Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

My new retirement quest – reading my way to getting my rates for ‘free.’

3 books.
Poems, history and fictional history – what more could you want?

It’s going to storm pretty heavily later today, so I decided to take the dogs and walk up to the library to return a couple of books and pick up an Atwood book of poems that I had on hold. It takes 6,000 steps to get there and back so it’s a good walk to take when you’ve been a bit too ‘at one with the couch’ for a few days.

This morning I thought of another book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. When I got there I posted my returns through the slot and then went to the door and called to the librarians. I had the dogs with me and there was no way I was going to leave them tied up outside. My dogs are too appealing – there’s been an uptick in stolen dogs since covid hit and I don’t want mine to be added to that unhappy crew.

As you can see from the photo – they already had “The Last Tudor”, even though I only put it on hold an hour before. I was one happy customer!

As we were slowly striding home – Scout, being a miniature wire-haired dachshund, has very small legs – I idly began to think of how much money I was carrying home in these books. My father’s remark of, “They’re going to have to raise the rates!” flashed through my mind. He said this when I said that I’d started using the local library.

My rates are $1,800 each year. An average novel costs between $30 – $40. Say, just as a thought exercise, that each book costs $30. That would require someone to borrow and read 60 books in a year to “get their money back.”

(I just want to make something clear. Long-term readers of this blog would be extremely sceptical that I was willing and able to do these mathematical equations. They’d be right. I did them on a calculator when I got home.)

When you consider that last year my Goodreads challenge was fulfilled by the start of December with 80 books read, then this challenge is pretty do-able. I’ve already read 28 books in 2021, so I think I can do this.

A few rules:

  • In order to play fair, I will look online for the paperback version price of each book. After all, I’m a tight**se. I’m never going to buy a hardback version of a book when the paperback version is available.
  • If any books I borrow are eBooks, I’ll count the cost of the kindle version for this quest.
  • I will have a running total of this quest on the sidebar of this blog.
  • Even though I pay my rates in February, I will use the entirety of 2021 for this quest. It’s easier.
  • If I do well at this, there’s nothing stopping me from finding out how much I’ve paid in rates since we moved here to The Best House in Melbourne. A mega-quest will be to work at “earning back” all of the rates I’ve paid. (This could take a while…)
  • This quest ONLY takes into account the books I borrow from my local library. Books I borrow from friends or books I buy for myself do not count.

I’ve just looked up the price of the books in the photo on Booktopia.

Atwood’s ‘Dearly’ only comes in hardcover. It comes in at $22.

Weir’s “Queens of the Crusades’ is priced at $28.

Gregory’s ‘The Last Tudor’ is $31.

With the help of my trusty calculator, the total just with these 3 books is $81. So far, I’ve borrowed and read 22 books from the library.

This could be fun…


  1. Lucinda

    I love this. I’m going to steal the idea.

    • FrogdancerJones

      It adds a little dollop of satisfaction. 🙂

  2. Budget Life List

    Okay, so for the slow kids at the back (Hi!), you have to pay to use your library. Like up front, similar to a water/phone/internet/etc. bill. Right?

    Just wondering! It comes from our taxes, so I do pay for the library but in a mysterious, money gone via property taxes kinda way. ?

    • Lucinda

      No. We pay local council rates. The rates cover things like footpaths, tree planting, local playgrounds and library services. So, ignoring all the other things councils provide, the challenge is to read enough books from the library that would cost more than the council annual rates.

      • Budget Life List

        Ah, okay. I am all onboard with the knowledge train! Thank you for explaining it.

        Hmm, I am already thinking, could I do this too? Maybe….math would be involved! ?

        • FrogdancerJones

          Not too much though. It’s simple subtraction that anyone’s trusty calculator can do.
          I’ve decided to round up or down to keep the numbers even, while if the purchase price of the book ends in a 5 then I’ll leave it there. So all my figures will end in a 5 or a 0.
          Too easy!

  3. Helen Kuriata

    Lololol!! You have WAY too much time on your hands to do maths for no particular reason!!! :)))

    • FrogdancerJones

      But it’s the challenge.
      And if a challenge involves doing an activity you’re going to be doing anyway because you love it… winner winner chicken dinner.

  4. Anne

    I love this!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thanks. I think I’m going to enjoy seeing the gap between the rates $$$ and the books read $$$ shrink over time. 🙂

  5. Sandra G

    I love the plan. Does your council also offer talks through the library and maybe exercise classes. Ours do in Brisbane. I recently went to a class for Ancestry DNA for free at one of our libraries.

  6. Margaret Stedman

    Love the idea and will “borrow” it. I joined the library first thing in the first day I retired and moved to my New City. I read 200 books in the first year so have already had my money’s worth but need to do more accurate calculations and not assume anything:)

    • FrogdancerJones

      If nothing else, it’s a bit of fun.

  7. Maria

    This is a great idea! I am not very good at using our local library – the allure of Amazon next day book delivery compared to requesting a book and waiting (sometimes weeks!) is often too great for me.
    One of my few frugal failings (and moral, if one gets into discussions about Amazon and so on..). I try to reframe it as conscious decision rather than frugal fail but it does nag at me…

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’m waiting on a book about Free Speech by Andrew Doyle to come from the Book Depository. I thought it was important that I support the author. Every now ad then a book will come along that I’ll buy. (But not often…)

  8. Katie

    I love this idea. I’m still working full time and don’t manage to use the library consistently. When I do buy books it’s often from op shops. My son gave me a kindle for Christmas and at first I was a bit NOOOO …I like real books. Well I love it and I’ve only bought low cost e books. I’m halfway through The Richest Man in Babylon -thank you for the suggestion, loving it! Btw your rates are cheaper than mine – do you pay a lot for water in Melbourne?
    Blogless Katie

    • FrogdancerJones

      I had a look at my annual spend chart and it turn out that I spend around 1K/year for water. I don’t know if that’s exxy?

  9. chasingfiredownunder

    This is an amazing idea! Personally I love buying/owning books so I’m working through books that I’ve got on my own shelf at the moment. But I very much look forward to the days when I can retire (or even just take a holiday) and read more books from the library like I used to!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ve got a huge pile on unread books by my bed. If only I had the time to do more reading… LOL.

  10. Anna

    genius.. 🙂

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