5 Simple Ways To Save Money by Visiting Your Local Library

By June 25, 2018 8 Comments
saving money at the local library

What do your gym membership and local library have in common?

You’re paying for it… whether you choose to take advantage of the benefits or not.

Take a moment to imagine your public library.

You find yourself lost in a maze of endless aisles of books where you wander in circles trying to break that cryptic code known as the Dewey Decimal system. The scene is accompanied by that distinct, musty smell of old paper and an encompassing silence just waiting to be broken by a stifled sneeze.

Depending on your own interests and personality, the prior paragraph either sounds like the beginning of a horror movie or the start of a perfect Saturday (it’s one of my favorite places to go when I’m bored on the weekend).

No matter what your current impression of libraries might be, it’s time to reimagine them beyond books see them for their true potential as…

A money saving machine!

Don’t worry, you don’t have to cancel your home internet service (although you can get cheap or free internet if you’re resourceful) and camp out in front of the library computers to save money by visiting your local library.

Here are five simple ways you can start saving money by enjoying your local library – followed by a quick guide on how to get started!

Take books for a test drive

“Guess what, I have flaws. What are they? Oh, I don’t know. I sing in the shower. Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering. Occasionally I’ll hit somebody with my car. So sue me… No, don’t sue me. That is the opposite of the point that I’m trying to make.” – Michael Scott, The Office

I need to confess my one of most expensive flaws. Admitting I have a problem will be the first step in making peace with my financial past:

Over the past few years, I’ve purchased far more books than I’ve ever read.

Is this true for you, too?

If you have piles of books you’ve purchased with the promise of reading them someday soon, perhaps this is the easiest place to start on your “saving money at the library” journey.

This isn’t to suggest that buying your own books is a waste of money. There’s something to be said about owning your own personal copy that you can mark up, keep for as long as you’d like, or accidentally drop on your plate or in the bathtub without any fear of repercussions.

However, if you find yourself buying more books than you seriously have time to read, consider giving your next book a “test drive” first by checking it out from the local library.

If you finish the rented copy and consider it something you’ll want to read again or refer back to (or if you just want to support the author), you can go online to buy a new or used copy.

Listen to audiobooks for free

Audiobooks: the early ancestors of the modern-day podcast?

Ever since I started waking up earlier and riding public transit to work, I’ve tried to find ways to make sure this newly-rediscovered “me time” has value.

If you also have a long commute, you may want to use this free time to learn something new – or at least escape into your favorite or fictional worlds.

One under-utilized benefit that many public libraries offer is free access to a large collection of audiobooks.

Most libraries offer this content through a service called Overdrive. The site claims a catalog of over 2 million eBooks, audiobooks, and videos. The available content includes:

  • New York Times Best-sellers
  • Classic works of fiction
  • Popular business and self-help books
  • Curated collections by topics or style
  • And more – go take a look, we’ll wait

You can access these items from your phone, tablet, or computer – all it takes is a library card!

Given the size of their collection, it’s worth checking out if you love audiobooks but aren’t sure you want to shell out $14.95 a month for Audible.

(And even if you do have an Audible account, you may want to see if you can rent an audiobook for free from Overdrive before spending an Audible credit.)

Use the library as a free workplace

If you’re a student, remote worker (full-time or freelancing on Upwork), or an entrepreneur, you may already understand just how difficult it can be to work productively from home.

This is one of the major reasons why there’s been an emergence of “coworking” spaces over the past few years.

What is a coworking space, you ask?

It’s a semi-private building where individuals or small teams can pay membership dues to gain access to office space.

(You can read more how this is just the beginning of one coworking company’s master plans.)

Coworking spaces offer their members a variety of benefits:

  • Daytime or 24/7 access to the building
  • Access to the internet, printers, and supplies
  • Networking events with other members
  • Discounted pricing to ticketed community events
  • Free coffee and snacks

If you’re looking for a place to get your work done outside of your home or office, this setup sounds pretty appealing. Unfortunately, the coworking memberships I’ve seen run anywhere from $80 to $350 a month.

At that rate, it might still be cheaper to just drop into Starbucks and work without the hassle of a membership agreement.

If only there was a place where you could take advantage of these same benefits at a free or steeply discounted cost…

I’m no etymologist, but I’d just like to point out the word “library” is awfully close to the Greek word “liber,” meaning free.

Attend classes and events

City and university libraries are considered to be central gathering places within the community. As such, they often host events – lectures, classes, and activities – that fall across a wide spectrum.

Listening to a controversial author share the highlights from their recent book on politics, religion, or philosophy? Check.

Looking for a family-friendly place for your children to create crafts inspired by their favorite fictional characters? Check.

Impressing your significant other with a fun, cheap date by admiring a photography exhibit or watching a series of short films produced by local students? Check.

You can attend many of these local events for free, although some activities might charge small fees to help cover the costs of supplies or bringing in special guests. Even if you do have to pay for a ticket, you’ll find that you’re saving a lot of money compared to many other entertainment options downtown!

Enjoy “hidden” perks

Hopefully, you’ve already started to see how the benefits of the library extend far beyond access to a great wealth of books.

While the most popular features of libraries – books, computers, and events – are widely promoted, they often offer a variety of “hidden” perks that you’re probably not aware of:

  • Schedule time with a librarian to help with your research
  • Access digital and print archives of local historical records
  • Sit down with a genealogist to research your family history
  • Rent a conference room for your next company or organization meeting
  • Utilize library printers and scanners

Your local library may offer unique or less-common perks, such as video game rentals or books-by-mail, that could also help you save money. To fully enjoy all of the perks your library has available, scour through the website or sign up for their email newsletter.

5 Simple Ways to Save Money By Visiting the Local LibraryHow to save money by visiting your local library

Are you ready to add the library to your list of personal finance resources?

Here are five steps that will help you turn the page (insert facepalm emoji here) on your favorite new place.

  1. Register for a library card. If you don’t already have a library card, the application process is fairly simple. Just visit your library’s website or stop by the library with a photo ID and proof of address. You’ll have your library card or account set up in just a few minutes!
  1. Place a book on hold. While libraries typically have an abundance of the classics, you may have to reserve a copy of the newer or most popular books. After you have a library account, you can reserve a book online, over the phone, or in person. Claim your turn to check out your favorite book!
  1. Request an interlibrary loan. This is one of the most underused resources when it comes to books and the library. If your local library doesn’t have a copy of the book you’re looking for, you can typically request that the library borrow the book from another library in the area (it will take a couple days to get to your location).
  1. Explore the event calendar. You can find the schedule of upcoming events on your library’s website. No matter your interests, you’re likely to find some type of lecture, class, or activity that appeals to you. Find an event that stands out, and make it part of your next date or family night!
  1. Schedule a library day. My favorite way to enjoy the public library? Just show up and explore. You can schedule a morning or afternoon to peruse the aisles of books, drop in on an event, or sit down at an open table to get some work done.


Have you been successfully been convinced that your local library is a personal finance lover’s dream?

Even if you don’t consider yourself a voracious reader, the library is an excellent place to get work done, participate in community events, and save some money in the process.

Next time you have a chance, stop by your library and see what they have to offer. You might just be pleasantly surprised! Our closing thoughts come from the children’s TV show Arthur:

Having fun isn’t hard,
When you’ve got a library card.
Having fun isn’t hard,
When you’ve got a library card.

Come on inside,
We’ve got everything you need.
There’s plenty to do,
Or you can just sit and read.

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  • Kate says:

    These are great tips! Another thing to consider is that a lot of libraries offer free museum passes – you might be able to check one out for the day and get free (or reduced price) admission to a local museum!

  • Excellent post!

    I love the library. It’s such an incredible free resource that truly provides equal access to all. Back when I was working I’d stop by between breaks and study finances, real estate investing, and other personal development topics. Today, I support many different libraries in order to give back the same opportunities I was afforded.

    • Aaron says:

      Thanks, Michael! I’ve volunteered at libraries in the past, and I know they really appreciate the support. Way to give back!

  • Libraries are great resources. I don’t go there very often now, but I used the library all the time in the town where we used to live. I would work there pretty often just to get a change of scenery from my home office. That library also had a huge selection of movies that you could rent for free, which saved us a lot of money over the years.

  • Veronica says:

    I’m so lucky! The library is right next door to my apartment. I pop in every couple of days to take out a book or DVD. I also use Overdrive to listen to audiobooks while I’m slugging away at my 10,000 steps per day.

  • Laura says:

    This is spot on! Libraries are so much more than just books. Don’t get me wrong – books are great. But you don’t have to be an avid reader to find something useful at the library.

    There are also movies, CDs, and magazines. In addition to Overdrive, your library might offer services through the Hoopla app. This gives access to things like music, movies, and animated children’s books.

    Many libraries have surprising items that you can borrow. My library offers a collection of toys and games. I’ve been to other libraries that let you borrow framed artwork or a sewing machine. I’ve heard of other libraries offering cake pans in different shapes and even ukuleles.

  • Hey Aaron,
    Great article. A lot of good points.
    As a parent I know how important our local library is for educating and igniting a love for learning at a young age in our children. And like you stated, were paying for it so we might as well take full advantage of the service.
    Take care,

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