So I don't bore you to death with only daily money challenge updates for the entire month, here is an article that I sent to the Dollar Stretcher--as part of my money challenge--but unfortunately they had already run similar articles so didn't need this one.
I am fortunate to live in an area with a pretty good library system. In fact, I recently added up how much money using the library could save an average family each month and I was shocked to discover that in round numbers, a family could save over $200 a month simply by using the free resources that the library provides. Here’s how:
• Internet service. Since the library is close to my house and I am there nearly every day, I have decided to go without cable internet and just use the free internet provided by the library. This saves me around $50 a month over the cost of signing up for internet with the cable company (a bit more actually when you count the cost of a modem and router that most people have to purchase in order to access the internet that comes into their home). It might seem odd not to have internet available 24/7 but I do have internet on my cell phone which I can use if necessary and by not having internet at home, I am not tempted to waste my time online. In fact, I have found myself reading more books and doing more hobby activities than ever before because of this change. Savings: $50 a month.
• Books. Of course books are the main reason that most people go to the library but when I used to hang out at Barnes and Noble a lot, I was always tempted--and often gave in to this temptation--to buy books that I ended up reading only once after which they just gathered dust on the books shelf. Now I never buy books and instead check out books from the library so that I always have more than enough to read. Savings: $25 a month on average plus the savings of the book store membership fee which is $25 a year.
• Magazines and newspapers. Although I am sad to see that the paper form of the newspaper is slowly going the way of the dinosaur, it is just way more convenient for me to peruse the local newspaper either online at the library, or in paper form at the library, both of which are free. Also, the pile of magazines that I used to subscribe to can be read for free at the library which saves me a lot of money in annual subscriptions each year. Savings: about $20 a month (based on a newspaper subscription fee of $10 a month and $10 per month for nearly a dozen magazines which we used to subscribe to).
• DVD rental. No longer do I need cable TV in order to watch movies or a Netflix membership. Our library has so many DVD movies which are free to check out that it may take years to get through them all. Savings: $50 for cable TV service or $14 for a monthly Netflix membership.
• Music. Again, the library is a great resource for checking out music and they have recently instituted a free music sharing service which allows people to use their library card to download three free songs each week. Savings: at least the cost of one CD a month so about $10.
• Child care. Although the library doesn’t officially offer child care, they offer a wide range of activities for pre-teen and teen kids on a weekly basis. If you drop your kids off for a couple of hours of classes each week, that could save money that you would otherwise be paying the babysitter. Savings: an estimated $20 for four hours of supervised activities for two kids.
• Tutors and classes. Fortunately our library has a great online system to help kids of all ages with their school homework—for free. All you have to do is log on and ask your questions. For those who are just learning English, the library provides free English as a Second Language classes and free English tutors a couple of times each week. And, for seniors who are a bit leery of all of the new technology out there, the library offers free computer classes for seniors each week. Savings: at minimum $10 a week (it would be way more if you had to actually pay for a one-on-one English teacher or private tutor at home).
• Family entertainment. There is plenty of entertainment options out there, unfortunately most of it comes with a pretty stiff price tag (have you taken a family of four to a first run movie lately???). At our library there is a wide range of activities—everything from knitting club to free movie nights to Wii bowling to a recent Comic Book Festival—all of which are provided free of charge to the public. Needless to say, all of these options provide lots of entertainment for the entire family. Savings: an estimated $20 a month.
While there are a lot of fancier—read, more expensive--options available for learning and entertaining yourself, if you want to save money and still reap the benefits of movies, books, classes, and all sorts of free entertainment, check out your local community library.