Where can you do all this for $1?
The local library.
Libraries have always been the old standby for checking out books and other resources, but with families facing tighter budgets, they're finding out the library has a lot to offer.
Yes, even artwork. For $1, you can check out the framed prints in the library's collection and hang them in your house for three months.
Or you can check out puppets for your kids to play with.
Not to mention music CDs to listen to. Or scrapbooking computer programs.
Le Mars Public Library's director Sue Kroesche said she tallied up on a "Library Use Calculator" what it would cost a person if, throughout an entire year, he or she checked out just one of every type of material at the library. For example, one book, one magazine, one video, etc.
"Without the library, that would cost them $253 a year," Kroesche said. "And that's just one of each thing."
Sure, she admitted, the library isn't technically free, because people are paying for it through their taxes. But those taxes are already part of a family's budget.
"It just seems smart to go ahead and make use of the library," Kroesche said.
Studies across the nation show that when the economy is slower, the library gets busier.
In the past year, 1.3 million people visited libraries across the nation and checked out more than 2 billion items.
In Le Mars, the library user flow has been pretty steady since last year, Kroesche said. However, there was a spike in summer.
"I don't know whether that's attributed to normal summer peaks or if it was high gas prices, because it was right during that time," she said. "We definitely have a lot of people checking out movies. And they use the computer a lot."
Libraries are one of the only places that offer free internet.
Travis Urban, 21, of Le Mars, said he uses the library computers every day.
"I use them to talk to my friends," he said.
Kroesche said senior citizens also use the computers a lot for email, since many don't own their own computer.
"And there have been people doing job searches," she added.
With budgets tighter, many parents are bringing kids to the children's programs at the library for entertainment.
"We get a large crowd -- they're very well attended," Kroesche said. "And we're just getting started on the adult programs. We're going to have an adult discussion group and a winter reading program."
A class is in the works for parents, too, on knowing what their children are doing and looking at on the internet.
Students preparing for a test like the ACT or PSAT can use the library's website to find practice tests. The library has a subscription to TERC testing, which offers many types of practice tests.
"I think those kinds of resources are valuable for people," Kroesche said.
The Le Mars Public Library, like many entities, is facing its own budget crunch. Last year, officials cut $20,000 and one position out of the library's budget.
Library officials are hoping to get a little bit more money this year, but no matter what, they're working to keep the collection up to date. A modern collection, Kroesche said, is what keeps people coming back.
"We look at what people request and the best sellers for both adults and children," she said.
They try to keep resources available that will help people no matter where they are in life.
From books on job training and how to write a resume to art for redecorating a house, the library has a low-budget option for people.
"The library levels the playing field," Kroesche said. "It doesn't matter how much money you're making, every one has access to the library and its resources."