Saving Cash Isn’t Hard When You’ve Got a Library Card!

It’s almost summer, and we’re thinking about what activities we can do with the kids and sans kids on date nights that are fun and meaningful without costing $14.99 per hour.

I (Mrs. FieryFamily) did not realize the boundless resources available at our local library until we had children. Unbeknownst to me, the library offers much more than just books, and you can save money by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Movies

While renting movies from cheap places like Redbox or Amazon Prime is cheaper than going out to the movie theatre, wouldn’t it be nice to watch the latest movies for free? (I’m assuming that you would never illegally download and stream movies, because the penalties for doing so are quite high.) The library offers at least a dozen recently released movies, and several hundred, if not thousands, of classic and popular movies. They also offer the classic Disney movies, which are super expensive to rent online. The best part? You can often keep these movies for up to three weeks, so you can plan your movie-watching in advance and have several options to choose from.

Music

I discovered the music and soundtrack section of the library and my whole life changed. Instead of listening to NPR on my way to school or carpool and feeling dragged down by the dark and dreary news each day, I slip in The Greatest Showman, Hamilton, and Taylor Swift CDs and feel revved up for the day. Don’t get me wrong, though- I believe that listening to NPR is important because staying informed about the news is our responsibility as citizens of this planet. But hearing graphic details of a rape trial at 7:30 in the morning is a bit much- even for me. Anyway, music from the library. It’s there and it’s great.   

Audiobooks

If you haven’t played an audiobook with your children yet, then the following information will blow your mind. Have you ever been on a long car ride with your kids and wished that you could jump out of the window and land in a beach chair with a tall glass of lemonade as the wind blows through your hair? Audiobooks are kinda like that. Pop them in and just wait for your children to almost immediately stop bickering. You will hear the sweet sound of some random man or woman’s voice guiding you along your journey. Our local library offers hundreds of audiobooks, from Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and How to Train Your Dragon. The moment my kids get in the car, they ask us to turn on the audiobook. This is a great opportunity for 1) you to get some time to just think without having to resolve who threw the raisen at whom 2) the kids to be exposed to vocabulary and plots they would otherwise not encounter and 3) you and your kids to discuss the plot and meaning of the story. It’s a win-win, and the library offers it.

Programming

There are tons of free programs for kids and adults that are offered through the library. Craft activities, reading with therapy dogs, films, baby story time, preschool story time, music activities, knitting activities, manga mania, and book clubs, just to name a few. Please note that the activities for kids should not be considered babysitting. Rather, it’s an opportunity for you to engage with your kids in a structured and fun environment. Each library offers different programs and you may have to reach out to a few local branches to see what’s out there.

Technology

Our library offers an array of technology that you can rent out for weeks at a time. I’m not a huge fan of giving phones and computers to younger kids, but I’m more flexible when it comes to educational purposes. The Playaway Launchpad is a kids’ tablet that has educational apps, advertisement-free, and is grouped by age and grade. And it’s available at our local library. How great is that?

Books

Let’s not forget what the library is always filled with! No, not that socially awkward guy flipping through a golf magazine and hoping no one notices his staring at the lone librarian sorting encyclopedias. Not that guy. Books! A few words of advice: don’t give your kids books if they have a tendency to rip pages. And don’t, against your better judgement, call the library and ask if you can return a taped up book. It won’t end well for anyone.

Where to Shop for Groceries

You see your weekly or monthly spending on food and, odds are, you’re not too happy. You may have even said to your spouse: “Do we really spend this much on food?” The answer may be yes, but it doesn’t have to be. You can learn how to shop more wisely without compromising your food quality, time, and energy by simply changing where you shop for food.

Now, before you read this entire post, we want you to remember that this is not an all-or-nothing system. You can implement a few of these tips gradually, at your own pace. Also if some of the listed options are not available in your area don’t despair! Just implementing some of these principles will help you make some progress on improving your food spending.

AldisThis is a great store for all of your staples. Milk, eggs, bread, yogurts, and even some produce, are significantly cheaper here than in other stores. A gallon of milk at our local Aldis, for example, will run you just $1.69. Their produce section sometimes offers incredible sales on avocados, mangoes, eggplants, peppers, and other items. We often create meals for the week based on the items on sale in the produce section. The frozen fish and fruits prices aren’t too bad, either. Aldis even carries knock-off Girl Scout cookies! Unfortunately, they do not carry kosher cheeses, poultry, or meat. Their online site does not provide prices on food items, but does offer information about weekly sales. Bring a quarter when you go so you can use a cart, and don’t forget a few bags so you don’t need to pay extra at the checkout line.

H-Mart: This store, or any local Asian market, will be your best option for produce, tofu, fresh fish, rice, and Asian condiments and staples. The produce is not only very cheap, but there is a greater variety of exotic fruits and vegetables that you miss out on at other mainstream, American grocery stores. You’ll be able to find ten different types of mushrooms, four different types of eggplants, horn melons, and a plethora of other produce you didn’t even know existed. You’ll see more tofu there than you have ever seen in your life, and many of the brands carry that lovely OU symbol we so desperately crave. If you can brave the smell, the seafood corner offers a delightfully diverse set of options and because getting kosher fish is as easy as seeing it in the flesh it’s a much simpler protein source for kosher (or halal) than meat or poultry to begin with.

Local ethnic markets: For lack of a better term “ethnic markets” are an awesome place to get great prices on produce and staples, and some more interesting options for spices and packaged goods. It’s not always easy to find that many kosher options at stores like these but I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times in the past. Another thing that I particularly like about this genre of grocer is that if you’re interested in a particular cuisine you can generally find the staples for that cuisine at an ethnic market for drastically cheaper than you’d see at a more mainstream food store.

Costco/BJs/Food Warehouse stores: These membership based bulk buy stores are nice, especially for us FieryFamily types with a few kids, but don’t get sucked into the trap of overbuying! We used to live close to a Costco that even had some good kosher options for meat, poultry, and cheese and while it is really nice to have those items at somewhat more affordable prices I always have to be careful not to get carried away and put myself in a position where I can’t store effectively or finish everything that I’m getting.

An even better alternative is a place like Restaurant Depot which has wholesale prices, but to qualify for their free membership you need to have a document showing that you’re a non-profit or a business. Not to worry though, there are many ways to qualify that you might not expect. You can try to sign up for an organization you’re associated with, like a synagogue, mosque, or church, and because the membership comes with multiple cards you could retain one to use (if your organization is okay with it).

Giant/Shoppers/Food Lion/Shop Rite/etc: These are the national chain local groceries which I would only visit at a last resort or if I’m stuck without supplies or ingredients for a time sensitive project. I generally don’t like going to these places because the prices are high and they’re optimized to get you to overspend, but when I do find myself there I’ll check if there’s anything we might want to use in the clearance shelf.

We hope this post was interesting or helpful in some way. We want to clarify that we’re not financial planners or experts so take everything you read here with a grain of kosher salt (that is to say a large one).

Also, just in case you’re not already tracking your expenses and net worth like you and I both know you probably should be, don’t worry- Here is a link to sign up for Personal Capital, that’s what we use and trust for our family. I love the clean displays, great calculators, planning tools, and the ability to easily categorize your transactions. You can even make your own categories- take that Mint! Plus, if you sign up with the link above, we’ll both get $20 in Amazon credit, so it’s a win-win-win!

Introductions

Welcome to our very first financial independence post! Before reading our posts and becoming as obsessed with financial independence as we are, here are a few things about us:

  • We live in Baltimore, Maryland
  • We are in our late 20’s
  • We have two children and hope to have many more
  • We are Orthodox Jewish
  • We hope to be financially independent by our early 40’s

We are a husband and wife couple who, among other hobbies, love reading and learning on our journey to financial independence, and we’ve noticed that there is a huge gap in blogs and resources available in the financial independence retire early (FIRE) community for larger families. Most of the resources that we gained so much from focus on how to gain financial independence with one, or sometimes up to three children. But what about those who want a larger family and control over their financial well-being and overall quality of life?

That’s where our blog comes in.

We are here to tell you that it is totally possible for larger families to reach financial independence, and we will show you how to achieve this by sharing some of our experiences.