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Another reason to get a library card

Free books, magazines, DVDs and Internet access already give you good reasons to hit the library. Here's one more.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 9, 2012 7:32PM

Image: People looking at pictures in art gallery © Tetra Images/Getty ImagesSo far this year I've written about two different ways to visit museums and other attractions for free (see the links at the bottom of this post).

Here's another one: Check your local library.

Many libraries offer free passes to area museums, cultural attractions, botanical gardens and zoos. Some are good for multiple family members over several days, while others are limited to one or two people and must be returned the next morning.

You can reserve passes online or by phone. Do this, because anything free is a big hit with parents.

"We are in a recession; these passes are a great way to take your children out for free," writes a Miami mom who blogs eponymously at The Savvy Hookup.

 

She notes that librarians can't set aside a pass for someone who hasn't reserved it. "Believe me, I have called and begged!" (Post continues below video.)

Technically it's possible to walk into the library and find an unused museum pass. But it isn't likely, according to Bailey, a blogger at Sorting Through Life's Lessons.

 

"I have been in line (watching) while people struggle desperately to find an available pass," Bailey writes. "Popular passes go quickly, especially in the summer and during school vacations."

How to find the freebies

Contact your local library system to ask about free museum/attraction passes. You must be a cardholder in good standing to use the program. (If you have unpaid fines, now's the time to pay them off.)

Reserve the pass as far in advance as possible; depending on where you live, this could be up to 90 days. Pick your spots, though, because library systems tend to limit the number of passes you can reserve in a month.

This is a frugal way not just to keep your kids entertained, but also to give visiting relatives or friends a closer look at your region. That may include more than just your town; for example, the Princeton library program includes museums in Philadelphia and New York City.

A post at The Family Penny Pincher notes that the Burlington County, N.J., library offers passes to attractions in eight other cities, including two in neighboring Pennsylvania.

"We are hooked," writes the anonymous author, a teacher and mother of two.

Don't even think about holding on to a pass longer than its allotted span. You'll be charged a late fee, and that $5 or $10 per day will quickly eat up the money you saved on admission. Besides, you don't want to get on a librarian's bad side.

More from MSN Money:

6Comments
Aug 15, 2012 10:26PM
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Libraries are my saviors!!!  I refuse to buy an 'eBook' for just about the same price as an actual bound copy of the best sellers.  You can rent out eBooks from the library for free, and if the book you want is unavailable and has a waiting list, you can put it on 'hold' and be notified by email when it comes available.  I feel like I'm stealing every time I get one--it's almost instant gratification to someone addicted to reading.  Love my Library...Love my Nook!!!!

Aug 12, 2012 3:31PM
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Thanks for the link and mention to the Family Penny Pincher....a resource of FREE and nearly free events, activities, and entertainment for families!
Aug 14, 2012 6:47PM
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Burlington, NJ, eh?  How funny!  An hour away in Piscataway, NJ they are charging for DVD rentals...$1/day right from the minute you walk out, not to mention the late fees.  So much for the FREE Public Library.  Old Ben would be horrified.  Just use RedBox for newer selections/ same price / easier access.  Pricing themselves right out of work. 
Aug 14, 2012 1:01PM
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It's 2012 - libraries are a total waste of hard working taxpayer dollars.  Hello...the internet was invented.
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Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.

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