The rough economy has forced most of us to tighten our belts and to look for ways to save money. The easiest things to cut from our budgets are: eating out, buying new clothes and going to the movies. Netflix is popular because it is cheaper than going to the movies but a great, free alternative is your local library.      

Netflix is so popular because it capitalized on the economic downturn. A Netflix monthly membership costs $7.99 to stream movies and shows online or to your TV and an additional $7.99 for 1 DVD out-at-a-time unlimited plans (more for extra DVDs or Blu Ray). This is far more appealing to people than $5+ for a single DVD rental from the bankrupted Blockbuster, Hollywood Video or Movie Gallery.

Even though $16 a month is cheaper than just two movie tickets and you get a lot more content, it still adds up to $192 per year! For some people this might not be much, but if you're living from paycheck to paycheck (or close to it), that represents a lot of groceries, diapers, gas, partial rent, etc. If you are in a tough financial situation a cable TV subscription should definitely be on the chopping block too, you might be paying $600+ a year, for what, Snooki?!

Renting DVDs from your local library on the other hand is free! Of course the selection isn't going to be as good as Netflix but it can be a great source of entertainment. All you need is a library card, which you can get for free in just a couple of minutes at your local library, just bring a photo ID to register. Once you have your card you can start renting multiple movies and depending on the library, you can renew your movies online to keep them longer. Libraries have been expanding their DVD collections so if you haven't visited lately, check it out, you might be surprised at how much they have

If your local library doesn't have a big selection of DVDs you can go to a different library. Before you travel too far though, there's another way to increase your options. Many libraries are part of a library system which is often organized by county. Assuming that your library has an online catalog (most do) you can search for DVDs in the entire system from home. If you see a DVD in another library should be able to place a "hold" on it to have it delivered to your local library! Since libraries have to cover their transportation costs, there will probably be a fee for this. My local library charges $0.75 per hold, which is still a steal. This is less than a Redbox rental ($1.09 with tax) and you can keep it longer than 1 day, maybe as long as a week or more, if you can renew the rental.

As you can see, libraries are a great alternative to Netflix when you want to save some money. Besides DVDs, even a small library will have 1000's of awesome books you can borrow for free, so go get your library card if you don't have one and enjoy!