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How to Save Money By Using Your Local Library

2013 September 16
by Charlie

charlie_imageIn 2005, when we moved to our small subdivision, we decided to visit our local library to check out a few books. At checkout with our books in hand, we told the librarian we needed to get a library card, and that we were new to the area. Here is how our conversation went. 



Librarian:Can I have your address?
Charlie:Sure. It is 123 Main St.
Librarian:Give me one second, and I need to check our records, if you are part of our county.
Charlie: (I had this smug look on my face that I knew I was already part of our county! HA!)
Librarian:Sir. According to our records your subdivision hasn’t been annexed into the county yet, and is still part of a SID. Unfortunately, at this time you can’t be a member unless you pay a $25 fee.
Charlie: (The complete demeanor on my face dropped, and I felt taken advantage of.)
Charlie:Can you check your records again? I know I’m part of the county.
Librarian:Nope. See here…your address street isn’t listed. Sorry.
Charlie:Are you kidding me? I pay $4500 per year in property taxes, and the county wants another $25 from me to use my local library. No thanks!

I left the books on the counter and walked out cursing under my breath. Thinking to myself, who does lady think she is? This is America! I pay my taxes, and gosh darn it I should have the right to use my library for free! Clearly, my frugality helps fuel my pride when I feel like I should be getting something for free!

With all that said, after a year trying to swallow my frugal pride, I came back to the library, and paid the $25 fee to use my library for one year. Over that year I quickly realized how foolish I was to let a measly $25 get in the way of me saving a lot more money, and the chance for my family to read some great books! In the eight years since then I’ve come up with a list of ways in which I think my local library helps save my family money, and will gladly pay their fees (within reason!).

  • Books! Books! Books! – the amount of books my family of five goes through in a year would probably be about $1000 retail if I were to buy everyone of them. Easily this is the biggest savings we see in using the library, and it helps fuel our minds!
  • Movies – our library has a limit of five DVD’s per week can be checked out. If you were to extrapolate the math out, then 5 DVDs/week *$15/DVD * 52 weeks would equal $3900!! So I know everyone doesn’t buy every single dvd, so let’s say you wanted to get rid of netflix streaming and just use your local library. That is still a savings of $108/year!
  • CD – DVD’s and CD’s are treated the same at my local library, so the same savings could be seen versus buying your CD’s or purchasing them for $1.29/song on iTunes!
  • Internet Access – at my library they offer free internet access for up to 30 minutes (not typical at every library). If you were looking at cutting internet completely from your home, then this could be a savings of about $600/year ($50/month * 12). For a lot of people this might be a big inconvenience, but is something to consider if times get tough.
  • Community/Kid’s Activities – our library has a lot of community events both for individuals and families. On that same note, my sons participated in a summer reading program where they had to read a number of books. In doing so they won a free meal from iHOP, and it encouraged our kids to read! That is a win-win in my book.
  • Magazines – magazine subscriptions can get real expensive, and really quickly. At the library you have a huge selection, which would cost you a ton to purchase on your own! Again, more savings here too!

As you can see there are a multitude of ways that your local library can help you save money. Even if you have to pay a fee to use your library, then first consider the potential savings. I’m sure that I’ve missed a few ways the library can help ya save money. I’d love to hear some other ideas from our readers!

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Charlie

An IT professional, Charlie also buys and sells liens, lives on the cheap, runs marathons and helps to run his family farm. In his spare moments, he raises 3 children, does the dishes and writes one post a week. His former blog, Frugal Retirement Plan, has been cited by US News and World Report.

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6 Responses
  1. September 16, 2013

    Consumer Reports and other buyer’s guides are a subset of . Internet research is great for some products, but print still has value and services that require a subscription are handy to have through a library.

    I also use my library for online subscriptions such as Mango Languages (an online Rosetta Stone-type tutorial) – free through my library’s access site and I don’t even want to know how much if I paid for my own.

  2. September 16, 2013

    I haven’t been to the library in forever. It is something that I would like to change though!

  3. September 16, 2013

    I love being able to reserve books online — if someone recommends it and I have the time to read it now, I go straight to my library’s online reservation system and look it up. Sometimes they have to get it from another library, so I’m glad I didn’t have to get to the actual library to order it. Then they let me know when it’s ready. Even better is when it’s available for Nook — then I don’t have to stop in to the library at all!

  4. September 16, 2013

    @thebakeropera – ya I forgot about the consumers report! That is a huge value!

    @Michelle – get your butt to the library to stack up the savings! :)

    @Rebecca – ya our library doesn’t offer online reservations. :( That is a nice to have!

  5. September 17, 2013

    If I were in your situation, I wouldn’t have paid the $25 either…and I’m so stubborn I likely would have never gone back!

    I haven’t been to a public library in about 15 years. In high school, I found some library books in my parents’ basement that I’m pretty sure I checked out when I was in grade school. I became really paranoid about going to a library and getting hit with a hefty fine so I stayed out of libraries. :P

    On the other hand, my wife goes to one about once a week to get a few books for herself and some children’s books for our son. We also look for books on CD for long car rides — a much better alternative to buying them, especially since we usually just listen to them once.

  6. September 23, 2013

    Some library systems are better financed than others. The ones that have a lot of resources are naturally more likely to be worth a fee. Having said that, some libraries also offer free events such as workshops, book clubs, special speakers and kids events. These same things often do cost more money elsewhere, which does make a fee worthwhile if these things are used and save money that would otherwise be used elsewhere.

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