Why Buy When You Can Borrow for Free?

My adult children are big on borrowing stuff from their parents. And from time to time they may fail (you know who you are, son) to mention having borrowed something like a Milwaukee Sawzall Reciprocating Saw in its big, bright red case, prompting that son’s father to assume said tool had been stolen after searching the garage high and low for it on a day he had an urgent need for it—further prompting said father to reluctantly make a trip to Home Depot to buy a replacement.


This little blast from my past illustrates in an odd way, how not everyone needs to own the same things. My husband uses his Sawzall so frequently, he’s replacing the blade with abandon. But Jeremy? Hardly ever—like maybe once a decade. Harold needs to own this tool. Jeremy is better off borrowing (all is forgiven, by the way).

A story in TIME, Finally, an App That Lets You Borrow a Corgi, made me smile. Seems you can now borrow a dog (and in this case “borrow” means renting by the hour) if you can’t afford one, don’t have room for one, lack the commitment to own one or want to take a particular breed for a test drive as part of the decision-making process.

Many public libraries are becoming a fantastic source for borrowing unusual items you may need only once a year, or even less frequently. Why buy when you can borrow for free?

The Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), in Ann Arbor, Mich., offers lots of unusual stuff for lending to its patrons. AADL lendables include Art Prints ready for hanging, Sizzix Big Shot die-cutting kits, Book Clubs to Go for Kids and Adults (ten copies of the featured book, a movie DVD to go with if available, a resource folder with summaries, reviews and discussion questions); Games of every imaginable size and type, Home Tools (not sure if they have added a Sawzall to the collection yet), Music Tools (unusual and fun musical instruments), Science Tools—the kind that help students do cool science projects—and a variety of Telescopes.

The Marvin Memorial Library, Shelby, Ohio, lends its vast collection of character cake pans. With a library card, a patron can borrow a pan for one full week, no charge. That should be plenty of time to have a couple of practice runs the best birthday cake ever—and keep the $25 it would cost to own (and store) a cake pan you may never use again.

Arizona’s Pima County Public Library has seeds for hundreds of types of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that patrons can take home and plant in their gardens. You can’t return them like books, of course, but the library encourages borrowers to save and donate seeds from their grown plants.

The Oakland Public Library has a variety of carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical, and landscaping tools to lend out including,—you guessed it—a Milwaukee Sawzall Reciprocating Saw in a big, bright red case.

Need something for awhile, but not forever? Find a way to borrow it!

Question: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever borrowed?

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