale 15 minutes after it began, and I had to park in the overflow parking lot! Patrons were actually being stalked for their parking spaces! Just find the children’s area and you’ll be in the company of some like-minded folks. Oh, and don’t forget to look under the tables for more boxes!
  4. Logistics: sales are usually in tight spaces and very difficult to navigate with a stroller (and some don’t even allow strollers due to fire regulations). So, babywearing for the win in this case! But, if you can leave the kids with someone and head over on your own, that’s ideal. Or, bring along a shopping buddy and take turns letting the kiddos enjoy the library’s children’s department while the other shops! Be sure to bring a bag to carry your finds as you are shopping.
  5. Buyer Beware: Keep in mind these will be donated used books, or books withdrawn from the library’s collection. I don’t have any qualms about some writing, bent pages, or scratched covers. That’s likely gonna happen when I get them home anyhow! If your comfort level with used books isn’t so high, you can still find some gems! I’ve found giftable condition books plenty of times! BUT, I do a quick scan through every book to make sure there aren’t pages ripped out completely, or scribbles covering pages. I’ll do a post in the future about how to mend damaged books. (I’ve learned some tips over the years working in the “Book Hospital” at an elementary school library! #1 Enemy? Dogs. Library books must smell delicious to canines!)


Here are some of my favorite finds from my recent bargain hunting! The most I’ve paid for any of these is $1.

loved books

An assortment of library discards and pre-loved books. I was thrilled to find these adorable titles, including a Newbery and a few Caldecott Award winners in the bunch.

Hide & Seek Vehicles by Claire Page

Hide & Seek Vehicles by Claire Page. Complete with a magnifier!

Happy Hunting!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *