Book Club - can be a costly membership

A book club membership sure can be convenient. It's a form of mail order. You pick out some books, send in some money, and wait for the "the Wells Fargo wagon" or the postal service to come rolling down your street with your treasures.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of having "something special just for me" delivered to your door.

For folks that live in small towns and in rural areas, the choice of products can be slim, so books by mail can be a cost-effective alternative to a long drive.

A book club can be part of your approach to frugal living, especially if you live quite a ways from a bookstore. But, you need to be careful, because it could punch a pesky little hole in your financial boat if you're not careful.

Book clubs were one of the first membership type mail order businesses because they take advantage of "book rate" at the post office. That saves them money on shipping.

The important question is do you save money with books by mail? I think with many of the membership type programs, the cost-effectiveness tends to go right out the window. Let's see why.

Being a member of a book club is usually set up such that you get some books at an introductory price that is very low. The books you have to choose from are usually limited, and most likely they are overstock, so they're something the company would like to get rid of anyway.

Part of the offer is that you have to make a commitment to purchase a minimum number of books at regular club prices within a reasonable period, say 1 year. Shipping and handling charges are applied to all shipments, even the introductory one.

When thinking about signing up for the book club, you look over the catalogue selections to see that regular book prices are reasonable. You read the policies, and it all seems reasonable - you pay for the books, plus shipping and handling.

Nowhere will you find any indication of what shipping and handling charges are. Not by number of books ordered, not by weight, not by size of shipment, not by any description anywhere on the offering.

To find out, you have to call or write. This raises a question with me right away. Why won't they at least give you some kind of indication of what the costs are to "handle" and ship the books? Could it be that this is the expensive part of the offer?

In some cases, shipping and handling could create a 50% increase in the cost of the book you ordered or accepted "on approval".

Oh, that's right. Let's not forget about "on approval" shipments. These are the monthly mailing that you agree to get as part of your membership. If you don't like the book, simply return it, and if you like it (or they don't get it back within a certain time), they'll simply bill you.

It all sounds so simple, but it is a bad situation to get into.

It's just too easy to let those things slide and then get yourself obligated to make a purchase or two or three or twenty. Remember, we can talk ourselves into just about anything, so forget this "on approval" stuff. It means you'll be regularly buying books, and that probably doesn't match well with plans for frugal living - a library is a much better choice.

My rule is really rather simple - never, never, never join a book club or any other buying club or organization that wants you to accept things "on approval" or won't tell you the shipping and handling charges right up front.

Okay, so what do I do if I'm part of a book club now? It's simple, you communicate with them and ask to be removed from the "on approval" list and simply be on an "order" or "as ordered" or "as requested" basis. If they want your business, they'll agree to send you their catalogue and accept orders based on your requests.

If they are just a money making scam, they won't agree, and then you'll know to drop them like a hot potato.

Most people who join a book club will stay on and make additional purchases because they don't want to bother sending back those "on approval" items. The whole concept of "on approval" looks okay on paper, but in practice it's a pain in the neck.

Many people will talk themselves into keeping the "on approval" items that are sent to them, and they never think about operating on the basis of ordering what they want, just like a regular catalogue. They tend to stay with the original setup, even after they have met their "additional purchase" obligations.

Save yourself some money and some grief - don't sign up for any mail order book club. Just go to the local book store, go to the library, or place an order over the Internet. A place like Amazon often has good pricing and free shipping on moderate size orders.

Like I say, books by mail can be cost-effective, you just need to know the most cost-effective way to get those books, and often a book club just isn't the best way.

Stay on the path of frugal living by using the library or other sources for books you want to read. Tell the book club "thanks, but no", and you'll be happy that you did.

Done with Book Club, take me back to Money Making Scams

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.