Never Pay for Books, Music or Movies Again

by Kelly · 15 comments

in Money & Spending

I love to read. As the daughter of a bookseller and a letterpress printer, this is only natural. In fact, when I was little, my mother’s preferred punishment for me (on the oh-so-rare occasions I misbehaved) was to take away my reading privileges.

But books are expensive, especially when you live in a country where the majority language is not your native tongue. If I were to go to a bookstore and buy a new paperback novel in English, I would pay about €10.50- quite a chunk of change for a few days pleasure. Movies and music are the same thing, if they’re your weakness. A new CD can cost €10-€15, the same for a DVD. So what’s a frugal person to do?

Free Ways to Get Books

I bet the first place you’re thinking of is the library. But the library is not always free! Beyond the local taxes Americans pay to support their local library systems, many people around the world have to pay to be able to join their library. I pay €15 a year to use my city’s library system and have free access to a private, English language library through my membership in a local expat group.

I think the best way to get truly free books is by swapping them with friends. I have four or five friends who have similar taste in reading material as me, and we swap books frequently. But there are also more formalized book swapping services, such as Paperback Swap or BookMooch. I don’t have any experience with Paperback Swap, as they only accept US members, but I love BookMooch. For the cost of shipping a book to someone else, you get a new (to you) book. OK, it’s not truly free as you pay for the shipping on books you send to others, but it’s like getting a wonderful present when a mooched book arrives in your mailbox.

Free Ways to Get Music

One of my favorite ways to get free music is through Last FM. I love that I can listen to many different kinds of music, that I can see other users’ libraries, that I can just listen to one particular kind of music. I especially love that I don’t need to have my stuff with me to listen to music… not an MP3 player, CD player or even laptop in sight. Because it’s through the internet, I can listen to my favorite, personalized music anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. Not to mention that it is free! It is the perfect solution to radio listening at home– I just leave my laptop on and the music plays all day long.

If you’re looking to discover new artists, then here are a couple of interesting free sites. ReverbNation is an online place for music artists to promote themselves- there are many different styles represented here, and all kinds of sounds. It’s a great place to discover and support independent artists. If you speak French, then Zikpot is the place to go. (Warning- the only thing that I don’t like about this site is that it plays music automatically when you visit it… not workplace friendly!) Not only is it a good place to hear new artists, it’s a good place to learn about the stock market; you ‘bid’ on your favorite artist, and as he or she moves up (or down) the ranks you earn (or lose) ‘money’. Full disclosure: I learned about both of these sites from my husband- if you like loud rock music, you can check out his sites on ReverbNation and Zikpot.

Both of these sites are good for listening to music on your computer, but what about on the go? I don’t have a portable music player, unfortunately, so I don’t know frugal ways to get good music for a MP3 player or the like- does anyone have any tips?

Free Ways to Get Movies or TV

I often rely on the same techniques to get movies as books: the library or my network of friends. But I’ve heard of another alternative, for people in the US: SwapaDVD. It’s run by the same people as PaperbackSwap, so I believe it to be fairly dependable, although I can’t vouch for that myself.

Most of the time however, I rely on the most frugal source of viewing there is: TV. I watch a lot of movies as they come on the UK satellite channels, but there is also the possibility of watching TV shows online. Miro is a free, open source system that lets you watch videos online. There are also many TV channels such as NBC or the BBC that will allow you to watch the most recent episode of a show.

Other Things to Try

My Points is a great way to earn points and therefore dollars and gift cards. I read a lot of their emails, but buy very little. I can exchange the points I get for reading the emails for gift cards to places like Target or Amazon. I sure don’t mind getting money in exchange for reading a few emails!

Do you have a lot of books that you would like to get rid of? Maybe you’re interested in swapping your old reads and ‘already seens’ for someone elses’. Try posting an ad on your local Craig’s List– ads are free, and you can’t lose anything but a few minutes of your time.

What did I miss? How do you get books, movies and music for free?


1 Lucie @ Unconventional Origins December 5, 2008

What a good post! I almost always pay for books, and I only watch movies on TV, and I rarely seek out new music. Now I have some resources!

Thanks for sharing!

Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post..Your Dream Job – The Unconventional, The Traditional, and Somewhere Inbetween

2 olrandir December 5, 2008

For music, make sure you check out jamendo. It offers free, downloadable (and therefore portable media player friendly) music by independent artists, and covers a huge variety of genres. Some of the stuff on there is excellent, really.

Regarding books, you can very easily find cheap pocket editions of old classics, that are now in Open Domain, for example the lovely adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, and Rudyard Kipling. Most of these can additionaly be found in audiobook format on librivox -I find these make for great company on bus trips to school/work.

3 Squawkfox December 5, 2008

Oh wow. My library membership is free! The only time I pay is if my books are overdue. :/ The taxes I pay here in Canada for a small library system are minimal. It’s the health system which costs the most.

Squawkfox´s last blog post..Printable Sewing Patterns: Softie Christmas Tree

4 Becky December 5, 2008 for free movies and tv shows. They cycle out the episodes/seasons, so if you like it, don’t dawdle on watching it. is great. For even less money per DVD but a smaller selection (but newer DVD’s) there are Redbox kiosks ( in Albertson’s and other stores.

Becky´s last blog post..HBEF Barnes & Noble Bookfair

5 Gabriel December 5, 2008

PaperbackSwap–I use and like it. It isn’t free, but it’s about 1/4 the cover price of most of the books I send.
Library–We live a few blocks outside the city limits (although you can’t tell much difference), so we don’t pay the taxes that would allow me to use the library for free. Interestingly enough they allow any child under 18 to have a free card, though. So we just use my 2-1/2-year-old son’s card. I love their reserve system because I can request tons of books from other branches online.
TV–I almost never watch TV, and we’ve been rethinking shelling out for cable. Mostly we use the DVR and only record cartoons for my husband (Adult Swim on Cartoon Network), shows for my son, and the occasional classic movie. I wonder if we bought a DVD per month instead whether that would be better. They’d also make good things to ask for when people want a gift list.
MyPoints–I used to do this and I’d always use my points for gift cards for the bookstore.
Music–I rarely listen to it except in the car. I’m a member of the local public classical station. Otherwise I check out a variety of different types of music CD’s to listen to in the car just for exposure for my son. (Yay marching band music!)
I just realized this is a HUGE comment!

Gabriel´s last blog post..Advent Insanity

6 Gypsie December 6, 2008

Check out Pandora ( for free music. Once there you “create” a station by selecting an artist that you like and they will pick music similar to that artist. You give thumbs up or down and the station adjusts to your taste. If you dont like something and mark it so, it will never play that song again. It is a great way to find new artists with a similar style to your taste in music.

7 frugalscholar December 6, 2008

The great thing about,, and is that you can transfer points among all 3. The only problem is that my husband keeps transferring my book points to his cd account!

Love this blog!

Check out my new frugality blog.

frugalscholar´s last blog post..Danger: the “Frugal Halo”

8 David Getz December 6, 2008

SwapTree ( is a much better site. Trade across media, better interface, andno point system. You have to mention a site like Swaptree.

9 Kelly December 6, 2008

Great ideas everyone! While not all the options would work for me (I can’t access Pandora or the Swap programs, for example, because I don’t live in the US) they are good for US residents.

10 Stacie.Make.Do. December 7, 2008

My kids and I love listening to the free podcast “Spare the Rock”. It’s a radio show that is made available as a podcast and features children’s music.

Stacie.Make.Do.´s last blog post..Thanksgiving

11 Beth December 7, 2008

Another good place to listen to music is Type in the name of a song/artist you’re looking for, and listen to what others have shared online. It also recommends similar songs to ones you like–

12 Carol December 7, 2008

This is all fine as long as you never want books that are obscure or hard to find. Some books are not so easily swapable.

13 anonymous December 8, 2008 has free music downloads.

14 Carol December 31, 2008

Here’s an interesting article for those who don’t believe in paying money for books. There are ramifications.

15 Aspiring Millionaire @ November 30, 2009

Thank you for letting me know about Last FM and Reverbnation. I love the idea of free music. In addition Starbucks has a free song you can download every week. Starbucks tends to promote really good music and a variety of styles. Might be worth checking out.
.-= Aspiring Millionaire @´s last blog ..My $11,473 403b Loan =-.

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