Trying to be a mindful spender has had the inadvertent effect of me refusing to purchase certain items that give me genuine pleasure. I’m talking about books. Look up “bookworm” in the dictionary and you will see a picture of me. There is no greater thrill for me than walking into a bookstore and browsing, keeping a mental list of all the books I want to read and feeling proud of myself for seeing the books that I have read. The smell of ink on paper, the heft of the book, the complementary bookmark — all of it is intoxicating to me. Whenever I visit a person’s house/apartment for the first time, if there is a bookshelf, I am instantly attracted to it and scan over every single title. When I’m on the subway and a person near me is reading a book, I crane my neck trying to figure out what they are reading without looking like a total creep. I love recommending books to friends and sharing my copy or borrowing something myself. I have this fantasy in my head of quitting my day job and working at a small neighborhood bookstore and eventually becoming the owner. So that’s why I feel incredibly hypocritical browsing independent bookstores in New York City, writing down the titles that catch my eye, and walking out without spending a cent. I am effectively working against my dream by not patronizing my fantasy business.
I rationalized not spending money on books for a few reasons:
1) The Brooklyn Public Library has an incredible selection and I find that most books I want to read are available to download on my Kindle for free
2) They’re heavy. I have a 40-minute commute to work, both ways, often standing the whole time, so I try to keep my bag light. My Kindle weighs next to nothing so it has the advantage there.
From a purely practical perspective, of course it makes sense that I don’t buy books anymore. They cost money and can be heavy. But it doesn’t make up for the sense of disappointment and guilt I feel every time I leave a bookstore empty-handed. That might sound dramatic, but visits to the bookstore hold a really special place in my heart. Some of my best memories are going to the bookstore with my dad. He used books as a reward for me: if I did well on a test or an assignment, that translated to X number of books for me to pick out. I also benefitted from books as bribes. If I agreed to go on errands with him and not complain, we would stop at the bookstore on the way home and I could pick one out. I had to make such tough decisions as a child, knowing I could only get 2 or 3 during the visit. HOW WAS I EVER GOING TO CHOOSE? To get an understanding of my passion, one of the first things I will do after I win the lottery or pay off my student loans, whichever comes first, is to go to a bookstore and buy every single book that piques my interest.
I’m tired of depriving myself of something that makes me truly happy. So today, I made the decision to make books a part of my budget. I established two ground rules: 1) limit myself to $30-40/month (so ~2 books/month) and 2) buy books that aren’t available to download from the library on my Kindle, or where there is an impossibly long waitlist (for example, I am #302 on the waitlist for The Girl on the Train). Starting today, I will stop sabotaging my fantasy job!