Eleven Ways to Save Money by Going to the Library

When you think of the library, the first thing to come to mind may be the endless rows of books and memories of troublesome homework assignments, but the library offers so much more many are unaware of. The library is the perfect place to save money on your entertainment, education, travel, personal, as well as fitness needs.

But, I Have a Lot of Library Fees�

Already have a lot of fees? Be on the look out for Library Amnesty Day, which will eliminate all or most of your library card debt. In some parts of the United States, this amnesty period may last one day to one week and can be held at any time during the year. Amnesty periods are most commonly held during the month of April, which is also when National Library Week is usually observed. Go to your local library and find out the correct dates. Some libraries also hold specials like canned food drives, which takes $1 from your library debt for each canned good you bring in. Until you can settle your tab with the library, it doesn’t hurt to responsibly borrow a card from a friend or family member.

Let’s Get Down to the Savings

#1 Books: We’ll start with the obvious. Check out bestsellers and other reading material at the library. The average checkout time for a book is between 3-6 weeks. That is plenty of time to break the DaVinci Code or plow through the latest Danielle Steele novel. This is also a great way to find out whether or not you wish to spend your money on a particular book. Side Note: Looking for a new set of recipes or want to try something new? Use your handy library card to check out several different cookbooks to locate fresh and exciting dishes. Photocopy, scan or handwrite the details and start your own recipe binder. In this case, too many cooks won’t spoil the pot, but it will save you money.

#2 Magazines: Most libraries offer a wide-selection of magazines in the periodical section. Even smaller branches tend to have a satisfying collection of People, Time, Newsweek, Redbook, Glamour and Sports Illustrated. The last published issue of the magazine is usually on display as “browse-only”, while back issues are available for checkout. I used to subscribe to three different magazines, but when I found they were all at the library, I stopped and gathered them up when they became available for checkout. Side Note: Just started a diet or vowed to exercise more? Check out several back issues of SELF; Fitness; Prevention; and Shape to get a few ideas.

#3 CD’s and Tapes: Want to sample a CD before you make a final purchase? The library offers a wide-range of popular CD’s and audiocassettes, including classical, pop, R&B, rap, country and rock options. Side Note: When you have a relative whose eyes are failing or likes to be read to, there are numerous books-on-tape to explore. All of this can be enjoyed for FREE.

#4 DVD’s and VHS: In the mood for a good flick? Most libraries carry a sizable selection of DVDs and VHS tapes that can be checked out with your library card. My local library allows you to take out 3 selections at a time for one week. Popular titles go quickly and you may have to put your name on the reserve list, but there are always older titles you can settle for in the mean time. Side Note: Go early on Tuesdays to catch the latest DVD releases. Tuesday is the designated day for new DVD releases.

#5 Attention College Students! A little tight on cash to purchase the books you need to complete one of your college courses? Once you get your syllabus, race to the local library and see if they carry any of the books you need. Some libraries are also able to order books from other area branches and have them ready for you to pick up in less than a week. I’ve done this plenty of times and have been able to save hundreds of dollars by using the local library.

#6 Make Travel Easier: You’ve just booked a flight to a destination you’re not too familiar with and need a little background information. Perhaps, you wish to carry around a pocket guide so you can easily identify the main attractions; find the best restaurants and have important phone numbers handy. This is when a travel guidebook becomes essential for making travel easier. But why spend the big bucks at the bookstore when you can check yours out at the library for FREE. Side Note: Traveling to a foreign country? Check out a foreign language dictionary at the library and life will become less hectic when asking for directions.

#7 Learn a Language: Always wanted to learn Italian? Need to brush up on that high school Spanish? No need to waste money on the purchase of materials. The library not only offers language books and translation dictionaries, but also provides a wide-range of multimedia options, such as audiocassettes, VHS tapes and DVDs.

#8 Computer & Internet Use: When my computer refused to connect to the Internet as I was slowly approaching a deadline, I was forced to turn to Kinko’s (a supplier of print shop services and computer access). They charge by the minute for computer use and it was getting pretty expensive. I had to find a temporary alternative. When you don’t own a computer or your PC is tied up/ temporarily out-of-service; don’t pay to use the computer or Internet somewhere else – go to the library. Usually, libraries offer several computers for public use, often providing Internet access and Microsoft Word. At my local library, you are limited to 1 hour of use per session, but if no one is waiting for a turn, you can stay on longer. Larger libraries often do not monitor your computer use.

#9 Printer Ink: At my local library, you can use the computer to print information from the Internet, computer or disk. Usually, a library will charge 5 to 10 cents for a sheet of paper, but if you bring your own paper, you can print your necessary information for FREE. This is great for printing bulk information from Internet sites that can wipe out your printer ink. Side Note: Color printing is not an option at the library.

#10 Exercise for Less: There are many people like me, who have purchased a workout tape; toyed with it for a couple of weeks before moving on to the latest craze. That can really add up- Taebo is not cheap! Many libraries offer a nice selection of workout and fitness tapes for cardholders to borrow. This way you can test different tapes and either find the one that’s right for you to invest in or benefit from several full-body workouts for free.

#11 Entertain Video Gamers: Don’t feel like shelling out the big bucks for the latest video games? Several larger libraries carry video games available for checkout. I’ve encountered the latest Playstation, XBox and Gamecube options at the main downtown branch. Side Note: Keep in mind that newer releases go fast and you may be put on a waiting list, but pass the time by trying out an older selection. Whatever keeps the kids busy, right?

Depending on your local library, you may be able to attend free classes and listen to guest speakers. There are plenty of free children’s activities held at the library. Some libraries also hold free fun events, such as holiday events and demonstrations. At my local library, they hold an annual Strawberry Festival, offering free ice cream scoops with fresh strawberries. You never know what you will find next at your library.

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