While this may seem counterintuitive, buying books is more frugal than borrowing them from the library. At least that’s true in my situation. And that’s why I never go to the library.
So if you’re interested in buying a condo, for example, buy a great book on it – don’t borrow it from the library. Buying a book is more frugal.
That’s right. You heard me.
Of course, it really depends on how you define frugality. What does “frugality” mean to you? To me, it means I should try to avoid wasting resources.
Money is an important resource. But time is a more valuable one to me, and I hope to you too. Books and libraries illustrate what real frugality is and isn’t. I never borrow books from the library. I always buy the books I want to read instead. (Of course, I buy them used if that’s any consolation.)
Most of the books I buy are about business, finance or self-development. I rarely read novels. I love to read, but I don’t have a great deal of time to do it. I’m picky about what I read, and if I decide I want to read a book, I really want to dive in. I want to learn everything I can. I want to underline. I want to reference. I want to get in there and suck all the value I can out of it.
If you want to learn about IRAs and IRA beneficiary rules, don’t you think you’d be better by owning a book and making notes? I do.
But I can’t do that if I have to return the book to the library. If I read a book without marking it up and coming back to it to reference, I won’t learn anything. In my case, it would be a complete waste of time. The complete opposite of frugality.
Maybe you can read a book once and absorb the material, but not me. Maybe that’s just the way I learn. But if I do get in there and get my hands – and the pages – dirty, I usually learn a great deal.
I love to ask myself how I can apply the lessons of the book I’m reading to my own situation.
This takes time. I have to ponder it. I have to write about it. I have to come back to it. It usually doesn’t come to me immediately. I’m just not that quick.
Maybe I’ve got a wiring problem in my head, but if I don’t take a pen and mark up those pages, most of the material just slips through my mind like a Barry Manilow song. It was somewhat pleasant while it lasted, but once it’s gone, it’s forgotten. Sorry, Barry.
A great example is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This book talks about how to run a successful small business. I bought it several years ago, and it entirely changed the way I do business. As a result of what I learned from Gerber, my business runs smoother, my clients are happier and my life is much simpler.
In order to get that much value, I had to really wrestle with the material in the book. I had to come back and re-study it. I had to quote Gerber to the people who work with me. I bought copies for them and made sure we talked about it so the lessons would sink in for them too.
You might be like me and have fear of criticism. After all, the book cost me $20 – that’s true. But it’s saved me a fortune and thousands of hours of work since I started implementing the lessons a few years ago. Had I borrowed that book from the library, I would not have benefited at all from it.
Again, this is just the way I learn and it happens to be a good example of what I think of when I talk about frugality. Respecting resources. I can spend $20 and possibly save thousands and thousands or I can save the $20 and almost certainly learn nothing.
The truth is, even if I buy a book and it doesn’t give me all that much value, the risk/reward trade-off makes it an easy decision. I can always sell used books. The potential benefit of new ideas is so powerful that it’s foolish for me not to take the risk. If I bought a hundred books and only one gave me a great business idea, it would still be a good investment.
What does this have to do with you? How can you benefit by this?
Frugality is very personal. It’s not absolute. What is wasteful to me might be resourceful to you. It’s not just about saving money. It’s about respecting your resources. Granted, you actually could be the kind of person who would be wasting money by buying books. But I think the conversation about buying versus borrowing books can be applied widely.
When you act frugally, are you just focused on saving money? Do you consider all of your resources? Do you have an example of a time when spending more money than you absolutely had to was more resourceful than not spending the money? Do you disagree with me? Should I go get a library card? (I won’t…)