Libraries and Personal Finance go Hand-in-Hand
Every community needs a good library. And every good personal financier needs a library card. If you haven’t been to the library since you were a kid, they’ve changed a lot. Sure, they are still loaded with books (which is never a bad thing), but with some of the newer offerings at libraries, it might just be time to get re-acquainted. Books are just a small part of the free value you can get from your library these days.
Not all libraries are created equal, so if your library doesn’t have the same materials or services that I’ve listed below, you can always pose the idea to them. If your library offers something mine doesn’t, please share! If you’re using your library to its fullest extent, not only are you saving hundreds a year, but you’re probably enriching your life at the same time.
1. Books-On Demand
Yes, the library has books. Lots of them, in fact. And in checking them out vs. buying them online or in the store, you are saving a ton of money. But what many people don’t realize is that you can also request that your library order books that you want to read that they don’t presently carry. Most libraries have a budget for this very purpose. So save the money you were going to throw at Amazon, and see if your local library will order it for you. You might have to wait a bit longer for them to come in, but I’m sure you’ll find something else to do in the meantime.
Besides, book clutter just plain sucks.
2. Audio Books
Whenever my wife and I take a road trip over a few hours, we always stop by the library to pick up an audio book. We consider ourselves lucky if we find one that we’ve been meaning to read, but usually at least find one that is appealing to us. You can also pick up audio books for your commute, which is perfect if you never seem to find the time to actually sit down and read books.
Sure, cd’s are becoming obsolete as a medium in the age of digital music downloads and free-streaming, but there are a few of us who still don’t own an ipod. And free is always better than a $1.29 download per song.
My local library has a free DVD selection that would make any Blockbuster (if they still exist) envious. Not only do they have a great selection of the latest movies to hit DVD, but they also have a large number of television seasons on DVD. If you’re trying to drop the cable subscription, your library can be your go to source for the shows that you feel like you can’t live without.
5. Museum & Other Local Attraction Passes
Now we’re starting to get into the weird stuff that you are much more likely to not have known about. It is fairly common for libraries to have free passes to local museums and attractions that you usually have to pay for. Some you have to rent, others you don’t. My library even has a one day pass to state parks that you usually have to pay a $6 admission for. Good stuff.
6. Author Series & Celebrity Speaking Events
My local library has brought in a number of great authors and other speakers. I’ve attended 4 of these events in the last year. A recent speaker was David Alan Grier, of In Living Color fame.
7. Free Internet
Most libraries have some sort of free wifi hotspot access available. Some might have computers, some have wi-fi, and others have both. This is a great way to change up your scenery if you’re feeling less than productive at home. It’s also a great way to get internet access in locales that you are visiting if you don’t have it in your hotel, for example.
8. Hobby Tutorials and Work-Skills Trainings
From digital photography to computer classes, art, cooking, and more – many libraries are offering an array of enriching classes for you that are free to take.
I still have magazine subscriptions to a few of my favorite magazines, but if you love a particular magazine, most libraries will have a wide array of back issues that you can dive into on a lazy day. It’s also a great way to explore whether or not you like a magazine’s content before subscribing to it.
10. Your Next Date
Seriously, it’s better than finding a wild one at the bar when you’re drunk (well, at least for long-term prospects).
Closing Thoughts on Libraries
Check out your local library’s website to find events, services, and and materials that you might not have known about. And then go spend a Sunday afternoon there. You might just enjoy it. And you’ll surely save some money.