My public library has saved me a bundle over the years.
This year, I’ve saved about $2,000 using my library as a free resource, and it’s really paying off — my family is excited to use what we’ve saved to take a five-day vacation to the San Juan Islands this summer.
The following estimates are based on personal experience and savings, but they should work for most small families.
With the convenience of Amazon and the prevalence of inexpensive e-books, it might be tempting to buy a new book occasionally. If you were to buy all the books your family reads, the cost would add up.
Interlibrary loan programs make it possible to reserve even brand-new releases for pickup. Sure, you’ll have to wait awhile to read the bestsellers, but your piggy bank will thank you.
If your family purchases two books per month for around $15 each, getting those books for free from the library will save you around $30 per month. That’s a savings of $360 per year.
Opting out of cable, satellite and Netflix could easily save you at least $50 per month, depending on your current entertainment solution.
For example, the basic Netflix subscription starts at $7.99 per month, and Dish network’s lowest price is $49.99 per month. To cut the price and still give everyone something fun to watch, our solution is to check out your library’s free-to-borrow DVDs.
The DVD section at your local library likely stocks your favorite action and romance movies, and it will often carry full volumes of television series and popular documentaries. Making the switch from Dish Network saved my family $600 per year.
If you’re looking to reduce your monthly internet bill (who isn’t), the library has computers and free internet available for use. You typically need to be a member of the library and have to sign up for an allotted time to use the internet.
Before I had a computer, I used the library computers to apply for jobs online. Library computers often pack otherwise expensive programs like Microsoft Word that can help you build your resume or complete school projects.
Xfinity’s cheapest plan for internet service is $19.99 per month, but you can only get that price if you live on the West Coast. Prices for Spectrum are higher on the East Coast, starting at $44.99 per month. If you don’t pay for the internet at home, you could save at least $240 per year.
If you have a playgroup or writer’s meetup, or you need a place for business meetings, some libraries have free conference rooms available.
Before I discovered this, I researched office spaces for my writing group. The cheapest space I found near me was $25 per hour through Davinci Workspaces. Our monthly meetings would have cost $50 to $75 each.
Instead, I reserved space at the library. It only required a fully refundable deposit. Check your local library’s web page for more information about its available rooms and requirements. Holding meetings at your local library could save you or your group over $600 per year.
As a mother to small children, I know how important it is to get them out of the house for some entertainment now and then.
There’s a fair number of places that provide play equipment but charge a fee or require you to buy food or beverages. A monthly visit to the local pizza play place would cost $12 for one child to play and eat.
Skip it and go to the library’s free storytime instead. My library also has some floor puzzles and lots of board books for little ones. There is also a park across the street, so I pack sandwiches and make it a whole day of free fun. This small change has saved me $144 per year.
Instead of taking classes that cost money, you can take advantage of the free events offered at your library. My local library has a summer reading program that offers free books and coupons for fast-food restaurants and theme parks at the end of the program for adults and children. In the past, we’ve scored discount tickets to our local theme park and savings at Dairy Queen.
Your library may also offer writing groups, book clubs and presentations on a variety of topics. Some of the informational talks I’ve seen offered included finance, gardening, parenting and retirement planning.
My local library also has a community theater that offers free performances a few times a year in exchange for a donated book or can of food. If you pay to see children’s theater at the regular price, tickets cost around $15 per person.
So if a family of four attended one play per year that would be $60. Or if your family paid for movie tickets at $10 per person that would be $40. You can see how checking out events at your library a few times a year could save you $100 or more.
A few times each year, my library has a used book sale to raise funds and make room for new books. I use these sales to buy stocking stuffers and birthday add-ons for my 7-year-old.
These sales are also a chance to treat myself to a few books that would cost me around $15 each new. Most of the used books are on sale for $1 or $2.
For example, at my library’s sale you could buy 25 early reader books for $2 each — saving you $50 a year. Even with more than one child, that’s a great assortment of books for your child’s library at a fraction of the cost of new copies.
While it may be an inconvenience to run to the library for things you could buy without leaving the house, the savings have been well worth it for me.
By visiting your local library as an alternative for education and entertainment, you could save at least as much as I did — over $2,000 per year. Even if you only take advantage of a few of my recommendations, you’ll likely wind up with enough savings to take a trip or pay off some debt.
Melissa Uhles is a freelance writer, novelist, and mother. Living as a creative person in expensive cities for many years ignited her frugal spirit.