Making use of your local library is a super-power. The type that can supercharge your FI dreams in a matter of weeks, all-the-while increasing your knowledge base, and providing an amazing source of entertainment.
The library has the potential to not only reduce several expenses in your budget, but to eliminate them entirely. If you don’t believe you can save thousands from the library, read on! We are on track to save roughly $1200 in books, movies, CDs, museum passes, and more this year alone! Naturally every library system is different, let us know what cool perks your library has in the comments section.
We’ll dive in further to each item below as example of resources from the Hillsborough County Library system in Florida, but some of the free resources include: books (physical, e-books, and audio varieties), DVD’s & T.V. series, CD’s/online music, online educational classes, museum passes, genealogy research, live music, free on-site internet, language / travel tools, sound studios, in-person classes, meeting rooms, musical instruments, and more.
Books can be very expensive. The thought of shelling out upwards of $30 for a book you will likely read once is very daunting, especially for budget-minded folks. Enter the library and the amazing resource that they provide to little kids and adults alike. Anything that lowers the barrier to spending more time getting deeply lost in a fiction book, or perhaps learning from those before us in biographies is fantastic! Even if you only utilize the library for books, GREAT! However, there could be much more benefit to gain and resources to utilize from your local library.
Most importantly, the library is going to educate you at a much deeper level that can generally be found perusing the web. Many financial websites entice you with click bait titles and regurgitated tidbits on how to save money on groceries, breaking your coffee buying habit, how to not buy clothes, etc. Like this one from everydollar.com, have you heard you should evaluate your TV choices, not pay for a gym, and make your coffee at home? Life changing! Not so much.
The first thing the library offers is the most obvious. The library likely has all the life-changing books to set you moving forward on your financial journey. Vicky Robin’s ‘Your Money or Your Life’, J.L. Collins’ ‘The Simple Path To Wealth’, Thomas Stanley’s ‘The Millionaire Next Door’, are just a few examples of the books that contain life-changing content.
If you haven’t been to your library’s website, it’s time to check it out. Books are likely available via multiple formats including print, online (can be read on e-readers, computers, phones, tablets), and audio. So you may not even need to drive there, just check them out online! Here’s an example from our library system:
It’s noteworthy that many libraries are actually interconnected systems as part of your county. For us, the Hillsborough County Library system is connected to over 30 libraries. When I request a book, I’m requesting it from the entire system, not just the library that is 5 miles from our place. Thus, we have access to hundreds of thousands of books throughout the library system. With a couple simple clicks of the mouse, they deliver the requested book(s) to our closest library, put my name on it by the front desk, and send me a message that they are ready for pick-up. And it’s all free (well tax payer dollars help, but basically)!!
What if they don’t have the book you’re desiring? Most will have a link on their web page to ‘Suggest a Title’. There’s typically just a few boxes to fill out and we’ve had great success with them purchasing the requested titles.
Here’s an example of a book you should definitely request from your library. Written by Mrs. Winning Williams, it is the first of its kind. A book written by a member of the FI community, fiction, chronicling the story of two couples who are on two unique paths…
DVDs and Movies:
Cable television, HBO, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, YouTube Premium, Sling, PlayStation Vue. There’s a pretty good chance you’re paying a monthly subscription to view television and movies. Even the Winning Williams elected for Netflix early on in our relationship, often binge watching movies and certain series to ensure we got enough value to warrant that subscription. (Hey, don’t judge, it takes time to get fully aligned and to understand your values!)
Upon realizing the library had all major DVD’s we were interested in, we cancelled our one and only subscription to Netflix. Our library carries all major new releases in standard DVD format with many more options available via instant download from Overdrive. Spending $150 / month on subscription services? If you eliminate this, you’ll need $45,000 less ($150 monthly cost X 12 months X 25 (4% rule) ) in investments to hit FIRE; how many hours of work will that take you to save?
But, you HAVE to watch Stranger Things! Well, would it really be the worst scenario if instead of being addicted to watching TV, we instead chose more fulfilling activities to take up our time? I digress. Okay, so you need Netflix, to watch Stranger Things. Do you though? Check your library, yet again, covered at our system:
Most people utilize the radio and other free online music services, thus this resource may be of less benefit. Nonetheless, I borrower the most recent CD’s of my favorite artists to listen to on the way to work. We can also utilize Hoopla to listen to music via that resource free of charge as well.
One of the coolest perks in my mind is museum passes. I certainly enjoy going to museums, but paying $20 per person, meh, maybe not! Our library has what is called a Discovery Pass which provides the opportunity to visit numerous museums or even plays.
Our library offers a plethora of online classes with the most notable being Universal Class, Lynda.com, and Mango (noted below). Universal Class offers over 500 online courses across a wide variety of topics while Lynda offers thousands of classes that can further your career and education. Continuing your education not only gives you the direct benefit from an expanded skill set, but is a fundamental driver to ensure a growth mindset.
Learning a second language (or third or fourth):
Our library connects us to Mango, an online tool for learning up to 70 languages free of charge! Per Mango, they provide a curriculum via online format at a self-taught pace with subscriptions valued at $20/month. This is a nice savings to eliminate courtesy of the library system while learning a second language.
Might as well utilize that second language! From Lonely Planet, to National Geographic, to Frommer’s, to even Rick Steve’s! That guy is great.
It seems genealogy research has gained significant popularity of late with various subscription or fee based offerings. But first, check the offerings are your local library. Here’s an example sample offering from our library system:
You can even lay down some sick beats and reserve a recording studio at our local library. That is pretty cool for aspiring musicians, vocal artists, and anyone who wants to learn more about sound editing.
Various Business and Career Resources:
- Reference USA – database with 50 million businesses and 292MM consumers, including business directories, white pages, health care providers, and more
- Demographics Now – robust and highly detailed U.S. demographic data with reporting capabilities
- Business Insights: Essentials – Authoritative information and statistical data with analytical tools on U.S. businesses, industries and products.
- Value Line – Stock market research, investment information, reports and rankings on mutual funds and options, and historical financial data
- Morningstar Investment Research Center – Comprehensive data and analysis on thousands of investments including mutual funds, stock, and ETF’s
- Small Business Resource Center – An easy-to-browse, comprehensive database covering all aspects of starting and operating a business.
- Gale Business Collection – Full-text coverage of all business disciplines including accounting, economics, finance, marketing, management and strategy.
- Gale Career Transitions – Helping you find new employment or make a career change with resume tools, job searches, and more.
- Tax prep/assistance services
- Many more!
Getting involved in locally held events might not only be a free source of entertainment, but it might also help you find your passion and explore various interests, and help you connect to like-minded folks in your local area. Taking a look at our system, classes vary tremendously. Yoga classes, live concerts, book clubs, stitching society, walk-in tech help, creative writing group, tai chi, 3-D printing, Microsoft Office demonstrations, Zumba classes, cooking series, mahjong class, and on and on.
To wrap this up, it can be easy to be slow in adopting new resources. But making use of the library is a superpower that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s worth five minutes to peruse your library system’s website and follow that up with a chat with a local librarian who can assist you maximize the many resources they offer.
Tally up how much you spent on books, renting movies, and paying to listen to music. If you had access to movies and television shows (even Netflix series) how many subscription services could you eliminate? For Winning Williams, let’s aggregate how much we’ve spent over the last twelve-months on such items. Books: $0. Music: $0. TV: $0. Movies: $0. I’ll do the math for you, the grand total spent was $0. Time it would take us to save to maintain that lifestyle? None 🙂
Our library even provided us with a receipt to show us how much we are saving. Combined we have already saved $679.98 this year. We are well on our way to getting $1,200 in value before the year is out.
So, start saving and go to your library today!