Monday, March 23, 2009

Recession Relief

Enough talk about AIG, the recession, blah, blah, blah. Let's talk about how I had a good "mail" day, and I didn't pay a cent for what showed up at my door!

First off, I must stress that I look forward to checking the mail everyday. I love having a mail slot next to my front door -- rain or shine, I don't have to leave my house to see what the postman brought! It never fails -- Sunday rolls around every week, and almost every Sunday my brain forgets for a moment that there is no mail to come, and it's just not the same. Most days I don't get anything exciting, but I suppose it is the mere prospect of the possibilities of what could be in the mail that keeps me going.

Today, as I mentioned before, was a very good mail day. First off I received another book for my son's growing library. For the past two years, I have found a way to grow my son's library without spending much money at all. Want to know my secret? Lean in closely, and I'll whisper it to you...Paperback Swap.

As the title suggests, it is mostly paperback books that people swap on there. Here are the basic rules: you list any books you would like to get rid of, er, swap (sounds much better). The books must be in good condition. These books get catalogued into a huge library database. A person goes into the database, types in a book they are searching for, and voila! Let's say they request your book. You then pay to send that book to them. Yes, stay with me, I know I said that YOU pay, and I'm sure by now you are wondering how this is a good deal if you are having to pay people to get rid of your books. Like I said, stay with me, and you'll get it in a little while. You mail them the book, and they in turn mark it as "received" in their account, and you receive a credit. With this credit you can then request someone else's book. Remember, as the person requesting the book, you don't pay a dime, but only "spend" your credit to get a book from someone else. You can also make a "wishlist" of books you would like to receive, thus putting you on a list of who's next in line to receive them as they enter the system. Paperback Swap sends emails to you when these books are entered in, and if you are next in line, you have the option of accepting or declining the book you are wishing for.

Here's the kicker of how I work the system: about two years ago, when my son was only two years old, I spent one evening browsing at my local Borders bookstore. (Yep, I'm nerdy like that. Love the time browsing in bookstores.) I took a pen and paper, cruised through the children's section and wrote down all of the ISBN numbers of the books I wished I would have had as a kid or wished my son could have if I could make a custom library for him. Most of these books were hardcover -- both for durability and for looks. (Yep, I'm a shallow book snob that way.) I went home, plugged each and every number into my wishlist, and waited. Some of them came up immediately, others took months, and some I am still waiting for. Most people don't realize that Paperback Swap is not just for paperbacks, although that is the vast majority of what is listed in their database. The books I had listed to give away were all cheap paperbacks, most of the type I picked up in airports, at Walmart, etc. -- just cheap, light reading, and definitely most of which I would never read again. So with these unwanted books, I was able to build up plenty of credits to use to obtain these much nicer classic books to keep for my son. Most people on Paperback Swap use it as just that -- a swap. They get a book they want to read, read it, and relist it so they can get another book. I personally use my local library system for that type of reading, and I use Paperback Swap to get the nice books I want to KEEP. There is no rule stating you have to ever send them back out.

I figure over the last two years I have probably spent around $25-45 in postage to mail out, usually at $1.75 a pop for postage (remember, you can utilize the postal service's "media mail" rate for this, much slower, but much much cheaper). The poor folks mailing me my beloved hardbacks are probably having to spend a bit more since they are heavier and bigger than paperbacks. On my account page there is an estimate of the amount of money I have saved by swapping out books -- according to Paperback Swap, I have saved somewhere in the ballpark of $215. If I were to add up the Border's cost for most of these books (and I have been very fortunate in the fact that most of them have arrived like new or almost brand new, probably never even cracked open once), I have estimated it to much higher, possibly even double that.

My other little trick to this is that this website has two sister sites: CD Swap and DVD Swap. I have taken so many of my CD's and listed them as well (because we all know that now you can download them to your computer and have no need for the actual CD's anymore), then taken those credits, and transferred them to my Paperback Swap account to get even more books. Many times I have listed a $5 or less CD and ended up with a $25 book to show for it. Not bad. There's two other positives to this: it not only gets these unwanted CD's and books out of my house and relieves the clutter, but these are also going to people that actually want them. A win-win situation.

Here are some (not nearly all) of the books I have gotten for my son so far. Sure, he may not be old enough to read most of them yet, but he's sure got an awesome library for when he is ready!

And here is a shot of his booksshelves so far -- as you can see, we have room to grow! Plus, the booksshelves themselves are a good 17" deep, so I can always start doubling up on stacking them if I need to.

You can't even imagine how happy I am about these books. Growing up, all I cared about was books. I loved going to the library, I loved reading, and I loved the bookstore. I would save all of my money to buy books, and it was always a treat on Saturday mornings when my dad or my mom would take me to make a new purchase. It was a rarity for me to buy a hardback as they were always so expensive, so being able to collect these beautiful hardbacks for my son brings me unbelievable joy.

But, that isn't all that brings me joy on this fine day. No, no. Today I also received this in the mail:

Oh yes. A Gap giftcard. For FIFTY SMACKEROOS.

This is my second one to receive -- the first came about this same time last year. For a few months, some friends of mine had been trying to convince me to join My Points. No way. I am not one of those people that falls for gimmicks, etc. But eventually, I caved, out of peer pressure, I suppose. And I started receiving these daily emails, usually between 1-3 a day, asking me to click on a sponsor link. Which I did, requiring about 2 seconds of my time for each one. Then I would close the window it opened for the sponsor, delete the email, and go about my business. Each of these is worth "5 points" usually. Over time, points add up. There are other ways to earn points -- surveys (which I rarely fill out), making purchases by accessing the website you want through the My Points page, etc. -- but most of my points come from those tiny little clicks. It takes me about a year to earn my enough points to obtain this $50 gift card, but for less than a minute a day, I have a $50 Gap card to show for it. How long I'll keep doing this, who knows. But I'll at least have two nice pairs of jeans to show for it...

*Now I'm not one to usually do this, but after reading my post which was NOT sponsored by Gap or My Points or any of the swap sites, if you decide to join up, be sure and put my name as the referral. I'd love to get more free credits to get my beloved books! Ah, I love being a nerd...


~Courtney said...

I just got my first PBS delivery today!!! One of the Harry Potter books. Yay!

~Michelle~ said...

Um, both of these sounds awesome. I'm going to sign up later tonight, I think!

Heather said...

ooh! i love mail too! its so fun, and Im always so bummed if all i get are ads...
you got so many awesome books! what a collection! i cant wait til audrey is old enough to enjoy books like that :)