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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Frugality (Part XIII): Entertainment on the Down Low

I started this post about six months ago. It was supposed to come after part XI, but that was before I knew what would be coming down the pike. So, it is now in a different order and a bit later than I originally intended.

I'm writing about something that doesn't have to do with the kitchen. It is a rare moment in my frugal trek. So, how does one enjoy entertainment without busting the budget? There are two major outlets for entertainment that come immediately to mind. The first is the library, the second is the community.

I know that there are people who see no reason to use the library. If a book is worth reading, it is worth owning. I am rather sympathetic to that view myself, but we wouldn't eat if we bought all the books we wanted. One of the ways we use our library is to weed out which books (and CDs and DVDs) are worth buying and which are not. There are often books that look interesting to me, but that I'm not sure I will really enjoy or use, so I check them out from the library first. If it is not worth it, I don't have to read that far into it to figure that out. If it is a nice, light read, but not something that I will go into again, I can enjoy it and put it back, without spending any money. If we find ourselves checking it out again and again, or if the information in it is useful enough that we think we'll need it again, we put it on the list to buy.

For homeschooling, we find the library to be invaluable. We do not wish to own every little story book and picture book out there. There are some we think are good enough or important enough to own, but for the rest, we check them out from the library. With the older children, they read the childrens' version of many stories like the Aeneid or the Odyssey, when we only wish to own a good copy or two of the full translation. There is no way we could or would own every book relevant to their studies or research, but the library has many or most of them. The library is wonderful for out of print books, as well. Especially those which are hard to find, even with the internets, and buy.

We were fortunate to have had an excellent library in our former area. We got new books, old books, CDs, DVDs and videos, even free passes to museums from our library. Unless and until we find ourselves getting and renewing the same book or movie from the library over and over, we do not buy it. Why pay for and store something if you are not sure that you really like it and want it?

Because our library had such great material in it, we used it as our video store as well. There have been only a handful of movies or shows we wanted to get from the library that they didn't have anywhere in their system. Our library let you take a movie out for a week, documentaries, educational films or television programs are checked out for three weeks. That's longer than most movie places will rent and doesn't cost us anything. If we were a day late returning something, it cost us $0.15. Though I try to check things out on the same day each week, which helps minimize overdue fines, as we know that things come due on that day and can renew them.

We are still familiarizing ourselves with our new library system. It has many of the benefits of our former library, but has its own weaknesses. One thing that was a nice surprise is that they will mail materials to you if you wish to do that rather than come in (we choose to go anyway, as it allows the children to pick books for themselves other than those I've picked and we all get to browse in there a little). It was also a huge surprise to find out that they don't charge late fees. I checked with the staff, this is their policy. We haven't found all the books we used to use nor all the movies, but we have found some that we weren't able to get back on the west side.

I still strongly advocate using your library to its fullest. You pay for it in taxes already. At the very least, you can use it to screen books, movies and music you are considering purchasing. That alone will save you money, as you won't waste it on things you won't really want or need. In addition most libraries have reading programs for children which involve visiting authors, projects related to a particular book, story time. Our library had a fun puppet show in the first week or two that we moved here, which was a nice treat for our children while I was busy getting my library card. At our former library, there were art programs for adults that were free, you just had to sign up and come to learn.

One way to use the library to its fullest is to check out its website. Their program schedules can be found there. You can often search for material and put them on hold at home, so if you know specifically what you are seeking, you don't have to scour the stacks for them or you can ensure that it is available for you when you go to the library. We have started using this for our book selection for the children. We can do the research and computer work at home, put most of their selections on hold and have them look for their free choice books when we get there. When you are traveling to the library with six children, two of whom need a nap or two during the day, it is nice not to spend two or three hours looking for books with their siblings and watching them melt down.

The library summer programs have been good to our children. I don't know if it is just because not too many people take advantage of them or what, but all of our children won gift certificates in a drawing at our library one summer. Their summer reading program usually rewarded children with a free lunch at Subway or something else like that, if they finished their reading card and got all the stamps. This is not a hard thing for our children, they can read that much in a week or two.

A side benefit of using the library is that you get to know more people in your community. I have made friends with the librarians, some of whom share my interests in cooking and knitting, they have made great recommendations to me on books or movies. I've also met other mothers there who have children around the same ages as our children, or other homeschooling parents.

In our world, I think there is a greater emphasis on going out and buying, or using the internet to purchase something when there is a new book or what have you. The library has many of these things, will store and maintain them for you, helping you not to spend unnecessary money or clutter up your home with books that aren't really worth keeping in the long run. I encourage you to check out your library.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Use What You Have
Combining Trips
Storing Bulk Purchases
Turn It Off
Grow Your Own
Buying in Bulk

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I'm posting this for my virtual friend Heather. She tried to post it, but it didn't come through for some reason:

Hello! I had some technical problems and couldn't post on your blog
but I wanted to share this site:


I love it! You create an account, send out books, get points, and
then "buy" books with your points. The only thing you pay for is the
shipping costs. I love it!! :)

- Heather

Oh, I forgot to make the reference a link: http://bookmooch.com/

I was also going to mention that there are lots of free libraries online.

We like Worldwide School

Classic Bookshelf


The Free Library
I can't say enough good things about using the library and/or community as "entertainment". We attend a weekly story time (my children) are young, and last week, daddy kept little brother and Asa and I had a very nice time playing a computer game about dinosaurs. Since we don't play like this at home, it was a big deal to him and totally free. The library has other free programs we will take advantage of as the season gets colder. I just love the library and agree with Ranee that more people should take advantage of it, not just because your taxes already pay ofr it, but because it is good fun.
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