Imagine a fabulous place that contains every magazine you long to pore over, just about every television show you’ve ever loved, every movie you’ve been dying to see, every single book you’ve ever wanted to read, and oh, I almost forgot, several computers with high-speed internet access… and almost all of it is available for FREE!

Fellow frugalities, this wonderful place exists near each and every one of you – it’s time to rediscover your public library! If you envision your library as the domain of herds of school-aged kids working on an overdue book reports, it’s time for me to remind you that it is your personal frugal GOLD MINE!

We have a spectacular one near us, in Exton, PA, with a computerized system linking it electronically to a dozen other fantastic libraries in Chester County (excuse me, I’m drooling. Apologies). www.ccls.org

This networked system ensures that I now have access not only to the resources of the magnificent Exton library, but that at the tap of a keyboard, I can summon anything within the system and have it sent to Exton for me to pick up. To a book/movie lover like myself, who adores great customer service, this appeals tremendously to my inflated sense of self-importance… Also appealing to my sense of self-importance, the Chester County Library System now offers a brilliant book on frugal living for your enjoyment… http://catalog.ccls.org/search/t?SEARCH=brilliant+frugal+living&searchscope=1&sortdropdown=-&b=

Don’t get me wrong, I adore a coffee chat at our local bookstore as much as anyone. But before you buy another just-off-the-press bestseller, read it, and put it on your overstuffed bookshelf (like I used to…), take a random count of how many books you’ve purchased full price only to read it once and never have the time to read it again. If you’re anything like me, you’ll stop counting at around 50 hard cover best sellers that cost about $25 each. Don’t bother doing the math, I’ve already cried enough for both of us. Please note, this doesn’t include the hundreds of magazines I’ve acquired over the years at full price, or the (*gulp*) 240 videos currently shelved in our family room. A few of these items were received as gifts…and the vast majority were simply ones that I just HAD to have when they first became available, watched once, and haven’t glanced at since. Again, don’t even do the math on this, I beg of you – even if I paid $1 each for every book, magazine, video & DVD, it’s still terrifying. And trust me, I paid more than $1 each. If you have similarly stocked homes, no worries, we’ve all been there. The vast majority of resources at your local library will be free, with very agreeable terms for rental (books usually check out for two weeks, videos, CD’s & DVD’s are usually one week). Everything on the New York Times bestseller list is usually available the week it comes out in print. Note: some libraries have a minimal $1.50 charge for the latest bestsellers, far more agreeable to the $25 you’d pay in the bookstore.

Another fantastic service at most libraries – state of the art computer access!   I’ve spoken to more than one person who gave up trying to keep their home computers up to date when they realized they’d spent thousands of dollars in a few years time.    These brave souls had the nerve and audacity to (dare I say it) give up maintaining a home computer, and now simply visit their nearby library frequently for any online needs. Despite computer-addicts’ shrieks to the contrary (including my very-computer-savvy husband), social e-mail from family & friends needn’t be checked every 90 seconds.  Some do just fine checking it once a week, and suffer no negative physical side effects from their electronics withdrawal…  For those who haven’t rolled their eyes yet, I ask, how much does YOUR computer cost every year for maintenance and high-speed networking?

When it comes to my favorite library offerings, I’m a movie addict. Before my friends & I started families, we’d go to the movies constantly, easily once a month. In the last five years or so since we’ve all had kids, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually gotten my act together and made it to the theatre! We’re talking going cinematic cold turkey here. Imagine my delight at seeing the library shelves filled with THOUSANDS of DVDs of every movie I’ve ever wanted to see. Just like the bestselling books, the latest, up-to-date blockbuster movie hits are stocked usually the day they become available on DVD, and LONG before they’re available on cable.

Speaking of cable television, here’s another quick math scenario – to those of you with cable television/internet access who think the library offerings are irrelevant to your lifestyle, I ask: how much are you spending per year for premium movie channels and internet access? Hundreds of dollars a year? Perhaps over a thousand dollars a year? Around here, cable/network fees are often over $100/month (more than $1200/year). We’re talking about an average mortgage/rent payment (or TWO) for most Americans.   How long do you work to earn $1200?  Is it worth it?  I know current cable packages offer thousands of movies, but how many of these movies are busy Americans really watching?

Most of us (my household included) require the basic cable package to ensure a decent television signal for the regular channels. This is easily $50/month. Pare down your current “Ultra Premiere Mega Fabulous” package down to the basic cable, and you could save hundreds over the course of a year. If this sounds too extreme, try this real-life scenario on for size: in one of my workshops, I met a wonderful woman who (after decades of paying household bills on time) found herself unable to pay the mortgage not once, but twice this year alone. Scared to death, and fed up with being tapped out, she canceled her cable & internet access, saving herself $1300/year (which ironically is the same as two of her mortgage payments). Her household immediately became talk radio & news radio fans, they used the computer for word processing & school projects, and they kept their television hooked up to the DVD player.  Twice a week they hit the library for books, magazines & internet access, as well as their favorite movies, which they watched on the weekends. Book reading & family time skyrocketed in their household, her kids’ grades improved, numerous house projects were finally completed, she herself says her house has NEVER been so clean, and she’s lost 25 pounds in the past year, which in turn resulted in her no longer requiring costly blood pressure medication.

Taking all that into consideration, how much is your top notch cable/internet access REALLY costing your family over the course of a year??

Take care everybody, and Happy Halloween! Kris