How Unemployment Has Changed My Life As A Reader

I used to be the girl who would go to the bookstore weekly and hide the evidence in bags in my car so my family and Will could not comment on the excessive book buying. I hid those bags like dirty little secrets.

 

I used to be the girl who was constantly buying books online and smuggling the boxes in before anyone could see them.

 

I used to be the girl who bought books like some people bought lattes.

 

I used to be the girl who would impulsively buy books she really didn’t know anything about but decided to anyways because somebody on the internet said it was really good.

 

I used to be the girl who bought books all the damn time. Whenever she wanted. Even when she had shelves of unread books mocking her.

 

But, as many of you know, I got laid off right before my wedding. I went from working full time and living at home rent free (read: lots of disposable income I should have saved) to being unemployed and now paying for all of the Grownup Things in my own apartment with my new husband. I never thought my time of unemployment would be more than a few months. I thought I’d get a job easily (because I’m freaking awesome?) and be frolicking back in the Land of the Gainfully Employed with my paychecks just burning a hole in my pocket all the way to the bookstore and the clothing store and the makeup store.

But alas, the job fairies have not been kind to me as of yet and I’m still unemployed and, after the first couple months, I realized I had to change my buying habits — with books and in every other area of my life.

Here’s a few ways it has affected me:

+ the amount of books I buy (obviously): I had to severely decrease the amount of books I was buying. I’m talking a lot. I buy a book or two every couple of months now. It’s just not in the budget when it comes to books vs. paying rent. Brand new books have become rare treats to myself or made possible because of gift cards from family. It’s so hard to curb that habit of just buying so many books on a whim and not thinking twice about it. It’s taught me to be a more calculated buyer of books and I find myself spending my money these days on books from authors I know I love or a book I loved as an ARC and know I’ll reread. I still love to go to bookstores but it breaks my heart though I’ve gotten better to appreciate the art of browsing and creepily telling people they should buy books I loved.

+ my relationship with the library: I was a card carrying library patron prior to unemployment but I only went to my library sporadically. Now I go to the library A LOT. I could probably, in this time of unemployment, survive solely on the ARCs that I receive and egalleys I have access to but secret time: I don’t like reading ARCs all the time. I don’t always want to read “what’s hot” and new. I want to browse and find something for myself. I want to check out the backlists of authors I’ve just discovered. I don’t want to feel pressured to be part of someone’s marketing plan all the time. I love my library now and love borrowing books. Even when I get a job, my library is now going to remain a huge part of my reading life and I’ll be forever thankful for a place I can go and get free books from (except for when I don’t pay my fines like I confessed in this post.)

+ the way I deal with book tours in my area: I’ve been lucky that Philly gets some darn good tours and authors coming by. If it was a tour, I typically used to buy one of every author’s book (or more if I loved the author) regardless of if I’d read it and either keep it for myself or give it away on the blog but now I can only buy the ones I know I like/REALLY want to buy.

I like giving back and supporting these tours. Being unemployed meant going to a tour that I wanted to SUPPORT, but hadn’t read any of the authors yet and couldn’t justify buying because Will had lost his job temporarily too, and not getting anything signed and feeling like a jerk because I didn’t buy anything. I’ve been lucky that lots of the tours that have come through have been authors I LOVE so I use my very small book buying budget and am ABLE to buy them (and it happens that Gayle Forman came on my birthday so YAY BIRTHDAY MONEY) and enjoy the signing and support the authors.

+ feeling guilty because I felt like I wasn’t supporting authors: This has been one of the hardest things. Cass just posted about where she talked about supporting authors by buying the books we read and loved as ARCs and when I am not unemployed I pretty much do just that either for myself or for a gift or to donate to a classroom. It’s not the ONLY way to support an author but it’s just a practice I personally like. Buying books is a fun thing in it of itself but knowing with my purchase I’m supporting an author I love makes me happy. I’ve felt so much guilt for the number of ARCs I’ve received and read during my unemployment but have not been able to purchase when I’ve loved them. I know I give back to the bookish community in other ways as I talked about some of my donating practices of my own books to libraries and classrooms when I cull them, but I just kept feeling this guilt for not being able to support these authors. I’ve realized that, in fact, I DO support authors still even though I can’t do it in one aspect I wish I could right now. I talk about these books, I recommend them, I get people to read them or buy them and these are things I KNOW for a fact I’m doing based on readers telling me they bought something because I recommended it or seeing, after posting a book review, that people went off through my affiliate links to purchase it. I have solid proof that I’m still supporting books even if I cannot personally buy as many currently. I also don’t discount the fact that when I donate to libraries and schools I am potentially giving a reader the chance to discover a new favorite author.

 

I’ve learned a lot during this time of unemployment — I’m better with my money as a whole, I’m less impulsive (and that comes to buying books now too) and I’m very critical when it comes to deciding to buy something. I’m curious if that will stick when I get a full time job but I’d like to think maybe I’d be better about aimlessly spending my allotment of money for books and choose the authors I love, the books I REALLY want to read and won’t let sit for YEARS like some of my books and gift books to people a lot more. I’m really pleased it’s made me fall in love with my library all over again and to be thankful I have a good library with a great interloan library system. So, while it’s been sucky for now, I think I’ve learned a lot and helped some of my habits for the better.

Let’s Talk:

What is your book buying habit like? Have you ever had to give yourself a budget or maybe cut down because of a layoff like I did? Have you reformed from out-of-control-buyer-of-books to a more calculated or less impulsive buyer like I have? Are you just naturally selective of what books you buy?
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