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Read More, Spend Less $$$

by Matt Jones, CPA
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When I was in college, I frankly couldn’t afford cable television. So, I replaced ‘TV time’ with reading time. This year I read 37 books, mostly nonfiction, perhaps my best year ever.

Sidenote: I haven’t had cable television since 2012. The average cable bill (which now exceeds all other household utility bills combined) is $217 LINK. Now, I do have Netflix ($9.71/month) and Amazon Prime ($119/year) which saves me about $2,365 ($2,604 minus $239) each year. This isn’t an article to convince you to “cut the cord”, although that’s a pretty convincing argument in my opinion. I wanted to share the significant amount of money saved by replacing television with books. 

I sometimes wonder how I can read more without spending more. Buying a few dozen books each year could really eat into my savings (achieved by not having cable). 

I reached out to my friend Andrew Samtoy for his advice. Andrew is a prolific reader. In the past three years he’s read 68, 63 and 80+ books per year.

Audiobooks

Audible and individual audiobooks are an excellent way to consume more books. This is particularly true for fiction books. Non-fiction can be more technical requiring graphs, charts and data that don’t translate well to audio. 

Remember all those books you know you should read? The classics that you never got around to reading… they’re all out there (many for free) and you can passively listen while you clean the kitchen, fold the laundry or take a run. Andrew shared he listens to books while he runs, which he does more now due to COVID lock down (he lives in Edinburgh). 

Another advantage of audiobooks is that many have casts of readers for different roles. This makes books more entertaining, easier to follow and increases the likelihood of listening more often. 

Overdrive

Overdrive is probably my favorite app of all time. By linking your local library card you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks at no cost on a Kindle, laptop or phone. It takes some setting up, but it’s well worth the time and effort. We bought my mother-in-law a Kindle for Christmas and I took 20 minutes to set her up with Overdrive.

This is how I get at least half of the books I read. However, Andrew doesn’t borrow from the library due to marginalia. Don’t worry, I had to look the word up too; it means he likes to take notes in his books and reference them later. 

Andrew’s solution is to never spend more than £2 on a book, the equivalent of $2.70. He always buys books he may like if they cost less than £2. He shops at thrift and secondhand shops to achieve this. I’ve found many used books on Amazon that are practically brand new for a fraction of the cost of new copies. 

Speed Reading

I took a course in speed reading, learning to read straight down the middle of the page, and I was able to go through War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia.

Woody Allen

Some readers dislike speed reading as it can lead to low comprehension. However, in an effort to consume all the books my heart desires I investigated some speed reading strategies. 

My biggest takeaway from speed reading instruction: Use your finger to trace the words on the page. Nothing groundbreaking, but this actually works. Tracing helps because it prevents regression to prior words or previous lines. In practice, I struggled with this. Not because tracing the words with my finger is difficult, but because I read many books on my Kindle and tracing words flips the page by mistake. When I read physical books this method is very effective. 

Read Only What Deeply Interests You

I am not someone who “needs” to finish a book once I start it. As Andrew suggests in his own article on reading, if what you’re reading is deeply interesting to you, you will find time to read. He has strict rules about what he will read and who he will accept recommendations from (I am not on his approved list). 

Frankly, I respect Andrew’s approach. We’ll probably read fewer books in our lifetime than we might think. The typical American reads 4 books per year (using the median rather than mean) and one in four Americans reads zero. A typical person might only read another 100-200 books in their lifetime. I believe we ought to make them count. 

I don’t have a desire to consume every book someone mentions, so I’m planning on being selective about what I read and perhaps rereading books I’ve loved over the years. I still welcome book recommendations, but I’m also working on saying “no” this year.

With my son on the way, and taking particular advice from Andrew on this topic as he is a father, I want to read slightly fewer books for me and many more books to him – HELLO Rainbow Fish! 

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