How much money the library saved me in 2009

In late 2008 I wrote a post about how much money the library had saved me that year. Personal finance and saving money was a hot, hot topic at the time. Everyone was looking for money-saving tips and mine was to use to the library. Use it lots. Make it your BFF.

People frequently forget how they can save money by using the library and I have heard many, many reasons why people don't use their library. The main one always seems to be, "But I return books late and they charge me fees!" It's true, they do charge you fees if you return your books late. At my library I am charged $0.25 per day for late items, unless it is an express loan item in which case I get charged $1 per day. Let's say I checked out a book that costs $10. If it's a regular loan I would have to return it 40 days late to rack up $10 in late fees. If you are returning a book 40 days late I don't think the library is really your problem.

I do sometimes return books late. I'd guess that in the past year I've racked up about $3 in late fees. When I lived in Toronto the library was only two blocks away from my apartment and I used to go a couple of times a week. (I always seemed to go on garbage day and get stuck walking behind the very stinky garbage truck - I have bad timing.) Now we try to limit it to one day a week and/or as often as we need to go to return books on time.Yes, sometimes this means that we go to the library when it's not the most convenient for us but if we're just dropping off books we can be in and out in under two minutes. Even less if we use the drop box outside. Because we've made the library a priority it's part of our routine.

Until very recently we also had a library shelf where we piled all of our library books. The shelf has since been taken over with other stuff but we're working on a new location. By piling all of our books, cds and magazines in one spot when we aren't using them we never have to tear the house apart looking for them. This wasn't always the case. I once remember not being able to find a library book only to discover it in my library basket. What was it doing there? I have no idea but that's pretty much when I started putting all my books in one location.

So how do keep track of library books and come up with my number? I've been keeping a spreadsheet of books that I read for several years now. In 2008 I just added a "source" column and add in "library" or "own" or "borrowed" whenever I'm entering the book. I also added a column for the price of the book.

Now, this is where you could argue with me about cost. I use the Canadian cover price of the book (Canadian cover prices are usually higher than American cover prices and yeah, as a Canadian who likes to buy books it does suck). Yes, I could (and frequently do) pay less than the cover price of most books that I buy. I imagine that most frequent readers do. Not everyone does though.  Some casual readers who don't want to hunt around for a better price, impulse buyers, or people who shop at independent bookstores, still often pay full price. Also, if I was going with a discounted price what discounted price should I use? They change all the time. Would I look around for different sales and find the best one? Or make an average of them? And what if I find the best deal in USD, would I then have to convert it to CAD? For it work, yes. Honestly, it's all too darned confusing. Cover price is just plain easier all the way around.

I don't track books I don't finish so they aren't included here. Ditto magazine, CDs, and DVDs or anything that my husband checks out of the library. I also don't track cookbooks or knitting pattern books that I check out, which to be honest I probably should because the library saves me money there. I used to have an issue with buying cookbooks and then not using them so I started checking most of them out from the library before I bought them. I've been able to weed out ones that aren't worth buying and some that are. Very useful and it makes me feel thrifty. And I'm not even beginning to touch the other services that libraries offer - internet usage, courses, story-time for children, homework programs. The list could just go on and on.

I only track books that I finish. When I'm making my list and figuring out the cost I stick to the format that I read it in. If it was an audio book I price what it would cost. If it's a hardcover I don't take the paperback price. So how much did I save last year?

In 2009 I read $1,239.27 worth of books from the library.

Now, I'm a fairly heavy reader but that was a light library year for me. Yes, really. If you look at my 2008 post I had read $1,128.27 worth of books between March and October. (I wasn't using the library before March of that year and the post was published November 1.) I was using the library more heavily during that time for a number of reasons, one being that I had a lot more time since I wasn't working. Another was that the bulk of that time I was living in a new city and hardly knew anyone. In 2009 I read more books than 2008 overall but fewer of them came from the library. I read a lot of free e-books from on my Sony Reader and iPhone. Since I was working again I also bought more books than I had the year before.  But still, $1,239.27 is nothing to sneeze at. That's a vacation or a few long weekends away for us. Or a big chunk into our savings account.

Yes, I am a heavy reader by many people's standards. For a minute let's pretend I'm not. Let's pretend I'm a one book a month person and that I normally buy my books. An adult fiction trade paperback in Canada will usually run you anywhere between $15-20 so let's take $17.50 for an average. At one book a month that's $210 over the course of a year. If my library charged me $0.25 per day for late fees I'd have to check in my books a collective amount of 840 days to match that amount. If I don't return any books late at all I would have an extra $210 in my pocket. I can think of a few things to with an extra $210, can't you? I know people who have to pay to belong to a library, but even as much as a $100 membership will leave you with just over $100 in your pocket at the end of the year.

Libraries have given me some pretty awesome gifts. Since I started using the library regularly again in 2004 my reading has expanded. When I lived across the street from a library in 2005 this blog started. Through this blog I've met and connected with so many wonderful people that my mind kind of reels if I think about it too long.

The truth is, I'd use the library even if it didn't save me a bundle of money each year, if it hadn't given me wonderful gifts like friends and an online community. I love libraries. I think they are a truly invaluable part of our community. So if you haven't visited yours in awhile maybe you could give it another try?