Monday, February 4, 2013

Baby on a Budget Guest Post: Library Love

I feel a little starstruck to be introducing Cat for this Baby on a Budget post.  You see, Cat is the queen of saving money.  She is also the queen of winning giveaways (if you don't believe me, read this post and this one), but unlike saving money, which can be learned, I'm convinced that you have to be born with luck like Cat's so I'm (pun intended) out of luck in that department. 

Who likes babies? Who likes saving money? If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably like both of those things!  While I am certainly a super-frugal momma, I also used to teach a class entitled Budget for Baby. It’s a class taught to military families that focuses on the steps of building a budget and how a new baby will affect that. I actually began teaching it before I even got pregnant with my now 1-year-old baby girl. The only reason I stopped teaching it is that my husband separated from the military and we recently moved. On that note, please do not WAIT until you’re pregnant to start thinking about budgeting and how to use your money wisely. It’s a life skill, not a parenting skill!

While you can go the traditional routes to saving money as a parent (which I certainly do)--couponing, deal-hunting, cloth diapering, et cetera--there are some other less obvious ways to stretch your dollar and bump up your family's quality of life.  Yes, today I will be sharing about the awesomeness of the public library.

I have been a fan of the public library all my life, and every time I move to a new place (which used to be a lot), joining the library is on my first week’s to-do list! Usually all it takes is either a utility bill or two pieces of mail with your name and local address. Some places will accept your lease or even just a photo ID. The library has a lot of great resources for everyone, including parents expecting their first baby, “seasoned professionals” with their 5th baby, and everyone in between. The great thing about a public library is that everything is FREE! (My favorite word, seriously.) Here are just a few ways the library can be used in parenthood:
  • Books. Obviously, these are the heart and soul of the library, and you may be surprised at the variety yours carries. I found both the What to Expect books and Ina May Gastin’s natural childbirth books in my library during my pregnancy, along with many books about breastfeeding. There’s also a handful of parenting books (I had to get a few about sleep issues) and usually some books related to having special-needs children. Your library most likely has a website where you can search for a book you want, put it on hold at your library, and then go in and get it for a 2-3 week checkout period. Super easy. I also love just browsing the aisles when I go in, especially the cookbooks. Also, if you have a long commute or are going on a road trip, check in to audiobooks! My mom uses these all the time to make Atlanta traffic bearable.
  • The Children's Area. If you haven't been in the children's area in your library since you were a tot yourself, you may be surprised. Some areas are set up like jungles or fairy lands, others have fun toys, puzzles, or other games for even the youngest of readers. And most of them have a comfortable area to just sit and read to your baby. My library also has a whole shelf of board books available for checkout, so I just let my baby grab a few off the shelf and then we check them out!
  • My baby playing in the Children's Area at our library
  • Videos/DVDs. Some library systems are better than others for this, but at my current one I have found prenatal yoga videos, DVDs about teaching sign language to my baby, and even some VeggieTales and Baby Einstein shows, along with movies both old and new. We also have entire TV seasons on DVD here, which is very nice! The library has actually been the main reason that we don’t have cable, Netflix, or Hulu Plus. (Yes, you read that correctly--NONE of those.)
  • Music. This is also dependent on your system, but I have gotten all kinds of CDs from ours, including kid ones. The current system we’re at in Indiana has something I’ve never seen before—a program called Freegal, where I can download up to three mp3’s per week and keep them forever. How cool is that?
  • Newspapers, magazines, periodicals. Remember that Time magazine issue with “Are You Mom Enough?” on the cover that everyone was flipping out about? Well, it sparked my interest enough to actually read the article. The only problem was that you couldn’t read it online without being a Time subscriber. No matter, I found that issue in the library and sat down and read it. Our library allows magazine checkouts once they’re a few months old, too. If I had wanted to, I could have made a copy of the article on the library’s copier for a few cents a page and read it later as well.
  • E-books. Yes, many libraries give you access to e-books to read on your Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader. I feel like this is often the best-kept secret of the modern library. The great thing about borrowing an e-book is that you’ll never have to pay a late fee. The book just disappears from your reader when your lending period is up. You can also put a hold on it if it’s unavailable and “pick it up” on your device when it’s ready. I did this while I was on a road trip--no need to even step foot into the library itself for e-books!
  • Events. Check your library’s calendar! Every system I have been a member of has at least had a weekly preschool story hour and some programs for school-age children, but I have also seen it taken further. I have been taking my baby to our library’s “Born To Read” program, which is specifically for lap-sitting/pre-walking babies. We sing songs, read books, and do finger rhymes, among other activities. They have one a little later that day for walking babies and something the next day for older toddlers. This has been a great way for me to meet other moms in my new town as well!
I have been a member of seven (yes, seven!) library systems so far, and these resources seem pretty consistent across all of them. I am constantly surprised that many people don’t take advantage of the wonderful gift that is the public library! 

Cat is a Catholic wife and new mom to Baby Cora. Her husband recently separated from active military service, and they are now living in Indiana. She spends her time reading, baking, making up songs, dancing around the living room with her baby, exploring her new hometown, and blogging about these adventures and more at Cartwheels & Windmills

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth @ The Spark and theFebruary 4, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    As a librarian, I endorse this post!!


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