For those of us who pay attention to personal finance, the public library should be near the top of our list of money-saving resources. It’s true that we have access to a lot of free information and services today, but there are still some expenses that can be significantly reduced if we take the time to use the library’s resources.
Here are ten advantages that you can enjoy for free if you join the two-thirds of Americans who have library cards (as long as you return things on time, of course!):
- Books. If you still enjoy turning the pages of a solid tome in your hands, there are many advantages to borrowing books from the library. Besides being free, library books can be requested online and picked up at any location you like. For e-books, see reason #4.
- DVDs. No matter what you pay to rent movies, it costs more than renting them from the library. Picking up your DVDs from the library isn’t as convenient as Netflix or Blockbuster’s home delivery/home streaming services, but it’s still frugal.
- CDs. Again, pick them up for free, listen to them for free. Free!
- Downloads. It’s a little-known fact that many libraries allow cardholders to download audio and electronic books, movies, and MP3s from the comfort of their homes. How exciting is that?
- Museum Passes. Lots of libraries hold one or two passes to local museums that cardholders can check out for a day in order to avoid entrance fees. These passes tend to be popular though, so it’s a good idea to stop by the library early in the day to request them.
- Software/Databases. We are fortunate to be able to access a lot of free information and tools from our homes thanks to Google and open source applications, but libraries often have subscriptions to resources like LexisNexis and the Adobe Creative Suite. All you need to access them is a library card.
- Librarians. These people are trained to research and find answers to all of your most probing questions completely free of charge, and most of them seem to get a real kick out of doing it. I’ve asked librarians for help more than once in my professional life, and their support seems like a gift from above every time!
- Classes. Libraries exist to encourage life-long learning, so they frequently offer classes or discussions on a variety of subjects. You usually don’t need a library card to attend these.
- Wi-Fi. Absolutely free. At Starbuck’s, it’s $3.99 for two hours.
- A Place to Kick Up Your Feet. Also unlike Starbuck’s, at the library you can settle in for some quality work, studying or reading without having to fork over $5.99 for a latte and a muffin (*personally, I feel bad about reading in a coffee shop and not buying anything, but I understand that not everyone feels this way). A library card is also not usually required for this.
Besides offering so many important things for free, libraries are community staples and a great place to learn about what’s going on in your neighborhood. I encourage you to check out yours and report back to us the free things you discover that aren’t on this list.