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Buying books the Insiders Club way

September 5th, 2009 at 01:16 pm

I've had the urge to buy books lately--part of putting my life back together and feeling normal after several strange years, I think. I'm starting to buy books that have been on my Amazon wish list for years, books I used to own but sold to raise cash, books that my local libraries don't have that I don't want to inter-library loan.

It's easy enough to put together a $25 order of new books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, which qualifies for free shipping. But what about out-of-print books, or ones that are just a lot cheaper used? With shipping about $4 a pop, even 1 cent books can start to add up. This is where I'm finding it's worthwhile to keep my membership in the Insiders Club, aka freeshipping.com. (About $9 a month.) I know people have mentioned them here before, but not specifically in reference to books, so I thought I'd report how it's working out.

There's a limit on how much shipping they will reimburse per order. I think it's $10. So I've been ordering in batches of two books, to get a reimbursement of about $8 each time. There are quite a few online bookstores participating, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ABE, Alibris, Half.com and more. There's also a limit on how many rebates per store you can do in a year, so I'm trying to spread my business around.

Sometimes, although I've ordered two books at once, a store will split it up into two orders. But so long as I add a note about what happened, there's been no problem getting my rebate. (Yes, they really do reliably send out the checks, as long as you remember to send in your paperwork after starting the submission online.)

If you find yourself shopping online a lot, it really is worthwhile if you can get in on an offer to join. (I got the offer at the end of a Woman Within order.)

A little extra money :)

August 18th, 2006 at 06:35 am

Yesterday I got a letter from the election board about working a special school bond election in September. It wouldn't pay as much as the regular ones ($70 vs. $200), but it's a much shorter day. I do have qualms about it--I've heard there can be more nastiness and shenanigans at these elections--but I guess I'll put in to do it.
I don't feel like I ought to turn down $70.

This morning I got an email from Amazon about a book that sold--$48 for a textbook DH retrieved from the trash at work! (It's still in very nice condition.)

Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny--has anyone read?

August 10th, 2006 at 06:21 am

I caught part of a tv interview with her this morning, and her message really rubbed me the wrong way. I checked out her website as well, and am still shaking my head. The fact that she has a whole little empire going with books, CDs and seminars doesn't make me feel more positive.

She lists warning signs that indicate you are earning less than you should be, including: being fearful, having debt and not knowing how much, not balancing your checkbook, generally living in financial chaos, not being able to pay the rent again this month. She says even people with six-figure incomes could be underearners if they have these warning signs. Uh, couldn't they also indicate overspending and disorganization?

I'm not against making more money, but making more is no solution if you don't learn the principles of handling what you have already.

Has anyone else read her stuff? Maybe I'm giving her a bum rap.

Consistently inconsistent (notes on several books)

July 9th, 2006 at 04:54 am

I just read Not Buying It, and enjoyed it. The author has a lively writing style, and I had to laugh out loud several times. The Take Back Your Time expert who was too busy to meet with her was priceless.

However, the inconsistencies in her plan jumped out at me from the beginning.

Fresh frozen coconut milk and $55 haircuts were apparent necessities and ok to buy. However, $1 "green rolls" they liked from a street vendor were a luxury they cut out--even though they didn't cost much, and the vendor could probably use the business. Commercially baked bread was ok, but crackers were out. Free entertainment was ok, and giving money to charity was ok. But paying money for a concert, when the concert benefited a nonprofit group, was not ok.

It would really have bugged me if I hadn't just read two other books.

In Rumspringa, I learned that it's ok for the Amish to power a washing machine with a gas engine, but not a tractor. It's ok for teenagers to run around and experiment with sex, drugs and rock and roll, getting pregnant at 16, but heaven forbid they want to attend school beyond 8th grade and play competitive sports. One family might be shunned for doing something that was perfectly ok for the family next door, because they live in different districts under different bishops.

In Treasure Hunt, I read about how middle-range products are dying out because people are buying mostly bottom and top end products. And not necessarily because the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Many people are apparently scrimping on things at the dollar store so they can afford designer purses and such.

Then there's my little research project on the NJ sales tax. Astringent is not taxable but moisturizer is. Apparently taking care of oily skin is a necessity, but taking care of dry skin is a luxury.

I guess my conclusion is that being inconsistent is just human nature. I'll try to remember that when I'm feeling critical of other people's decisions (and my own).

More on the old books available online

July 4th, 2006 at 06:17 am

Retire@50, I didn't see Six Hundred Dollars a Year on Cornell's Hearth, but I did find it at another site! (They have it as part of a fiction collection, but it appears to be the right one.)

Text is www.letrs.indiana.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=wright2;idno=Wright2-2235 and Link is

I've started reading it myself and am enjoying it a lot. Thanks for mentioning the title.

BTW, I found it through
Text is www.digitalbookindex.com and Link is
www.digitalbookindex.com which lets you search across many online ebook collections. It worked where googling didn't.

Cheetahwoman7, the titles I'd been wanting to read again were:

Successful family life on the moderate income, by Mary W. Hinman Abel

The business of the household, by Clarence Taber

Family expense account, by Thirmuthis A. Brookman

Various titles by Christine Frederick

The homemaker and her job, by Lillian Gilbreth. She's the mother of the original Cheaper By The Dozen family. If anyone's interested in the Gilbreths, there's also a neat site about them, here:

Text is gilbrethnetwork.tripod.com/front.html and Link is

Well, now that I've veered completely off-topic (except that I'm talking about sources for free reading material), I guess I'd better go.

A freebie 20 years in the making

July 2nd, 2006 at 06:27 am

Back in 1986, in one of my first library jobs, I discovered some interesting old home economics and budgeting books. They were so old and rare that they didn't circulate. So on my lunch hours I'd go back in the "closed stacks" area where they were kept, and read them while I was there.

I made a list of my favorite titles, in case I could ever find them at a used bookstore. But over the years, they were either nowhere to be found or else too expensive.

But, now they are here, for free!

Text is hearth.library.cornell.edu/ and Link is

Cornell University has put up a ton of home ec stuff that's gone out of copyright. You can read whole books online, or download them. You can also search their whole database for topics you want to research, across all the titles.

It's really interesting to see how things have changed, and how they've stayed the same. I always find some kind of insight from these old books that is still useful today. I'll post some good quotes in future blog entries.

Book Review-Green With Envy

June 14th, 2006 at 05:15 am

Subtitle, why keeping up with the Joneses is keeping us in debt. By Shira Boss.

Nothing terribly profound or new, but it was a quick, interesting read. I'd recommend it as a library borrow, but it wouldn't be worth buying IMHO.

The author and her husband were going through a rough period financially, and it looked to them like their peers and neighbors were doing much better. However, one day she overheard a seemingly rich neighbor talking about financial problems, and her curiosity was piqued.

She found a way to get the low-down on the neighbor's situation, and then went on to do more interviews on the same theme--how did actual financial situations differ from how they appeared?

The most surprising part was the chapter on congressmen who have such a hard time financially they have to sleep in their offices!

I did find it hard to have much sympathy for the ultra-rich, whose main problems seem to be 1) a lack of privacy because of all the servants in the house, and 2) boredom because of not having to work. I'm sorry, their money still gives them choices the rest of us don't have.

An interesting tip, if you are husband- or wife-hunting and living in the Northwest. Apparently many children of the wealthy, from the Northeast, are relocating to the Northwest and trying to live life like "normal" people. So if you meet a nice starving artist in Seattle, give them a chance. They might be a millionaire in hiding. Smile

Happiness Units

May 27th, 2006 at 08:22 am

Does anyone else remember Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown? Smile

She has a chapter on money, and I always remember her saying to make sure and spend your money where you'll get the most Happiness Units in return.

Well, it's corny but it's a good point. I'm looking over my spending for the past year, trying to see where I haven't gotten enough happiness units for the money. Those are places that will be easy to cut.

The first obvious category is book/cd/dvd buying (exclusive of Netflix). I spent $132 and the shocking thing is, all but $33 of this was on mailing costs. Mostly for various swapping programs, which were supposed to save me money. The fact is, I sent a lot of stuff out and so far have gotten little in return.

I haven't bought a NEW book in over a year. I bought one DVD that was so obscure even Netflix didn't have it. The rest of the $33 was for used books, most of which I bought to try and sell (unsuccessfully).

So, although $132 is that much in the whole scheme of things, it really didn't buy me much of anything.

I'm going to budget $84 in the coming year (36% reduction), and try to get a lot more for the money. First priority will be trying to get something for the credits I've already earned at the swap sites.

Yippee! Getting a free (or almost) leaf blower soon

May 13th, 2006 at 04:42 pm

I know I shouldn't count my chickens before they're hatched, but if all goes well...

I'd called Discover Card to either cancel the card, or keep it if they offered me a deal to stay. They offered $20 in rewards after my first purchase.

The $20 just showed up. I can take the cash, or get a gift card worth $25, so I requested a gc for Ace Hardware. I was there today, and saw several leaf blowers priced at less than $30. I also have a $5 off a $25 purchase coupon for Ace in my Entertainment Book. And I just joined the Helpful Hardware club thing, so when I "buy" the thing, I'll also earn points.

It won't be the blower/vac model I was drooling over awhile back, but it will be free, or nearly so.

As opportunities like this keep coming up, I keep thinking about the book, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. What a role model for matching your talents with the opportunities you have, to get what your family needs and wants. If you haven't read it, do! (Have some tissues handy.)

Bookselling not what it used to be

May 6th, 2006 at 11:19 am

I'm posting this to remind myself for the Nth time, forget about selling books online!!!

They were having a booksale at the library I was going to anyway, so DH and I went in to see what we could find. It was toward the end, so we could each get a bag's worth for $5. Most of what I picked up were out-of-print, nonfiction titles that several years ago might have brought $9 to $18 on Amazon. Out of 13 I bought today, 12 are going for less than $1. One is even going for -0-, just shipping! The other one is about $4.50, but there's a paperback edition going for practically nothing--so why would anyone pay more for a well-used hardcover?

Well, the library's budget's been cut, so I'll just consider it a donation. And there are a few paperbacks I want to read myself, and then can swap, so it's not a total loss.

My lesson for today is, the best thing for me to do is stay away from library booksales, and recognize that Times Have Changed.

Weight and Wealth

January 19th, 2006 at 05:36 am

I came across a documentary the other day, being played on one of our public tv stations. It was called When Ends Don't Meet, and followed several families who'd be called the working poor--except for one couple where the husband wanted to work but couldn't, or his cancer-striken wife would lose her Medicaid coverage.

One thing that struck me was how most of the adults in the families were overweight. I can think of one mother who looked in good shape, and two husbands who only had small bellies. The rest seemed to be really obese. It struck me as odd, because when I think of poverty the picture in my mind is of starving, skinny folks during the Great Depression or in third world countries.

Since I've always had both weight and money management difficulties myself, it got me thinking about about common denominators. These folks didn't appear to be particularly lazy or inactive. If you are on your feet every day waitressing, and are raising 5 or 6 kids, you probably get a good workout. Wink Eating junky, fattening foods because they are filling and cheaper than healthier ones? Also eating them for pleasure because it's cheaper than other forms of recreation? Actual changes in your metabolism because of being under stress for long periods of time? A slight brain dysfunction where you have trouble keeping track of income and outgo, in terms of calories as well as money? Or just being so consumed by trying to make ends meet that you just don't pay attention to diet and exercise?

I know in my case I do seem to gain weight when we've had a long stretch of money worries, but I still can't say for sure why that is.

It got me curious enough to go ahead and order a book on Amazon that I've had on my wishlist a long time. It's called The Weight and Wealth Factors, by Angie Hollerich. For $1.12 plus shipping, using a discounted gift certificate, I figured I'd go for it. If I get any great insights from it, I'll report back. In the meantime, would be curious if anybody else has thoughts on the subject.