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.

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

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

free or cheap uses of the library you might not know about



  • Get a library card, if you don’t already have one
  • Sign up for Library Elf to receive text or email reminders before your items are overdue
  • Check out your local library’s website to see what free stuff is available


Get your mind and wallet on the same page with a fillable printable journal to:

  • Dive deep into your money values
  • Uncover habits and trends influencing your personal finances
  • Get motivated to make positive change with your money
  • Start getting your money to work for you

How to use the library to save money

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 my local library system (Hawaii State Public Library System, represent!), 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.

Free ebooks

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. All for the unbeatable price of $0.00.

girl listening to smart phone or ipod with earphones

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.

DVD rentals

Netflix is a tough act to beat, but for some families, the library might actually be cheaper than Netflix!

At my 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!


My library charges $1 per day you are overdue, so if you reach the seventh day and still want to keep the movie or DVD set, just ask the library to renew rather than let it go late. That way, they simply charge you another $1 for the next week, rather than a $1 each day.

As for selection, the library probably has the edge over Netflix on this one.

You can usually request titles from a network of library branches and not just the one you’re physically visiting, so there’s a really good chance you can find virtually any movie plus most TV shows that have a boxed set.

How-to manuals

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.

pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces

Unique collections

I literally had a fangirl moment in the library once, when I found a branch that actually loaned out UKULELES.

And that’s not the only creative collection I’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 me a nerd, but I 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.

Free performances and concerts

Sometimes I wonder if my library is having an identity crisis and thinks it’s a performance venue, considering all the free events they hold.

I’ve been to free lectures, plays, art displays, musical performances, book clubs and so much more all without spending a dime.

Free kids activities

Watch out, Chuck E. Cheese, better watch out, 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.

Seriously, if I ever have kids, I’m just going to take them to the library instead. #SorryNotSorry

girl pointing camera lens to take photo

Free classes

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 my county, the in-person classes tend to be focused on subjects related to self-empowerment, such as:

  • Basic personal finance (yay!)
  • 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
  • Quickbooks
  • Project management


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 wi-fi

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.


Get your mind and wallet on the same page with a fillable printable journal to:

  • Dive deep into your money values
  • Uncover habits and trends influencing your personal finances
  • Get motivated to make positive change with your money
  • Start getting your money to work for you

Heavily discounted books

A few years ago, I was 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.

sound booth board

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.

Financial literacy

Of all the things that the library provided me, perhaps one of the most important is its contribution to my financial literacy.

When I was younger and internet was not a big thing, the library was where I could find endless resources on taxes, investments, budgeting, and other money-related topics.

Even now, when the most up-to-date information is just a few taps away on your phone, I still turn to the library for a lot of my financial learning, because sometimes you just rather immerse yourself into deep learning with a good ol’ book rather than skim emails or social media feeds for superficial information.


The reality is, a lot of basic financial principles just don’t change. Know what you want, save where you can, think about both the now AND the later. Thanks to the library, building your financial literacy doesn’t have to cost a thing.


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!


  • Get a library card, if you don’t already have one
  • Sign up for Library Elf to receive text or email reminders before your items are overdue
  • Check out your local library’s website to see what free stuff is available



stacy trinh aka aunty chang headshot


STACY, aka AUNTY CHANG, is a personal finance blogger set on a mission to show people that there's more to money than just the numbers. With two rental properties and a six-figure 401k by her 30's, she's on track to retire early without sacrificing work-life balance to get there. She wants to teach others how to identify their goals and use money to make them happen. Dual income, no kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Facebook | Twitter