How to Use the Library to Save Money

Take out your wallet. Do you have a library card yet?

We don’t give the library enough credit these days. While screens have largely replaced books for many people, you can’t quite beat the feel of flipping through the pages in a big comfy chair as rain pours against your window. And the library is still your best source for reading lots of traditional books at the lowest cost possible.

But the library can offer so much more! When you familiarize yourself with the secrets of the library, you’ll find that it will save you money on many different areas of your life. We spoke to the experts to bring you all the ways you can take advantage of your local library.


The library is great for finding older books, but it can also be a source for current periodicals. And it’s much more affordable than maintaining a subscription to your favorite paper or magazine.

“If, like us, you have children, the library can be a great, affordable place to entertain them for an hour or two,” recommended Claire and Andy of Thrifty Parent. “Ideal for a rainy day especially! But, as your kids get older, they no longer need you to read to them or help them reach the books etc. So what do you do whilst they’re all distracted? Most libraries get daily newspapers and have subscriptions to major magazines. This is a great way for Mum or Dad to kill the time, with the indulgence of reading about your favourite hobby or just catching up on the news – all free of charge.”

Library, camera, action.

Are you the kind of person who prefers to wait for the movie version instead of reading a book? Well the library is there for you as well!

“No Netflix?” asked Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement for SOLO Laboratories (@SOLO_labs). “No problem. Go to your local library and rent/borrow popular movies. This is especially great for grandparents who can offer the grandkids the movies they love, without buying them. It’s easy, fast… and affordable.”

Going page-less.

While we already discussed how lovely the traditional book experience is, there are certain conveniences to modern book technologies. And the library will allow you to access these “future books.”

“Many libraries offer books on tape,” explained Wolf. “It’s a great way to listen to a book on your daily commute or a trip. Some use a subscription-based service. Some may charge a fee but it’s far below what you pay in the marketplace.”

Rent a recipe.

Some books are for entertainment or research. Those are the kind that are typically associated with the library. But they aren’t the only ones you can borrow!

“People think of novels, biographies, and science fiction, but your local library also carries MANY great (and popular) cookbooks,” offered Wolf. “No need to buy the book, use it at home and write down the recipes worth keeping.”

Rent a regional guide.

In some ways, guidebooks are the cookbooks of traveling, at least in the sense that they can both be found at the library.

“Each time I’m planning a trip, I make a visit to the library to borrow travel guides,” explained Bernard Sury, one of the founders of GuruWalk (@guruwalk). “I often find recent editions, contrary to what one might think. Moreover, I can always check back the information while surfing the internet to have new updates. I then decide to rent the one that seems the most useful to take with me during my trip. In this way, I have a quality travel information, without having to pay for a new guide! Better for your budget and for the planet as you usually do not use the guide after your travel.”

Making it official.

The library is one of the easiest public services to take advantage of. And it can help you use other public services as well!

“Your local library is usually a great resource for government forms from taxes to student loans, Medicare, and Veteran’s benefits,” Wolf told us. “No need to print it out at home, you can get them for free here. They often have handbooks and other materials you can borrow to explain the process (not just filling out the form). Most are provided by your local contact for the organization and their contact information is on the form. You can save hours of work knowing where to go for the answers.”

Toolin’ around.

Your library may have a very different selection than any other given library. And that could extend way beyond books. Which is why you shouldn’t make any assumptions about what your library has until you check for yourself.

“Most people know about content borrowing at libraries, which includes books, magazines, newspapers, and movies,” began Michael Alexis, Manager at Library Jobs. “However, libraries are increasingly offering alternative collections that allow them to serve the community. Examples: you may be able to borrow power tools from your library, which is great for one-off projects and could save you hundreds of dollars by not buying your own tools. Some libraries also provide access to equipment like 3D printers, which could allow you to experiment with this otherwise expensive hobby or even 3D print some useful objects you would otherwise buy.”

Find out what your local library offers as soon as you can. Who knows what things you’ve been paying for that you could have just been borrowing this whole time?

To learn more about everyday ways to save money, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

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Michael Alexis is a former lawyer, and now manages Library Jobs and other projects. Michael lives and works out of a small backpack and holds the top spot on Google for “how to ask for a refund”.
Claire and Andy are the owners of They have three kids who eat money, sometimes literally! They’ve done lots of work and research saving money whilst wringing the maximum fun and value from every penny – work and research we love to share.
Avid traveler and expat, Bernard Sury is part of the co-founding team of GuruWalk(@guruwalk), a global platform of free walking tours based in Spain. You can reach him through LinkedIn.
Holly Wolf is an executive with over 30 years of experience in banking and healthcare.

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