THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Are you living as “slim” as you think you can? For example, do you limit takeout food orders to almost zero? Do you stay in most weekends or look for free and low-cost activities? Do you watch the household budget and use different apps to try and get cash back, coupon codes, and discounts on everything imaginable? If so, you may still be struggling to get ahead and that’s why I want to introduce you to the ways you can save money using the library. Yes, the local library!
But first, let’s look at the reasons that libraries can serve your budget so well:
For instance, we enroll in an online lecture service or some sort of cheap training program ($15-$30 a month), don’t use it and then forget about it. That saps hundreds out of the bank account. We might remember we have a subscription or recurring charge we don’t want, try to cancel, find it is amazingly difficult and let it go for a few more months, too. Again, hundreds might slip away because of it. And it isn’t just online classes. It can be gym memberships, streaming services, add-ons to other memberships (think of the Kindle Unlimited portion of an Amazon account, and so on), and more.
There are also the traps we fall into with free trials that enroll us automatically. You get three or six months for free and then, wham, a hefty monthly charge appears – and then keeps appearing. You must then find out how to cancel and pay any fees or absorb the losses for forgetting to cancel on time.
We also tell ourselves that a handful of the services we sign up for are a compensation for squeezing and pinching pennies elsewhere, but if you do the math you might be surprised to see how much heads out of the balance each month in compensation for skimping elsewhere.
For example, I used the wildly helpful Truebill app and website to look at all of my monthly bills, subscriptions and unnecessary bank fees. It showed me campaign contributions I no longer wanted or needed to make, tallied up how much in subscription services I was paying every month, and then cancelled all of the items I clicked to help me really start to save cash.
Similarly, I have explored other sites and apps, including Trim and Clarity Money, and urge everyone to consider at least one. You’ll also want to look into PriceSlash, which is a mercenary little service that cuts your expenses by auditing standard bills for hidden fees or pricing hikes.
Rather than deplete the bank account to watch certain programs, read certain eBooks, and listen to certain narrated stories, I found I could do a lot of it through my library. I’ll itemize them later, but you should realize that all of the opportunities I thought I didn’t want to live without were very easy to say goodbye to once I realized what could be done at the library.
And if you are someone who is struggling to keep up with bills, it is incredibly useful to know that most libraries have computer labs with unlimited and free use of the internet. You may have to register for your hour or two of usage ahead of time, but if you cannot afford internet service at home, or a computer, you don’t have to if you can get to your library during business hours.
Because of my library, I cancelled my membership in Meetup and just started to use all of the get together at the library to build my social circles, meet new people and expand my mind. After all, my library also does broadcasts of things like the Metropolitan Opera, 92nd Street Y programs and other activities.
My library is also great about adult learning opportunities and through them I was able to master Excel, Photoshop, and other computer issues. I am in a free weekly yoga class, study a bit about financial planning and am taking first steps in learning Spanish – again, all for free!
And let’s never forget that libraries have their own vast collections plus can often do the whole interlibrary loan thing. This means I can get on a list for the hottest bestseller and often have it in my hands within days of its release. No costly purchases required, no money invested in something I may or may not like – no waste. If the average household buys just two hot books per month (whether for adults or kids), it is around $30 each month, or close to $400 per year. I just cannot see that it is actually worth it. And because my library also has a used book store attached to one of the branches (selling most books for $1 or less) I can pick up the books I’ve really liked for peanuts, and within a few months of first reading them.
My library also has meeting rooms…free meeting rooms. This means that the sewing circle I see packing in there a few times a week doesn’t have to pay. Neither does the poetry group, the senior memoir writing group, the at-home parents of toddlers group, and all the rest. If you are looking to create some sort of meetup group, and you just cannot find or afford a space, your library could save your group hundreds on rental fees.
It is important to consider the value of these activities if you have kids. After all, keeping them home to play with the same toys and puzzles can lead to boredom, disinterest and more. The library has something new for your youngest kids to your teens all of the time. And because many libraries are in nicer areas with gardens and lawns or close to parks, you can actually make a real day of it by packing up a picnic or light dinner and heading to the library where you eat outdoors and enjoy all of the activities inside.
As you can see, I’m not over playing the value of the local library, and yet I still haven’t dug into the different digital and online services that many libraries offer. These are the aspects of the library that you and your household can enjoy even if you can’t all pile into the car and head in for a visit or an activity.
NOTE: Not all libraries have such digital programs, but many do and I found that the library branch nearest to me did not have a lot of the programs or online options, but by heading to the larger library in the neighboring county I was able to get a card and use the services. It never hurts to explore the options and find out if you can register for a card even if you are out of town or just across state lines. Most libraries allow this is you have a valid ID.
Now, about those online options…
Once you have an official library card and can keep your account in good standing, you can dig into their huge array of free eBooks, recorded books, electronic versions of the hottest magazines and periodicals, learning and language courses, and even more. Note that some of the options require you to make an account and use your library card’s bar code or your library login information to gain access. If you have difficulty logging into a particular service, get in touch with your library and have them walk you through it.
Here’s what you might find at your library’s website:
I did a sort of estimate about the sums that using the library has saved me, and with the end of many subscriptions (I did keep Amazon Prime, Netflix and a $5 monthly subscription for my local PBS station) I tucked almost $2k back in the bank this year. That includes saving on going out to shows or paid events and opting for the library’s many freebies instead. Even if you just use it preview before you buy books, movies, music and other items, it will save you big time.
If you are tired of scraping to get by and still find a way to have some fun, look to your local library and use the tips provided. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
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