Be Romanced by the Library

libraryIn my original post about why you should visit the library, I argued that no matter who you are, the library has something for you. Aside from the obvious books, you have newspapers, magazines, movies, internet access, classes and activities for kids. The best part? It’s all free.

We know the library can save us money. But could it make us rich?

I came across a post by Mr. Money Mustache I thought was both entertaining and informative in its description of how libraries can make us rich. In his tongue-in-cheek style, MMM starts off:

A few years ago, I learned the most shocking fact about public libraries:

Not everybody uses them!

“No!”, you may say, “That’s impossible – how else do people get their books?”

The scary answer that I discovered is that some people have developed a habit of regularly buying books which cost them $10 – $30 each, reading them, and then collecting them on an ever-growing series of bookshelves.

The post talks about the excuses people give for collecting books, and the author admits to feeling great when walking past a large collection of books. His collection is large too. But the difference, in his words:

…I have several hundred thousand of them, and a paid staff who roams through my modern curved-glass 20,000 square foot book storage facility, automatically maintaining them and buying more for me constantly. I have so many books that I share them with everyone in my entire city, and we’ve even come to an agreement where we ALL pay just a few dollars per year each for the facility, and yet any one of us can borrow any of the books.

If you haven’t figured it out, they call the facility the “Public Library”. It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking of the library in this way. Instead of each of us maintaining an individual collection of books, why not pool our money to create and maintain something far larger than any of us could achieve alone?

The post ends with a description of all the awesome things his family does in the library. Each family member can indulge his or her interests without taking on extra debt or expense. His family has 30 books checked out at any given time, which is ambitious. But that’s the thing – it doesn’t matter if you don’t finish everything. You didn’t pay for the book, so nothing is lost.

Now that we’re aware of what the library has to offer, think about your current buying habits. How many times a month do you walk into a bookstore just to take a peek, only to walk out with a new title or two? Do you enjoy adding to your DVD collection that never seems to be complete? These things cost real money. Money you’re earning from that dead-end desk job or retail job you hate, day after day, week after week with no end in sight. Have you considered that maybe the reason you’re chained to that job is you’re not visiting the library often enough?

Let’s say each month you buy 4 books at $20 a pop, 2 DVDs at $15 each, and 4 magazines at $4 each. In one year you’ve spent $1,512 and have that much less space in your home. After a decade, that’s over $26,920 compounded at 8%.

Even after 10 years, your collection will be no match for the library. So why compete?

Mr. Money Mustache sums up well the library’s role in our lives:

It romances all of us and sucks us in by catering to every one of our interests.

Be romanced by the library and watch your riches grow.

Photo by

Listen to online music for free

Listen up, music lovers: How do you get your music fix? Do you buy expensive CDs or online mp3s? Your love of tunes doesn’t have to cost you as much as you think. There are several ways to get your fix for free or cheap.

Sometimes you can’t get around buying a CD or a few individual songs. Listening to music in your car or on the iPod, for example, might require you to buy the occasional CD. But what if you’re at the computer the majority of the time? I’ve got some options that will save you big bucks.

My favorite, and the one I’ve been using for a few years now, is Pandora. Creating a station is easy. Enter in the name of your favorite artist or song. Then, Pandora will play artists or songs that are similar to the one you entered, including a mix of songs from that same artist. You’re able to give each song a “thumbs-up” or a “thumbs-down”. As you do this, Pandora will get to know your tastes better. I like this service because it helps me discover new artists, or new songs by artists I already like. You can listen to 40 hours a month for free (with occasional ads), or pay $36 a year for an unlimited, ad-free subscription.

Another option I’ve tried is Spotify, which started in Europe and came to the US just a few months ago. It has exploded in popularity and it’s easy to see why after just a few minutes of using it. To use this service, you have to download an app from their website. After creating an account you’re able to search for artists or songs and play them within the app. The sound quality is amazing — the best I’ve heard from an internet radio service. And their library is massive — to date I think they’ve had every song I have searched for. The big downside is that you only get 10 free hours a month with ads. You can pay $5 monthly to have unlimited ad-free access on your computer, or an additional $5 ($10 total) for access on your smartphone as well.

Grooveshark and Slacker are two other services I’ve heard good things about. I’ve used Grooveshark, which doesn’t require you to download anything, but the quality is spotty and it’s often harder to find songs you’re looking for. At times, they don’t have any songs from a particular artist. I don’t have any personal experience with Slacker.

Finally, there are sites like where you can listen to your favorite FM radio stations over the internet. You hear them exactly like you would were you in a car. If you can’t find your station there, you can Google it. Most radio stations let you listen to a live stream on their website.

All of the services I mentioned use ads to support their free models. So if you don’t mind the occasional 15-30 second ad, you should be able to find an option that works for you. I’ve only mentioned a few, but there are many more out there. Think about this — for the price of one CD, you could get two or three months of access to tens of thousands of songs from one of these services.

Photo by tim geers

How important is free shipping?

Moneyland discusses the growing popularity of free shipping at online retailers:

In November of last year, a New York Times study noted that 41% of online purchases came with free shipping—an impressive figure at the time, considering that free shipping was once a novelty, a rare unexpected bonus.

And this year, according to a National Retail Federation survey, more than 9 out of 10 online retailers will offer free shipping at some point during the holidays. Free shipping has become almost an expectation among online shoppers. So important, in fact, that many require it:

Increasingly, online shoppers won’t complete their orders unless free shipping is part of the deal.

According to the article, 47% of shoppers would abandon their purchase if they found out shipping wasn’t free at checkout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve added one or two things to my online cart, only to close out the window when the shipping charge appeared.

In my opinion, sites like have figured out a great way to exploit our expectation of free shipping. At Amazon, you almost always receive free shipping, as long as your purchase is at least $25. That’s where this tool comes in handy. Amazon’s free shipping policy is really paying off for them because we often buy more than we intended. Most of us will keep adding to our cart until we reach $25. In short, we’re rewarded for buying more.

Free shipping causes us to not only buy, but to buy more. We rationalize: “Since it’s all ‘free,’ why not throw in the kitchen sink too?” But it’s important to be mindful of your purchases. Don’t fall for the clever ploys of online retailers offering free shipping, trying to get you to spend more. Free shipping can be a great deal, but only if you stick to your list and avoid the temptation to overspend.

If you’re planning to do any online shopping, Free Shipping Day is December 16th this year. Over 2,000 online retailers will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. To see who’s participating check out

Visit the library!

The public library is one of my favorite places to spend my spare time. As a cheap guy, I revel in the free entertainment offered by the library. There are so many different things to do there, and none of it costs a dime!

The library is a source of information for so many different topics. You can find out about upcoming community events and free things to do in your area. It’s also a good place to read or study, whether you are in school or not. I’ve found myself visiting the library on more than one occasion to read for pleasure. The quiet oasis provided by the library is perfect if you can’t seem to find a peaceful place to read.

Most libraries have events each day catering to different crowds. For example, my local library has introductory computer classes for adults, read-alouds for children, and arts and crafts activities for all. Most of these events are free to the public. Search your library’s calendar for upcoming events and activities.

If it seems to take you only a few days to get through a book, the library is certainly for you. Books by the armful can be checked out, and you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t have time to read them all. If you choose, you can renew them for another month as long as they’re not on hold.

My favorite offering of libraries is the collection of newspapers and magazines. In one visit, I can read the local paper, a few national papers, the latest issues of Consumer Reports and Kiplinger magazines, and anything else that catches my eye. And if I’m feeling bold, I can pick up a cookbook and try out a new recipe or two. My wife likes to read some of the nursing publications, which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to read.

Many libraries have a nice collection of movies and CDs that you can check out. Free internet is normally available to library members. E-books are a growing area with the increasing popularity of tablets and e-readers. These are only a few of the many offerings of public libraries.

Conveniently, my county library system has an online portal that lets you search for a book you’re looking for and place it on hold. You then have 3 business days to pick it up at your closest library before it’s released. You can also renew your books online, which saves a trip. When you log into your account, you can see a list of books currently checked out and their due dates. I can see all of my account information in one place, without making a trip to the library.

Libraries are often overlooked as a source of information and entertainment in the community. The wealth of resources there is truly astounding. Since you already pay for them with your tax dollars, why not visit one next time you’re bored?

Do you have unclaimed money out there?

Could you use an extra $100 in your life, or more? You wouldn’t believe how many people have money sitting out there, waiting to be claimed.

Maybe you had a savings account with your old bank and forgot about it when you switched banks. Or a CD. Or a safe deposit box. Or maybe an old utility, like a cell phone provider or electric company, owes you money for a deposit or refund but could never reach you. I want to give you an easy way to be reunited with your money.

Head to Enter in your first and last name and your state. On the next page you will be able to see if there is any unclaimed money in your name. Start with your current state and work your way back to all states you have ever lived in. If you have an uncommon last name it will be easier to find your money. You can also do this search for relatives and see if anything comes up for them.

If nothing turns up there, also give a try. This site represents state unclaimed property offices in their efforts to help people reclaim their lost or forgotten assets.

Together, these sites will help you find money that is rightfully yours. Happy hunting!