Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The secret to free books for life: saving money with the Library

First off, this started last year when I started quicken accounting software linked to our accounts. Quicken informed me that I had spent over $500.00 on books in 30 days. Ridiculous right? Stupid quicken..... obviously has a million errors. I only bought like..... Ummmmm. Oh. Like $500.00 worth :( Quicken also informed me that this was a reoccurring habit I had and that over the last year, my books came in third in our household expenses (in my defense- my husband's flying club beat my books by a lot!).
So, in an effort to save money, I went back to the library hoping that my new "Fly Lady" organization would help me return books on time. (I've had several past experiences with the library where I would forget to return them and have insane late fee's. In one case, over $200.00!)
This is where I discovered the modern library service.... I lived in Fairfax County,Virginia at the time, which had a world class library including an iPhone app where you can reserve books, but now that I'm in Prince William, Virginia, I'm still impressed (though I miss my iPhone app!)

Here's How I use the Library and save a small fortune:

- Search through Amazon.com and make a wish list of anything and everything you want to read from cookbooks to non fiction to "Idiot's Guide to Building My Wife a Green Breakfast Nook"
(complete with wood plans and diagrams). Love young adult post apocalyptic books but don't know where to start? Check out listmania by Amazon. You search other readers book lists based on what you like to read. For instance- you can search "books taking place on a desert island"... And you'll get a list. Don't forget to include brand new releases or books that haven't come out yet, but have a release date. Print that wish list out.

-Go on to your library website and start typing your list into the search engine (you'll need a library card first- stop by your local branch to get one, almost all are free).  Every book should be there (Even small libraries hook up with larger libraries to get books they don't normally have). Click request on the books (limit yourself to what you can read in 21 days- I do 11 books and normally have to re-reserve one). When you do that, the library will gather up the books from different places and bring them to your library branch. If there's a hold, they put you on the list and when it's ready, it goes to your branch for you. The Library will email you when your books are ready then you go pick them up. You have 21 days to return them and they have a drop box. They even have brand new books that just got released last month .

Here comes the real genius... The library will also give you free ebooks and audio books! Here's how it works... I've been reading ebooks on my kindle for iPhone for a while- It's amazing! And convenient! Download Overdrive Media app for Droid or iPhone (free), click "get books", when it asks to choose library- type in your zip and pick your library. Enter your library card number and browse or search for books! Same rules apply with E/Audio books.... You get them for 21 days and if too many people have them out, you can put yourself on a wait list. They will email you when it's ready. You read the books (or listen to them) right through the app.  You can magnify the words so it's easy to read. The selection for Ebooks seems to be more popular books (versus print books which they have virtually all). For instance, I can get Twilight and Vampire Academy books  but I can't get Madeline L'engle's "An endless ring of light"... Because it's old and outdated (No offense Madeline... I still think you're awesome.)

Also of note is that the Library has pretty much every Magazine known to man, is almost never busy and has an array of comfy chairs. If your bored, or broke and want to get lost in celebrity gossip or flip through glossy pages of stuff you can't afford, you should plan to spend a few hours there.

I should also mention that the key to this working is a routine or a schedule. Either plan to hit the library every Sunday to drop off and pick up books, or on the 10th and 20th of every month, or customize it but write it in your schedule. The system works so well for me, that I have no problem keeping the schedule and it's by far my favorite errand.

So... That's my story. My Quicken is informing me that I have spent 0.00 on books since August 2011. Now, If we can get a shoe library.... We'll be rich!!!

A special thank you to Fairfax County Library and Prince William County Library for being so awesome and inspiring this happy girl to start to get her financial life in order.


  1. I recommend that you check out paperbackswap.com for books as well. It's a book trading website. You don't pay anything to receive a book, and you only pay the shipping costs (usually $2-3 per book) when you send a book.

  2. That's an awesome site! I still like the library better since it's free and easier for me to get to than the post office. But if you prefer to keep your books, or if your library is a ways away, it's a phenominal back up. Thanks for sharing!


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