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Your local library has a lot more than just books. From magazines to movies, you can save money using your library’s resources. Here’s how.

Do you think of your local library as a stuffy place? Beaky-nosed librarians scowling over their glasses? Constantly being told to shush while you sneeze from all the dusty books?
Your view of the library could be more than a little dated. While a few libraries still operate in this old-fashioned way, most are getting more current. As cornerstones of neighborhoods across the country, libraries are coming up with innovative ways to engage their communities.

Plus, if you’re at all interested in living frugally, you should definitely get familiar with your local library. They’ve got more than a few ways you can save some serious cash. Here are some to consider.

Save on Reading, Listening, and Watching Material

Obviously the library is a great place to go to check out reading material. But these days, you can get way more than ancient, dusty books from the library’s shelves. Most libraries are great at keeping up with current trends in all sorts of genres.

I never have to wait long to get even the latest bestseller from my local library in Indianapolis. And I save the $20+ dollars by waiting a few extra days to read it. Sometimes I am about dead with anticipation by the time the book arrives, but that’s part of the fun.

Besides traditional crackly-covered library-bound books, though, you can also get digital books from most modern libraries. Our library uses the Overdrive app. You can add it to your phone and then access thousands of ebooks and audiobooks using your library card. The ebooks can even be pushed out to your Kindle if that’s your preferred reading device. Plus, libraries offer other types of reading material, including newspapers and magazines.

I mentioned audiobooks above because they’re often available through library apps. But many libraries stock loads of audiobooks on CD, too. These were favorites of my husband and me when we drove back and forth to college I won’t say how many years ago. They’re still an excellent option for long road trips with kids, too.

Another option is traditional CDs and even digital copies of music. Some libraries offer Overdrive-like services specifically for music. For instance, you might be able to access Freegal Music to get free songs each week. Both CDs and downloads are great option for checking out new music without spending a dime.

Finally, the library is a great place to go for new things to watch. Most libraries stock the latest releases of movies. You may have to wait on a hold list, unlike with Redbox. But it also won’t cost you anything to binge watch favorite classics and new releases on the weekend.

Save on a Place to Work or Hold Meetings

If you’re part of the growing telework workforce, the library can be a boon. If you’re anything like me, you just have days when “work from home” doesn’t cut it. The laundry and other housework is too distracting. Or the temptation to fall back into bed is too strong.

On these days, I tend to default to a local coffee shop, where I can get more work done surrounded by a bit of ambient noise and people who would look at me oddly if I fell asleep. But my library is a great place to get work done, as well.

And, guess what? They don’t even care if you bring your own coffee into the library. So there’s no temptation to spend money on an expensive coffee drink at the shop, but I still get to enjoy free internet and ambiance while I get my work done.

Many libraries also offer a variety of study and meeting rooms to their patrons. My tiny local library even has a couple of quiet rooms that can be reserved for small meetings or study sessions. And our larger downtown branch has loads of rooms for a variety of purposes.

Check your library’s policies and procedures, especially if you’re trying to schedule a meeting with others. But the library can be a great way to put on a presentation or hold a meeting or brainstorming session as a small business owner or freelancer.

Save on Internet and Computers

If your job is literally typing words on a screen for hours on end like mine, you can’t really get away with not having your own computer and internet connection. But what if most of your day-to-day internet transactions take place on your phone? Maybe you don’t need a computer except for once in a while when you need to do something more complex like write a paper or pull together a presentation.

In this case, the library is a great place to go. Most libraries have a variety of publicly available computers, and they usually have free internet and Wifi. So you can just head to your library to get done what you need to get done.

You might also be able to access more complicated software like the Adobe suite or coding platforms. These can be great if you need to complete projects or are trying to learn something new but don’t want to spend a ton of money on new software.

Save on Things to Do

Our local library has a huge variety of events and entertainment available. For instance, local branches host toddler groups all the time. They are great for stay-at-home parents who need something to keep their kids busy. But the library also hosts loads of events for adults, including speaking events with authors, music events, and even cultural events like its annual Kwanzaa celebration.

In larger cities, the bigger events are likely to take place at the central or larger branches. Ours normally take place downtown. But even the smaller outlying branches offer plenty of interesting evening and weekend events geared towards the local community.

If your library has a Facebook page or Twitter feed, follow them to stay on top of the latest events. Or check out the library’s website, which likely includes a calendar.

Save on Further Education

Are you looking at applying for a job or building a new career? The library should be your first stop. Research librarians are great at helping your sort through the information that’s out there on your intended career. They may even be able to help you find good websites for applying to jobs. And many libraries host regular resume and cover letter writing workshops.

Plus, more and more libraries are offering workshops on coveted skills for the workplace. This used to be mostly focused on basic computer literacy skills. And many libraries still offer basic workshops on Microsoft Office and using the internet. But now more and more are offering innovative options like coding classes and talks with local business owners about career development.

The library isn’t necessarily a place to get an actual certificate in your area of study. But it can be an excellent place to try out new skills to see which direction you want to go.

Save on a Bunch of Other Stuff

Honestly, libraries are becoming so innovative these days that it’s impossible to detail all the ways you might be able to save money at yours. It really depends on your particular library system and branch. But here are some of the most interesting items I’ve heard you can check out at some local libraries:

  • Museum passes: Some libraries loan passes to local museums, or at least get you a discount when you present your library card.
  • Artwork: Many libraries now offer you the ability to check out artwork. You can refresh your space for a couple of months, and then switch out the piece for something different.
  • Instruments: Think you want to take up guitar, but not sure you’ll stick with it? Before you invest a couple hundred bucks or more, see if your library lends out instruments to try.
  • Tools: Some libraries now offer a rotation of home improvement tools for those who want to DIY it without spending a fortune on a garage full of tools.
  • Tech Devices: You can check out Xboxes, iPads, and more from many local libraries. If you want your kids to try one out before you buy, check with your library.
  • Toys: Some toy libraries, usually focused on specialty toys for kids with special needs, do exist. But mainstream libraries may also offer you the option to check out kids’ toys for a while.
  • Seeds: More libraries are offering seed libraries. You just grab a packet of seeds with the promise to bring some back when you harvest the fruit later in the summer.

Your library could literally lend just about anything you can think of. That’s why it’s so important to check out your library’s website and social media so that you can stay on top of what’s offered. Just using your library for reading and watching material could save you a small fortune. But you might as well make the most of the resources offered, and see just how much money you can save.

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Couponing Makes Cents

This article was written by in Frugality. 31 comments.

Over the next couple of weeks, six finalists will be auditioning for the opening of “staff writer” at Consumerism Commentary. Each will be providing two guest articles to share with readers. After the six writers have shared their guest articles, readers will have an opportunity to provide feedback before we select the staff writer.

This article is presented by FruGal, a consultant for a prominent online educational program.

Chances are, I have something in common with either you or someone you’re close to. That’s right, I recently found myself unemployed. After a five-year employment with a steady organization and what I thought was a prosperous future, I woke up one morning to find myself blindsided by the news that I no longer had a job. Luckily, being a financially-conscious individual, I’ve always been wise about investing a percentage of my earnings in various places, such as high-interest savings accounts. While this left me with enough money to “survive,” I knew that there were some concrete steps I was going to need to take in order to ensure I was making the most of my hard-earned dollars and, in believe it or not, cents.

Cents you ask? Yes, cents. Coupon-clipping has changed my life. What has long been considered a hobby of a let’s say, more “seasoned” individuals (a.k.a. senior citizens) has truly become all the rage with today’s average consumer. As a 28 year-old single female, I may not be your “average” coupon clipper, but my point is coupons are a smart move, no matter who you are.

Coupons have long fascinated me, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to master the art of this ever-growing practice. Spend just a few minutes online, and you’ll probably find quite a few useful web pages where people dedicate their whole site to the art of coupon clipping, complete with weekly store deals, coupon links, and much, much more.

I’m excited to share with you just a few simple steps you can take TODAY (well, maybe this Sunday) to STOP seeing your hard-earned money dwindle each week, and START seeing incredible savings in your everyday expenditures.

1. The good old Sunday newspaper is an excellent place to begin your new-found hobby of clipping coupons! On Sunday morning (or perhaps Saturday if the early edition is available where you live like it is In my city), head out to your local grocery store or gas station and pick up a copy of the Sunday paper for generally around $2 or less. Your $2 will go far based on the incredible savings you find inside. (Also check out your local paper on Thursday, as they often have coupons and promotions.)

Inside your $2 treasure, you’ll find a wide array of coupon inserts from companies such as SmartSource, PGBrandSaver, and others. Note that your coupon inserts may vary from ones you’d find in other cities, but regardless, you’ll find endless deals inside.

2. Now that you’ve got your coupons, what do you do with them? Get out your scissors and start clipping! There are tons of different organization systems that you can use, such as keeping a three ring binder with inserts. What I find works best for me is a plastic file folder organizer with tabbed letters of the alphabet. You can find these at any office supply store, and again, the couple of dollar investment you make will be well worth it in the long-run.

Once you’ve clipped all of your coupons it’s time to file them into your folder. I clip just about everything, even if I think I might not use it, because you never know. You also might find yourself giving coupons that don’t apply to you to your friends and family members. Find a system that works for you, but I usually file by the brand name of the item, rather than the general category. That way if I’m going through my sales circular for next week (see the next step) and see that Cheerios are on sale, I can simply flip to the “C” section and pull my coupon!

3. The key to successfully using your coupons is in the timing. You don’t want to go to the grocery store and simply buy items because you have coupons for them. Instead, check out your local grocery stores’ sales papers ahead of time. Prior to your weekly grocery store trip, go online to your store’s website. Most stores I’ve ever shopped at post their weekly circulars on their site. Some of them even have copies of the next week’s sales circular just past the checkout near the exit, so pick it up on your way out to start planning for the next week. Once you know what’s on sale, match up those items that are on sale in the circular with those items you have coupons for.

Of course, you won’t have a coupon for every item you want to buy, but you’ll definitely begin to see some significant savings in your weekly spending. Once you become a coupon-clipping “expert” you’ll begin to see your grocery bills decrease more and more, with strategies such as clipping coupons on the web, taking advantage of stores that double (and sometimes even triple!) your coupons, buying multiple copies of your Sunday paper, and using online resources to plan out how to maximize your coupons at different stores each week if you’re super ambitious.

Since I’ve begun steadily clipping and using coupons, I’ve seen my grocery bills more than cut in half each week. Not only does this give me some degree of personal satisfaction, but it also lets me know that I have a bit more money that particular week to go out with friends, or buy that bestselling novel I’ve been wanting to read. Or better yet, maybe I should just get it from the library for free.

So, Consumerism Commentary readers, what do you think? Are you an avid coupon-clipper like me? Do you have any tips to share on how to stretch your dollars and cents even further at the grocery store? If you get a little thrill from looking at the bottom of your grocery store receipt and seeing your savings, I’d love to hear from you!

This is a guest article by FruGal, one of six finalists interested in being Consumerism Commentary’s staff writer.

Photo: Roadsidepictures

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