Know what Amazon and the public library have in common?
Both started off as being all about books, but both have evolved into offering WAY more than just that.
Your public library is one of the best kept secrets to being a happy and successful frugaler. I’m pretty sure I whip out my library card more often than I whip out by debit or credit card!
(I’m not even exaggerating. My county has 25 libraries and I’ve been to 20 of them so, yeah, I’m a HUGE fan of the library).
In today’s post, I will open your eyes to all the benefits of the library that you never knew about that can help you save money.
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100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime* on Amazon.com
In this post, you will find:
- How to get free ebook and audiobook downloads
- How to get movies and TV shows for even cheaper than Netflix
- What free classes your library may offer
- Other creative uses of the library
List of fun, cheap, and free things to do at the library
If you don’t already love the library, you should.
Most people don’t think much of the library because they assume that it’s all about borrowing books. Yes, that’s the main function of a library, but no, that’s not all they do.
This list is all about the other nifty items you can check out besides books, and all the neat things you can do on top of borrowing free stuff.
Even though this list is mainly based on my experiences with our local library system in Hawaii, chances are your library will offer a lot of the same stuff too since most are similar in nature.
If they don’t, just ask and let your librarian know that it’s a resource their community would love for them to provide.
All kidding aside, although libraries clearly have a thing for physical books, they aren't actually haters when it comes to e-readers like the Kindle*.
Most public libraries have caught up to the times and let you check out ebooks for free.
You can typically download them using an app that links to your library card, and then the download deletes automatically when the loan period is over.
Audiobooks and audio courses
Listen up...to audiobooks that is! As one of the few things that can actually make sitting in rush-hour traffic bearable, I’m all about audiobooks.
If listening is more your thing than reading, many libraries offer free audiobooks in both CD or digital form. Usually, the downloadable audiobooks will be provided using the same app that your library lends out ebooks on.
Netflix is a tough act to beat, but for some families, the library might actually be cheaper than Netflix!
At our local library, all DVD rentals are $1 for seven nights (although some documentaries and educational programs are free).
This includes boxed sets, like Korean dramas or full seasons of a TV show. If you aren’t a crazy binger, then, you can watch an episode or two every night for $4 a month!
True story: My husband saved us $500 by getting instructions out of a specialized car repair manual from the library and doing the work himself.
YouTube has definitely leveled the playing field when it comes to DIY’ing anything, but sometimes there just isn’t a video for the job you need to do. In some cases, the library can be your savior!
I love using the how-to manuals and reference materials not just to fix stuff, but also to learn how to do fun stuff too. Crafts, cooking, music, games…no matter what you want to learn, there’s a shelf for it at the library.
We found a branch that actually loaned out...get this...UKULELES.
And that’s not the only creative collection we’ve seen: sheet music, magazines, sewing patterns, power tools, jigsaw puzzles, even a "library" of garden seeds that you can take from for free!
Call us nerdy, but we LOVE seeing stereotypes being broken of what it means to be a "library collection"!
If you have a collection of something you don’t need that others might be interested in borrowing, consider sharing the wealth and see if it's something your library might want to lend out.
Yes, I know that practically every store offers free wi-fi, so why is the library’s wi-fi any special?
The thing with retail stores is that they have an ulterior motive for giving you free internet: they want you to stay longer and spend money!
Libraries, on the other hand, offer free wi-fi with no strings attached.
So rather than trying to get work done out of Starbucks amid the luring smells of coffee and food, go to the library instead where there are only good temptations or distractions, like exercising your brain or gaining more knowledge.
If you want to expand your knowledge but self-study is a little too lonesome for your tastes, the library has got your back.
Many libraries hold free classes and workshops that anyone can attend. In-person classes tend to be focused on subjects related to self-empowerment, such as:
- Basic personal finance
- Career management
- Learning about your legal and tax rights
- Computer proficiency
And if making the trek to the library seems like too much work, they’ve even got free instructor-led online classes. Here is a teeny, tiny sampling of the hundreds of courses offered at my local public library:
- Intro to coding
- Sign language
- Intro to interior design
- Secrets to better photography
- Project management
And if you have a skill or hobby, consider giving back to your community by offering to teach a class for free if you have expertise in an area that might be of interest to others.
Libraries are often looking for contributors to share their knowledge, and who knows? You might find new contacts or customers in the process!
Free performances and concerts
You can find tons of free events at libraries, from free lectures, to plays and art displays, to musical performances, book clubs and so much more.
Free kids activities
Watch out, Chuck E. Cheese, the library has just as impressive a lineup of kid-friendly activities.
With all the story book readings, Lego days, toddler time, board game nights, after-school activities, and more, the library is like an fun, perma-play date you can count on.
Heavily discounted books
A few years ago, we were shocked to learn that the county’s budget for our local library system does not include any funding for new items.
The funds were only to cover admin costs like utilities, employees’ salaries, and overhead type costs. That meant that libraries had to do their own fundraising if they wanted to get new items for their shelves.
To do just that, the libraries in my area decided to raise money by sell purged books from their collection for very, very cheap.
You can usually buy from small pop-up stores at each branch or from a MASSIVE annual sale, where hundreds of volunteers work to move tens of thousands of books to huge crowds of happy book-lovers. In either case, most books go for only $1 or less.
Facilities and equipment for public use
Most libraries will literally let the public use whatever they have if it will service the community, including the space between their walls!
Here are some of the different things I’ve seen public libraries let their patrons borrow to use, either for free or very, very cheap:
- Meeting rooms
- Sound booths
- Maker spaces
- Computers & laptops
- Printers (even 3D ones, at some libraries!)
- Audio visual equipment
Free literacy tools and tutoring
Learning can sometimes be a bumpy journey, especially for kids. Many agencies partner up with public libraries to offer free after-school tutoring or literacy-building programs.
The library also hosts their own programs to encourage reading among youth as well. I loved participating in my local library's summer reading program each year to get snacks and cool toys each week.
There are a lot more benefits and uses for a library than you think!
Borrow our tips (get it?) on how to save money with the library, and start enjoying all the other functions of the library beyond just borrowing books.
Discover what your local library has to offer for free or super cheap!
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