Libraries just ain’t what they used to be — and that’s a good thing.
Yes, they still smell like old books. But many have turned into digital powerhouses offering patrons everything from audible book subscriptions to language learning software to newspapers and magazines and even streaming services. Often, all it takes is a ZIP code in your library’s vicinity and you can save thousands of dollars per year.
Or, if you’re like Karen from Mesa, Arizona, you could save $65,550 over 13 years — or an average savings of over $5,000 per year.
Recently, the Mesa Public Library featured Karen on its Facebook page along with her library receipt showing that she had saved $65,550.33 since becoming its patron. First off, kudos to the Mesa Public Library for a brilliant way of showing a library’s value. Second, good on you Karen for saving almost as much money as the median household income — $74,580 in 2022, according to The Ascent — just by using your library card.
You might think, “Wow, that’s a lot of books.” But even if you don’t read books, Karen’s savings could be your own. If you’re skeptical, here’s how a modern library could help you save money.
Magazines and newspapers
Average monthly savings: $15 to $30
Many public library cards give you access to digital newsstands. For example, my public library in Portland gives me access to PressReader, an app that lets me read The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Forbes, plus over 7,000 other magazines and newspapers without individually subscribing to each one. Some libraries, like the Mesa Public Library, can even grant you use of a subscription to other newspapers, like The New York Times, just for being a patron.
Movies and TV shows
Average monthly savings: $40 to $50
Libraries understand there are multiple ways of telling a story and not all come through books. For years, they’ve assumed the role of community Blockbuster by letting you rent DVDs and Blu-ray discs. But recently, libraries have integrated streaming services and apps into their patron’s accounts, allowing you to download movies and TV shows from home. The most popular services used by libraries are Hoopla and Kanopy, both of which offer films, documentaries, and children shows.
To be fair, you might not get your streaming fix from a library membership alone (you won’t find great HBO series, like Game of Thrones or Succession). But it’s free and could be another service to add to your mix.
Audiobooks and ebooks
Average monthly savings: $15 to $20
If you have a library card, there’s really no good reason to subscribe to audiobook memberships, which could cost between $15 and $20 a month. Most libraries offer an excellent variety of audiobooks and e-books through apps and services like Libby, Axis 360, and Hoopla.
Find more perks at your local library
Many libraries also have free language learning software — like Rosetta Stone — and sometimes live tutoring with a fluent speaker. They can offer career advice through business videos and may help you with your resume. Some offer financial coaching, while others will give you access to online classes. I’ve even seen libraries that lend out tools, toys, and seeds.
In sum, don’t underestimate the value a public library card can bring you. If you’re trying to save money (and let’s be real: who isn’t?), library cards can be an invaluable tool for your personal finances. You never know — you, like Karen from Mesa, might end up saving an entire year’s salary simply by using your library.
Alert: highest cash back card we’ve seen now has 0% intro APR until nearly 2025
If you’re using the wrong credit or debit card, it could be costing you serious money. Our experts love this top pick, which features a 0% intro APR for 15 months, an insane cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee.
In fact, this card is so good that our experts even use it personally. Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.
Read our free review