Time for another Frugal Action Item. In January we started out with an easy once-and-done switch from standard to compact fluorescent bulbs. Not too taxing and no discipline required once you make the change. Last month's Item was a lot more challenging. I asked you to both acquire new kitchen skills and change dining out habits. In March I'm shooting for something in between in terms of how much effort you'll need to put out. You don't need to learn a new skill, but you will need to make some changes in your routine.
The Frugal Action Item for March is still going to be a tough sell for some folks, which is why I am encouraging you to look at this as a one-month experiment. So here it is: Just for this month, use your local library instead of buying any books, magazines, instead of paying for another month of Netflix, cable tv, or heaven forbid, actual movie theater tickets. I know, I know, I can hear the moans and protests already. That's why I want you to treat this as an experiment.
Put your Netflix or Blockbuster account on hold, put the next book you simply must have on a wishlist instead of on your credit card. Get thee to thine local library. Look over the dvds they have available for the borrowing - completely free! Remember that dvds are heavily borrowed, so what you see available at any given time is only a fraction of the library's holdings. This is doubly true on Fridays and Saturdays. Browse the bookshelves and learn how to use the library to your own advantage. Examine their computer system. Ask questions. Find out about the process for putting in a hold for popular movies that are checked out when you look for them. You probably won't need to wait too much longer than you do for hot titles from Netflix. Learn how your library handles inter-library loans or purchase requests. What your library doesn't have in its own collection, it can probably borrow - just for you - from hundreds of other libraries. A little patience may save you a small bundle of cash.
If you miss the big screen experience, well, make your night at home with the movies special. Make yourself a killer bowl of popcorn, and cozy up with a loved one for some frugal together time.
I'm asking you to give this challenge a fair shake. You can always go back to your usual routine after a trial month if you and your family totally hate it. But pursue the experiment at least that long before you make up your mind. A lot of times we dismiss a change that makes sense because it means a disruption of our routine. Yes, getting to the library once a week may be new to us. But it may also easily save us $20 or more each month, and become something that we look forward to, if we only give it a chance. Consider the differences in the library experience versus the movie theater or bookshop experience. Is paying for a novel and having it around the house really so much better than reading it once and returning it to the library? Is taking in a flick at the theater with a whale sized portion of stale popcorn really worth $12, as opposed to watching a movie in your pjs at home? Your tax dollars are paying to support your local library, so you may as well benefit from it.
Alternative Action Item: If you don't have cable, a Netflix account, or you live so remotely that it's a 45-minute drive to the library in a direction you rarely go, I instead challenge you to have friends or family over for a cheap entertainment night of board game or card playing. If there are kids involved, give them an age-appropriate jigsaw puzzle to work on.
New to these monthly Action Items? Catch up with more here:
January: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs & Hot Water Pipe Insulation
February: Kitchen Competence
April: Go Paper-less
May: Solar Dryer
June: Raise the Deductible on Your Auto Insurance
July: Stay Cool Without Touching that Thermostat
August: Repair It!
October: Preventative Health Care
November: Frugal Holiday Wish List
December: Plan Next Year's Garden