Since we started having children, before we even knew for sure if we were going to homeschool, it has been a goal of mine to build a home library for our family. I know that that public libraries are free(ish) and that there are plenty of apps with books – we still use both! But there’s just something so amazing about having all these stories and references right at home, right when we need or want them.
I had a pretty nice start to our collection when we first got married: I had many of my own childhood books and series (like the Boxcar kids and lots of early readers.) By the time we decided we were fully invested in homeschooling, my mom and aunt were phasing out of their homeschool journeys so we got a ton of amazing hand-me-down books and resources from them as well. These two things alone probably still account for about half of what we have now!
While we had a pretty good start to our home library, I still wanted to add in some newer books & series, plus more materials that would make for good homeschool reference and general education. Here are some of the ways we’ve grown our home library without going broke…
Thrift Stores & Consignment Shops
Places like Goodwill and consignment stores (we have a pretty nice one local to us) can be great resources for used books. These places can be very hit and miss with what they have, so I used to just go on a regular basis to see if they had anything that week. I once found an entire chapter book series at Goodwill for $.25 per book and they all looked brand new! Consignment shops are typically pretty reasonably priced on books to begin with, and ours runs steep discounts once they’ve had items for sale more than 60 or 90 days.
Whether or not you have local places like this to shop, there are a lot of used and/or discounted books online as well. These tend to be not quite as cheap as the one you find locally (I assume because the internet = more competition = the ability to charge more) but they are still often a place for great savings. Ebay often has bundled series books, and sites like Ebay and Abe Books can be useful for finding specific books needed for schoolwork without paying retail.
The internet can also connect you to local sellers through sites like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. I’ve noticed since Marketplace became popular people tend to use that a lot more than Craigslist, but both are still worth checking every now and then
Library & School Inventory Sales
These don’t occur super frequently, but when schools or libraries are getting rid of old inventory these books are typically very cheap or even free! Libraries often have newsletters they send out that would alert you to when this type of event would happen. I also follow our library’s Facebook Page. When schools get rid of books (and other cool things like desks and shelves) they often post on Craigslist, though I have sometimes seen it shared in local Facebook for-sale pages as well.
Many typical book retailers can still be a great place to find savings on new books! I signed up for a Scholastic Teacher’s account (yes homeschoolers qualify for this) and have found lots of great deals with them. Places like Barnes & Noble and Amazon also often run excellent sales on classic books, or bundled deals when you buy several books, etc. I also have been a long-time fan of Usborne books. Hosting a party tends to get you a decent amount of free and discounted books, but even when I pay retail price I can’t feel bad because of how excellent they are. I also “technically” became a consultant for them so I can get 25% off whenever I buy! (I am not trying to sign anyone up here, just sharing how I save money with them.)
Holidays & Birthdays
Birthdays and Christmas are always occasions I like to “sneak in” books. For a birthday it might be that amazing toy they were hoping for + a book I think that particular child would love. For Christmas each child always gets at least a couple books if not a small series with their presents. Books are also a great idea to give to friends or family members looking to give gifts at these times too! Overtime these can really add up, especially when you have 6 kiddos 🙂
Patience is key to building a full library affordably. Unless you’re loaded I suppose 🙂 While there were several times I scored great finds at thrift shops, online sales, or other crazy finds, there were also many times I came up empty handed or just decided to wait because the price wasn’t where I needed it to be. When buying books I tried to focus on what we could realistically use and when. It can be good to “buy ahead” for higher reading levels and more advanced topics, but when on a budget it’s wise to not feel rushed to buy books you won’t use for years just because they’re on sale.
Don’t worry that you have to build your own inventory quickly, just let it build up over the years as the opportunities arise!
Hopefully this provided some new ideas to consider if you’re looking to grow your own library! If you have any other tricks or tips I missed, please feel free to let me know!