“I need to get a library card,” a friend told me last night after I explained that she could read a book she had saved in her Amazon wish list by downloading it through the Libby app. I had just finished listening to it on my phone. When I shared with her how to set up a Libby account, I assumed that she had a library card. I assumed everyone did. But they don’t.
There are so many amazing benefits to getting that free piece of plastic that go beyond just walking into a building that smells like history coming alive and walking out with a hardcover book or two. From saving hundreds of dollars to helping you start a side hustle, the library is a wealth of resources that every person needs to tap into. So, if you haven’t yet applied for a library card or you haven’t been using your local library for its many purposes, read on to find out the world you’re about to unlock by filling out a simple short application.
Why You Need a Library Card…
1. Major Money Savings
Between myself and my four children, we go through over 30 books per week, most of them are children’s books that my kids do not want to read more than a couple times before looking for another subject or character to read about. I’d be buying books constantly to keep up. Thankfully, we’re able to load up on dozens of books every two weeks from our local library. When we check out, there’s a summary at the bottom of our receipt that shows how much money we saved at that visit and how much we’ve saved so far this year. On September 14th, 9 months into the year, our check out receipt revealed that we’ve saved $1,310 on books this year… BUT that was on just one of our accounts. On another one of our cards, the savings is listed as $746. We have two additional accounts, so it really adds up to over $4,000 in savings per year, assuming I’d actually buy that many books for my children, which brings me to reason #2…
2. No Budget Limits
For most things in life, we’re limited by our budget or affordability, but at the library, expendable income bears no weight on how many items or which types you can take home. If you’re interested in the newest best seller that would cost $35 new at the book store, it’s yours (if available), If you have a voracious young reader at home, you don’t have to limit him or her to one book at a time due to budget restraints.
3. Free Classes for Adults
Have you ever browsed the list of classes your local library offers? Have you checked libraries in nearby neighborhoods? I just did a quick search of the 5 libraries closest to my home, and here are just a handful of the skills I could learn for free:
- Spanish or French
- Budgeting/Financial Planning
- Emergency Preparedness
- Designing with Inkspace
- Gardening Secrets
4. Free Kids’ Activities
Need an indoor activity outside of the home for your kiddo? Check your library first. Every library offers story times and crafts for young children. Most libraries also offer book clubs, robotics meet-ups, lego fun, and other after-school events for grade school children and teenagers.
Libraries also host many free, fun, family-oriented events, such as petting zoos, dinosaur talks, summer reading parties, cooking competitions, movie nights, live music, and so on.
5. Cheap Office Services
Libraries offer free wi-fi and computer access (reservations usually required). Most also have printing services for a nominal fee and the latest design software or educational apps for you to try before you buy.
Use your local library before driving all the way back to your office or to the overpriced, overcrowded copy and print shop.
6. Enter Fun Contests and Win Cool Prizes
“I just won a kindle!”, I announced to my family after a quick phone call from a librarian. I had entered a contest the library offered that asked me to track my reading for a month on a bingo card. All I did was place an “X” on a card each time I read a certain type of article, book, or periodical. I returned my card, and a week later, I had a brand new kindle in my hands.
Libraries offer fun contests for both children and adults throughout the year, but they’re especially exciting during the summer months. You might be asked to enter a book review or a creative poem. You might just have to track your reading hours or the number of books your child has read. You might just have to leave a public comment on a jar. These contests are simple, and the prizes are fantastic! Over the last decade, my family has won restaurant gift certificates, two kindles, pool passes, dozens of toys, children’s books, free ice cream, and tickets to professional sporting events. Walk in to your local library, read the bulletins or flyers on the check out desk, and enter to win!
7. Find Affordable Gifts
Your local library probably has a room with books for purchase at a very low price or for a minimal donation. You can find books from every niche to give to your family and friends. Not only are you saving a significant amount of money and time by shopping at your library, but you’re also able to give a gift that is very personalized to your loved ones’ interests.
Many libraries also host huge book sales a couple times per year as a fundraiser. It’s a win-win … you get great gifts for others at a highly discounted price and the library can keep offering all the amazing opportunities listed above.
Bonus Benefit: The library can be a natural laxative.
Have you seen that Seinfeld episode during which George takes a book into the bathroom soon after entering the library, and then the book gets “flagged”, after which he’s forced to purchase the expensive book and then can’t find anyone to take it from him? I still laugh at just the thought of that moment when he squawks to the librarian, “What do you mean it’s flagged?!”
This might be a bit of TMI, but the library laxative has been an unexplained truth in the life of my children. I don’t think we’ve made it through a single library visit in the last 6 years without at least one child needing to gooooo. So, if all of the other convincing reasons in this post don’t send you straight to the membership desk at your community library, keep this last tip in mind to create an even greater sense of urgency.
If you’re looking for more ways to live a frugal life with your family without sacrificing all the fun, check out my step by step guide to financial freedom.