Friday, April 2, 2010

Frugal Fun Friday- Take Advantage of the Public Library

One of the best and least known resources available for frugal family fun is the public library system. A trip to the library is free, and provides hours and hours of quality entertainment.
The most obvious free service at the library is the book lending aspect. I've saved myself countless dollars on books by just reading a book once and then returning it to the library. It doesn't usually pay to buy a book, even second hand, unless you know you will actually read it. Most people with little money have limited space, so it does not pay to spend money to take up space, if you most likely will never even read the book more than once.
By getting books from the library, you save money by not needing to buy these books, and you're saving space.

Teach Your Kid to Love to Read
Reading is a very good form of cheap entertainment. Children who read end up being bored less frequently, spend less time vegged out in front of the TV, stretch their imagination, and build their vocabulary. If your children don't read, they're missing out on one of the greatest joys in life.
One way to jump start them on the reading adventure is by reading stories to them, so they can explore the worlds that reading can offer them. Libraries often have summer reading programs, offering incentives for children to read books for prizes.
If your children don't currently enjoy reading, find out about their interests. If they don't like the typical story books, do they perhaps like computers? Check out a book from the library about computers. The natural world? They have many books geared towards nearly every single interest out there. Take your kid to meet the children's librarian, have your child tell her what interests he or she has, and the librarian will help your kid find books that will be right up their alley. The librarian should become your child's best friend (or nearly).

Beyond Simple Book Loans
Often when a specific book you are looking for is not available at the library, libraries have a system called "interlibrary loans", where they request books from other library systems. I've gotten nearly every single book I've wanted to read, either by regular library loans or interlibrary loans. Speak to the librarian if there is a certain book you would like to read that you can't find.
Additionally, many libraries often loan out CDs and movies. These usually aren't the latest hits, but they are much cheaper than either buying the CD or renting the movie from blockbusters (not to mention, seeing it at home as opposed to in theaters). Its worth waiting a little bit for the library to acquire this media than to spend money on something that you may not even like. Only buy that CD or movie once you've already listened to/watched it, to be sure you won't regret your purchase at a later date.
I've even seen libraries loaning out toys. If your toy supply is minimal, you might want to borrow these toys to give your children new and exciting toys without needing to buy them.

Don't Pay Overdue Fees
While libraries are usually free, they can end up being costly if you forget to return the books/items you borrowed in a timely fashion, and need to pay overdue fees.
To avoid late returns, try to keep these simple tips in mind:
-Keep the receipt you received from the library hanging up in a place you won't miss. When you return a book, cross it off the receipt. Every few days, go through this list and see which items are due soon, round them up, and return them. (Growing up, we kept these inside the door to the cereal cabinet, so we'd see it every morning while getting breakfast, as a constant reminder.)
-Keep all books in one place in the house. Only take one book (per person) at a time out of that place, and return it as soon as it's finished being used. If you only ever have your library books at the shelf near your bed, you won't need to look in the laundry room or under the couch in the den, because the book would  have no reason to be there. (I feel the same way about glasses. I never lose my glasses, because I only ever keep them in one of two places- either on my nightstand or on the shelf in the bathroom when I shower. If you have only one place to keep something, it won't get lost.)
-Don't allow library books to leave the house. That means, no, Bobbie can't bring that library book to school or to the pool. If you take this book outside your home, you have a greater chance of losing the book and never finding it, which will  result in you needing to pay for a replacement, and not just late fees.
-Don't take out too many items at a time. The more you take out at a time, the harder it is to keep track of all these things.

Libraries are Not Just for Loans
Even if, despite your efforts, your kids just don't enjoy reading, libraries usually have other free, frugal fun. Just from my own growing up, I'll give you an example of all the free things in which I was able to participate in, thanks to my public library.
-Creative writing classes
-Mother-daughter book club
-Drama club
-Poetry slams
-Story time
-Arts and Crafts
-Puppet shows
-Magic shows
-Spanish for Little People
-Mommy and Me
-Teen Advisory Board
... and  lots more.

If you think that I just lucked out with a good library system, I searched for the library systems in random cities around the world, and they all have great free programs.
( In case you don't believe me, here's some links to events at public libraries worldwide. Manhattan, Kansas. Ft Worth, Texas. Melbourne, Australia.  Greenwich, England. Toronto, Canada. Johannesburg, South Africa.
New York City, New York)

If you haven't yet taken advantage of your local public library, well, what are you waiting for?

In what ways do you benefit from your local public library?. 

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