I took the most clichéd money advice out there -- and it saved me $450 last year

Cancel your gym membership and exercise at home. Bike instead of driving. Cook your own meals instead of eating out. When it comes to money, certain pieces of advice are shared so often it’s easy to tune them out altogether.

But that doesn’t mean you should.

Last year, I saved $450 by taking the most clichéd money advice out there — I went to the library.

Books had always been an expense I was more than willing to pay. I treated reading as a worthwhile investment in my intellect and mental strength, and never second-guessed shelling out $10 to $15 for a new title.

But when I challenged myself to read 40 books in 2015, I realised it was a goal that would cost me hundreds of dollars to complete. I knew I needed a better solution; I didn’t want to feel guilty for enjoying one of my favourite hobbies. So I trekked down to my local library branch and have never looked back.

Full disclosure: I fell short of my goal and only ended up reading 30 books in 2015, plus five or six others I started but lost interest in. But estimating about $15 per book — new paperbacks cost as little as $9 or $10, but hardcovers can get up to $30 — times 30 books over the course of the year, it adds up to total of $450. And had I reached my 40-book goal, that number would have looked more like $600.

The amount I actually paid: $0, thanks to the Brooklyn Public Library.

If you plan to read even one book this year, it’s worth it to get a library card. Here’s why I think everyone should sign up:

  • It’s free. Sure, the amount spent per book could be significantly reduced by scouring Amazon and used bookstores for deals, but at the end of the day, paying nothing is always the most frugal option. Every little bit saved can be put toward paying off loans, saving for the future, or other experiences like travelling and trying new restaurants.
  • It’s convenient. On top of not having to pay a cent, many libraries now offer e-book loans, so you can download books directly to your Kindle or other mobile device, saving you valuable time as well. I only set foot in the physical library once last year: the day I picked up my library card. Browsing, downloading, and returning e-books can all be done anywhere you have internet access.
  • It’s flexible. As I mentioned before, I started several books I didn’t end up liking. But I never felt obligated to finish reading just because I’d paid for them; I just returned them and moved on to the next title. Instead of taking a financial risk (albeit a tiny one) on a book I may or may not like, I could read as much or as little of a book without any guilt if I decided not to finish it.

Bottom line: Don’t overlook obvious advice — it could be the difference between saving and throwing away hundreds.

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