The Thrifty Librarian

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Why New Year's Resolutions Fail

Post date: Friday, January 11, 2013 - 12:06pm

We bought more Christmas presents than we had planned, we threw a party that turned out to be a bit more expensive than we thought, and WHY won’t the price of gas go down already?! Now that January is upon us, it’s safe to say that we’re experiencing a financial hangover. Our natural impulse is to swing in the opposite direction on the pendulum: instead of splurging on a little something extra, we become practically monastic in our spending habits.

This year, allow me to offer a different model. Instead of beating ourselves up and resolving to “try harder”, let’s take a good look at our financial situation and discover ways we can improve it. I encourage you to read this article from career and finance expert Ramit Sethi called Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail.

Ramit Sethi inspired me to challenge the traditional thrifty model of scrimping pennies and stretching dollars. What if you could do something that allowed you to spend money on the things you enjoy, without guilt or worry? I took a vacation with the money I was able to make by putting my talent to work. What can you do this year?

It's that special time of year...

Post date: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 5:02pm

…when you look at your checking account and think “Oh my gosh, what happened?!” If you’re in the market for some last-minute shopping but don’t want to break the bank, now may be a good time to cash in your reward points from credit cards and loyalty memberships.

One loyalty program I use for gift-giving is Coke Rewards. All year, I enter the codes from Coke products (the Thrifty Librarian loves her Diet Coke!) at the Coke rewards website, watching them pile up. At Christmas, I redeem them for magazine subscriptions for friends and family. You can learn more about Coke Rewards by following this link.

When signing up for a loyalty program, it’s a good idea to triple-check that there are no hidden fees. As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch! If a program seems too good to be true, or it’s offered by a company you’ve never heard of, it’s probably a good idea to skip it. If you’re not familiar with a company’s reputation, check out the links to the Better Business Bureau and other consumer resources on our Recommended Websites.

Merry Christmas from the Thrifty Librarian!

Free Tutoring at the Library

Post date: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 9:34am

We all want our children to have every opportunity to succeed. We find them a good school, buy their school supplies, attend parent/teacher conferences, get them involved in extracurricular activities… the lengths to which a parent will go to see their child succeed is amazing. But what if your child needs more help than you can give?

Enter Homework Help at the library! Students in first through twelfth grades can come to the library for free tutoring on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Volunteer tutors and library staff work together to cover all academic areas. Whether your child is learning her letters or mastering geometry, the library has a tutor waiting to help her.

You can learn more about the Homework Help program on our website or by calling the Children’s Department at 847-623-2041 ext 280.

Road trip? Time to get a free audiobook!

Post date: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 2:58pm

Millions of Americans will take to the roads this holiday season to visit with friends and family. Seeing loved ones is awesome, but traveling for hours in the car… not so much. One way to stave off boredom on long road trips is to take along an audiobook. Enter OneClickdigital, the library’s newest online service for readers. Check out the step-by-step instructions for downloading and listening to audiobooks and drop me a line if you have any questions.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from the Thrifty Librarian!



Pets and Money

Post date: Monday, October 22, 2012 - 12:53pm

Having pets and saving money don’t really go together — we all saw the news stories about pets that were abandoned when the economic crisis hit in 2008. How do thrifty people balance finances with the companionship that a pet can provide? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Getting a new pet? Unless you can afford to bring that pet home in a diamond-studded crate, cross a breeder off the list of places to find your new friend. Check out some area shelters or even pet stores that have adoption centers. Think hard before picking up a stray puppy or kitten — these special cases may require medical attention that’s outside your budget.
  • Shop around for a vet. The best vet’s office I’ve found is Lakes Animal Clinic in Antioch, IL. Animals are seen on a first-come, first-served basis so arrive early and be prepared to wait. The vets are knowledgeable and your pet will get good care, all at a great savings over a traditional vet’s office.
  • Toys don’t have to be expensive! I learned the hard way that my cat doesn’t care how much money I spend on toys – he loves table tennis balls, wine corks, balls of string, and cardboard boxes more than the Martha Stewart toys I shelled out a bunch of money for.
  • Know when to spend a little extra. If you ate the very cheapest food you could find, it might make you sick and then you would have to visit the doctor. The same holds true for your pet. Spending a little more on good-quality food will allow your pet to live a longer, healthier and happier life.

By applying the same thrifty principles to pet ownership that I apply to other aspects of my life, I’ve been able to add a pet to my household without a major impact on my budget. There’s no question that he’s worth every penny I spend on him!


Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 10:04am

Remember hand-me-downs from when you were a kid? Typically, hand-me-downs consisted of a musty bag of worn, outdated clothes that had spent a few months (or years) languishing in a family member’s attic. But not for me! I was the luckiest beneficiary of hand-me-downs I know. My older cousin always had fashionable, well-made clothes and she was just a couple years older than me. Every season, my aunt would bring over garbage bags stuffed with awesome outfits.

Knowing that good-quality, gently used clothes are available everywhere makes me loath to spend my hard-earned money at the mall. But what about good-quality clothes for kids who don’t have awesome older cousins? Kids’ departments in thrift stores are often cluttered with poor-quality, pilled, stained items. Enter thredUP! thredUP is a company that allows parents to mail in their child’s outgrown clothes (shipping is free) and earn credit toward buying like-new outfits from their website. You can learn about how thredUP works here and you can check out their clothing selection here.

And my cousin with the great taste? She works for Ralph Lauren now :)

Save on Soap UPDATE

Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:21pm



Back in February, we talked about how to make a half-gallon of liquid soap from just one standard-sized bar of soap. Six months later, I have finally used up all my soap. That’s right! I spent a grand total of $4 on hand soap over a six-month period! I’ve also been using my liquid soap in the shower for the past two months, which has saved me even more money.

Isn’t it satisfying to see the results of a bit of work (in this case, spending 20 minutes making soap) pay off such fabulous dividends? To celebrate, I made this soap dispenser from a zinc-topped Mason jar I picked up at the antique center for $5. You can read the tutorial (it’s really very easy) on Blissfully Content.

Do you have any DIY secrets that save you BIG money? Have you ever tried a DIY project became a money pit?

Thrifty Wall Art

Post date: Friday, August 24, 2012 - 8:59am

When I have a day off, there’s nothing I like better than trying my hand at a craft project. Over the weekend, I made 2’x4’ wall art for $20.

First of all, I got the idea for my project at a great blog called Shey B: A Look through My Lens. The tutorial she posted was super-simple! Just take any size canvas you like (make sure you use a coupon if you’re buying from a crafts store like Michaels or Hobby Lobby), a can of spray paint in your color of choice, and a handful of doilies you don’t mind getting paint on (I had a bunch in my linen closet, but you can hit up garage sales and thrift stores to get some on the cheap).

The first step is to lay out the doilies on your canvas until you get a design you find appealing. This is the design I settled on.

Next, I sprayed the backs of my doilies with a quick shot of spray adhesive (this is optional). I chose to do this because I was working on my project outside and it was a bit breezy. Then just lay your doilies on the canvas and start spraying away.

Peel the doilies off your canvas before the paint dries (you don’t want it to flake or peel off when you remove the doilies). You can either discard the doilies or keep them for another project like I did. The finished product will dry in about an hour, but I left my canvas outside all afternoon to let the paint fumes dissipate.

I hung my canvas on a wall at the end of my hallway, which has been empty for over a year. It looks great! I love the look of lace, but draping doilies all over the house tends to create a stuffy, fussy atmosphere. This project is a fun blend of feminine frills and modern silhouettes. I am excited to try this project again, maybe with two or more colors on one canvas!

Thrifty in Many Languages

Post date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 5:02pm

How do you say “thrifty” in Spanish? French? Portuguese? If you’re interested in learning a foreign language, the Library has a thrifty new service for you! Instead of paying $399 for Rosetta Stone software, you can access Mango Languages online for free with your library card. Mango teaches real conversation skills using a simple, interactive format. Practice with any of Mango’s 45 foreign languages or if your native language is not English, improve your English communication skills with a course in your own language. Mango also offers free apps for iPhone, iPod and iPad users.

And if you find out how to say “thrifty” in Portuguese, will you let me know?

Rethink Thrifty

Post date: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:25pm

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted some tips for saving money and the reason is that I’ve been busy earning — and spending — it. We thrifty types love to find ways to pinch a penny, but recently I started to wonder if we’re taking the right approach. The purpose of being thrifty is to live well and live within our means, but what if our means expanded? Not by winning the lottery or suddenly getting that far-off promotion, but in incremental steps by using our talents to earn a little money on the side.

We all have talents that others are willing to pay for, we just need to find them. What are your talents? Can you fix a boat or paint a house or bake a wedding cake or design a website? If you want help cultivating your talents, visit the library and check out some books on the subject.

During the month of June, I used my technology skills and my ability to work well with children to get a job teaching a computer class for kids. It felt great knowing that my skills were valuable enough to earn a little money on the side. I used that money to take a vacation earlier this month. The picture to the right was taken in the Black Hills National Forest during my trip to Mount Rushmore.

Would I have been able to take a vacation if I hadn’t gotten some extra work? Probably. But it felt great not pinching pennies.