Every other day, it seems as though I get an email inviting me to start a “financial diet” or telling me about ways I can save and cut back. I’m no economist (my background is in law and history), but the more I read about the economy, the more nervous I feel. I find myself less willing to spend money that I don’t have to spend. After all, who knows what will happen next?

It’s not a comfortable feeling, but even so, there are certain things I just will not give up. I can do without the cute shoes or the bag that I really don’t need. However, I just can’t stay away from the bookstore. I can do without a lot of things, but I need my romance fix. Escaping into another world, whether it be the Old West, Tudor England or a planet far, far away, lets me recharge my batteries a bit.

If I step away from reality for a little while and take a break by going somewhere that I KNOW will lead to a happy ending, I feel just a little more ready to face the day. I liken it to the popularity of movies during the 1930s and 1940s. My grandmother often tells stories of how she and her sisters looked forward to their Saturday afternoon jaunt to the movies. They got to visit all kinds of imaginary places and it was a break from wondering if everyone would have work. what would be for dinner, endless chores and so on.

The same holds true for me. Settling in for a good read helps me feel ready to make it through whatever challenges await. I discovered this when I worked in Bosnia and read Harlequin Historicals like mad(you’d be surprised how many of these one can fit into a small bag), and it still holds true today. The other worlds that authors create have an element of escapism to them, but the best writers create strong characters whose actions and thoughts inspire one as well.

Normally, I range pretty freely through romance, historical fiction, sci-fi/fantasy and some literary fiction. Lately, though, I find myself needing a guaranteed HEA of some sort. I’m not suddenly turning into a diehard fan of light romps, but I like to know that, at the end of all the grueling quests and adventures, my heroine will wind up happy.

I’ve noticed that the romance section in my local Borders has been a little more crowded lately, too. Perhaps more of us are feeling that need for optimism and happy endings in our reading. I know that, no matter what, I’ll be finding a way to keep books in the budget. It’s rather like keeping hope in my life.

How about you? Do you notice your reading habits changing at all? Does reading help you through tough patches, too?

-Lynn Spencer

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17 Responses to Cutbacks

  1. library addict says:

    I downsized the number of books on my keeper shelf as well as my book buying budget when I moved. So it’s already much less than it was even two years ago. I still have my must-buy-on-day-of-release authors. And though the list is much shorter than it was, I know there are other things I buy regularly that I would give up before I give up books :lol:

    I have started using the library more, particularly for new-to-me authors.

    I don’t think my reading habits have changed much because of the economy. I still read a wide variety of genres. And I still love romance for the guaranteed HEA.

  2. morninggirl5 says:

    My reading habits haven’t really changed. I’m still buying the same number of books, but when I’m in that “I’ve got nothing to read, let’s see if something looks good” mode, I’m probably going to be at the UBS rather than Borders.

    A friend gave me a framed quote for Christmas last year. It sums me up pretty well.

    “When I get a little money, I buy books. If there’s any left, I buy food and clothes.” Desideras Erasmus (1466-1536)

  3. AAR Sandy says:

    I’m not surprised these days that historical romance is on the upswing. I certainly find myself reveling in every moment I can spend in a less complicated time.

  4. I’m not sure the oldentimes were ever less complicated, I think they are appealing because we know civilization survived and rebuilding happened and the world didn’t end.

    We hope that for our own time, but as with any future, we don’t know for sure.

  5. Cindy W says:

    It’s effecting me alright. I have drastically changed my book buying habits (still have a big tbr pile), reduced bills, including groceries! I do buy my books, but it’s never more than a couple at a time, and it’s with a coupon. I try to wait on (my username is cindyw5 incase you want to join) but that site has saved me SO much money. I keep less books, because I get a new one after sending one! I am also using my library much more and am so glad I can reserve books online!

    Lynn, Kudos to you… at least you realize you don’t spend money you don’t have!!!

  6. AAR Sandy says:

    You’re right, Sherry. It’s comforting to know that civilization went on. For a multitude of reasons, escaping into the past seems a more thorough escape to me these days. As an almost lifelong news junkie who can no longer bear to watch the news, I’m grateful for the respite.

  7. Dj says:

    Many years ago I went on a ten month long “book fast” in order to save money for a trip to Europe with a friend. I was amazed by how much money I’d been spending on books.

    Since then, although I still by a lot of books, I make a real effort to use the library first. That is easier as more of the authors I enjoy reading have their books published in hardback.

  8. Katie Mack says:

    I hear you Lynn! There are a lot of things I would give up before my books. And I find myself reading romances much more than other genres because of that guaranteed HEA. But the economy has had an impact on my book buying habits. I’ve gradually moved from buying everything new, to almost exclusively used, to now getting most books from the library. While I still have my must-buy-on-release-day authors, like library addict said, that list has gotten much shorter.

    I also find myself reading more series romances. Stores like Target sell them for around $3.75 (here in California), so if I’m going to impulse buy and get a book new, it will likely be one of these.

    And I’ve been trading more of my older books for credit at the UBS, and visiting the monthly library donation sales (where last month I bought 83 books for a whole $12).

  9. Susan/DC says:

    When my oldest son was with the Army in Iraq, I definitely changed my reading habits and could not deal with anything other than an HEA in books and movies. The HEA was reasonably broadly defined, however. For example, I counted such movies as “The Constant Gardener” because the main character discovered both how much he was loved and that he was, in fact, a hero. Not a Romance novel HEA, but to me an HEA nonetheless. The current economy is having somewhat the same effect on my need to believe that an HEA is possible, even if the balances on my 401(k) statement are sinking faster than the Titanic.

    As a result, I’ve definitely cut back on my general book buying but not so much on romances because I view them as necessary to a reasonable state of mental health. I wish I could rely on library books, but my public library has a pitiful number of romances in stock and buys very few new ones. I do go to the UBS, but I try to buy midlist authors new so that they will continue to be published. Books are still a relatively cheap indulgence, as long as I stick to PB.

  10. ldb says:

    My reading habits have never been oen thing, for a few weeks I’ll want light but without warning I’ll need something dark. I don’t know why it is but maybe it has something to do with the world around me and the moods it puts me in. I will say I’ve decided not to buy books for face value. If I can’t get a book without a sale I won’t buy it, and with all the coupons Borders offers and Target and Walmart near me selling most new releases it usually works out well. Over all I probably don’t save THAT much but at least I feel better about buying as much as I do, and soon I think I’ll go to my keeper shelf in between books to lessen what I buy.

  11. Renee says:

    I definitely agree with you, Lynn. I typically have very ecletic taste in books and will read a wide variety of books (mystery, general fiction, classics, romance, scifi, etc.) However, these days with so much gloomy news afoot, I find myself longing for a HEA and if I can’t find a current book that fits the bill, I will go back to my pile of “desert island keepers” and re-read something. Recently, I re-read the Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer and Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney. I am pleased to say neither had lost any of their charm.

  12. Lynn Spencer says:

    Morninggirl5 – I love that quote!

    I’m definitely hitting the UBS more than I used to as well. I still try to buy new (often with coupons) when I can, especially for the midlisters and new authors. I want them to still get publishing deals, after all! Unfortunately, the library isn’t much of an option. I grew up near a good local library, but the one where I live now doesn’t have a very good romance selection. They also have some serious safety issues, and having to be hypervigiliant while trying to also browse books just doesn’t help with that “escape factor” for me.

    Luckily, I have a good keeper box,too. I’ve been lugging that thing around since undergrad and it’s almost full now!

  13. Julie says:

    I have to say, until reading this blog & everyone’s response to it, I haven’t really analyzed why my bookreading habits have changed lately, but they definitely have. I normally love to read political/military thrillers and would buy up Vince Flynn & Brad Thor as soon as they come out w a new release and would have them read within a day. While I still buy them, b/c I know how much I love them, they’re not at the top of my list to read. I have been leaning towards what I like to call “fluff” lately. I’ve wanted that HEA. I want a book that I know I’m going to smile at the end and with VF & BT, as much as I love them and other authors of their ilk, I just don’t know if I’m going to have that big smile and warm feeling when I’m done. Cheesy, I know, but it is what it is :)

  14. BevBB says:

    I’m still happily reading/rereading my romances like always, but for some odd reason I’ve found myself rereading my Agatha Christie collection lately. Comfort reads of a different sort, maybe? Hey, they have good endings too. ;)

    Seriously, I think I’m on a cozy kick. Wonder if I can combine that with romances someway . . .

  15. Christina says:

    I feel pretty lucky. I can spend as much on books as I want.

    I sold my townhouse in 2007 when my room mate moved. I moved in with my parents. I was able to pay off my debt and sock away the rest of the profit from the townhouse for my future home, where ever that will be. The organization I work for has been ordered to move to Kentucky by Congress (as part of the Base-Realignment). The move is scheduled for next year.

    This has allowed me, since I don’t have many bills, to spend more freely. I know that will change again, whether I move to Fort Knox or stay here in Northern Virginia. I’m stocking up, while I can.

    Though I buy most of my books, I still use because all are not keepers for me. I recently purged my list and donated some of them because I don’t have the room to keep so many “waiting for new owner” books.

    I started reading romance mainly because I stumbled across the reading challenge on Harlequin’s website. Once I joined that, the world of book blogging drew me in and my reading habits evolved. I’ll read almost any type of romance sub-genre now.

  16. Katie says:

    I started reading romance novels 4 years ago, and I counted that I buy on average at least 10-15 books per year.

    In the first two years, all books were brand new and bought in groups of 4 (because of online shipping stuff) – so I spend quite a lot.

    In these recent years, I moved into the city and found more used book stores, so on average 1/3 of my purchases are second hand, which reduced overall costs for me.

  17. fivefingers says:

    There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration.That is a great point to bring up.I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith.I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game.Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

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