Money Saving Tip: Use Your Library Card

How Your Library Card Can Save You Money Every Month.

We’re taking it old school for this one, but if you’re looking for a healthy way to save money, use your library card! Depending on your habits, you could save between at least a few dollars each month and hundreds of dollars every year. It is one of the easiest ways to save money, and it doesn’t cost a thing (as long as you remember to return your materials on time). Even during our current crisis, most libraries are offering options to get a temporary card online that will let you have access to ebooks, eaudiobooks and other materials. Here’s a look at how using your library card can save you money every month.

1. Free Access to Books When You Use Your Library Card 

When it comes to books – whether they’re physical, ebooks or eaudiobooks – there’s no more affordable option than using your library card to check them out from your public library. 

  • Most libraries are very good about staying up to date with at least many of the latest reads. While you may have to wait on a waiting list for bestsellers, as long as you can be patient, the book will get to you eventually. 
  • Checking a book out from the library is a good way to try it on for size before you buy it. If you read it and think that it’s something that you’ll want to keep coming back to, then you’ll know it’s worth the investment. 
  • If you’re wanting to dive into a topic by reading everything you can about it, checking out books is by far your best bet. Whether it’s cooking, decorating, gardening or self-improvement, you can gain vast amounts of knowledge for free. 
  • If you like to have your books in a digital format, most libraries are part of a network that lets you download them as an MP3 for eaudiobooks, and/or they’re available as ebooks. (Potential savings of $9.99-$14.95/month) To access, click on “browse digital collection” if that is available. 

2. Magazines

Unless you’re someone who likes to look through a magazine over and over again, accessing your library’s digital collection simply makes sense. The latest issues are available for most of the popular subscriptions. (Potential savings of $1-$5/month) To access, click on “browse digital collection” if that is available. 

3. Newspapers 

Your local newspaper plus probably the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times should be available through your library’s digital collection. Your local newspaper may only offer an abbreviated version of the content, but it should hit the main stories of the day. The only hitch that I’ve found with my local newspaper is that it doesn’t include the current day’s paper. It only goes through the previous day. (Potential savings of $5-$18/month) To access, click on “browse digital collection” if that is available. 

4. Movies and Music

Movies and music are usually available through DVDs and CDs at your physical library, but in most cases, you have access to at least some online as well. (Potential savings of $1-$9.99 or more/month) To access, click on “browse digital collection” if that is available. 

5. Online learning courses or software

Most libraries offer access to at least some type of online learning resource. These can range anywhere from software that lets you learn a new language to The Great Courses,  which lets you learn just about anything. (Potential savings of $10/month to $350 for one course) To access, click on “browse digital collection” if that is available. 

Not every library offers the same resources, so be sure and check out your library’s website to get a full picture of what is available. Then get your library card if you haven’t already and start saving money!

Money Saving Tip: Gauge Your Financial Fitness Daily

Even with everything that’s going on right now, I hope you’re finding a way to get out and get some movement or exercise into your life on a daily basis. We know this is good for us anytime, but we especially need it now – to help keep us as healthy as possible, both mentally and physically. That’s not earth-shattering news to anyone, but did you also know that the same is true of our financial fitness? We should be gauging it daily – assessing it, maintaining it and giving it tune-ups when needed.

Image of hand putting coin in piggy bank covered by text that says "Gauge Your Financial Fitness Daily"

Perform Daily Financial Fitness Checks

I want to be clear here. I am not talking about checking your stock portfolio, your retirement plan or your child’s college savings plan daily. That is a migraine waiting to happen at this point in time. What I’m talking about is your personal budget. If you don’t have one, I strongly encourage you to use any extra time you may have these days to develop one. Feel free to check out my tips and suggested resources for doing that here.

As an experienced budget maker and follower, I know all too well the benefits of having a spending and savings plan at any time, let alone when there’s a major crisis and it’s easy to think that the sky is falling. Having a budget and checking in on it daily actually helps to put you in the driver’s seat and lets you have at least some control over what is happening to you personally. Unlike with our retirement plans or stock portfolios, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the amount of money we have at our disposal right now.

Daily Financial Fitness Checks Encourage an Attitude of Abundance

The key is looking at personal budgets through a lens of abundance and not lack. A budget helps to support your dreams and your reality. Knowing where you stand financially on a daily basis helps things not to seem as bleak as your imagination may be telling you they are. Or, it may provide a much-needed wake-up call about how you’re choosing to spend your money and whether your choices are really a good idea at this time.

For example, can you really afford to keep going through a month’s worth of stockpiled snacks in one week just because they’re there? Or is it better to exercise some discipline and put the extras out of sight so that you’re not tempted to go through $50 worth of snacks every week when that may be your snack budget for the entire month? Think about what will serve your goals and your immediate needs best. If you’re not checking in on your finances daily, those extra purchases may not seem like such a big deal in the moment. But if you’re keeping an eye on the big picture, they may mean the difference between being able to afford the basic healthy food you’ll need later on or being able to do something fun that you had been wanting to do when this is all over.

5 Minutes a Day is All You Need

I’m not talking about investing hours a day on this. I’m talking about investing 5 minutes a day while you’re having your morning coffee or tea. Whether you’re using an online tool (see below for some suggestions) or a spreadsheet, here’s what I recommend that you do with this time.

  • Make sure that you have an accurate record of how much is in your bank account (we used to call this balancing our checkbook).
  • Record any expenses or deposits from the day before in your budgeting tool (this includes from your bank account and any credit card activity because it will impact what you owe later in the month or the following month).
  • Scan over your budget to make sure everything looks like it’s on track with where you want to be. If it doesn’t, briefly consider where you need to make changes (starting with that day), to get you back on track.

These are challenging times. While we don’t know exactly what the full impact will be on us financially, the one thing we can control is how we manage our personal finances. Daily financial fitness now will hopefully help to prevent too much stress in this moment as well as further financial hardship down the road. And that will be good for every aspect of our lives – including our overall health and wellbeing.

Recommended Online Budgeting Tools