Are you someone who loses track of your library books and then pays a lot in fines? Well – listen up, depending where you live, this level of irresponsiblity can cost you big time. That is because some areas use a collection agency once your fines reach a certain level of dollars and lateness. And, if you are savvy with your money, you know that having a collection agency on your tail means lower FICO scores and bad times for you and your finances.

By coincidence, last week Sassymonkey wrote “The Library Saved Me $1128.27 This Year” which is a great testament to how you can save real money by tapping into a free public library. While I certainly have never gone to the degree of detail she has tracking my savings, I can tell you I save a bundle and I save a truckload of bookshelf space as well. Imagine my surprise as I read my local county paper to discover that in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the libraries will start using a collection agency to find grossly overdue items.

Quite frankly I was shocked! Perhaps I am just naive or an overly responsible person but I found it hard to believe that SO many people had overdue items that were LONG overdue with fines that were excessive. At $.10 a day late fee, how unobservant do you need to be to run up fines of $10 and up, up, up? Clearly it has to total to a significant amount for the library system to hire a collection agency, they are not just doing it to teach people a lesson in responsibility. When I gasped at all this my partner shrugged and said that basically the people she works with randomly lose and misplace library books all the time. How can you just misplace someone else’s property? More importantly, how can you have that little respect for others?

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to simply set up a system for you to “remember” what you borrow. In “How To Fit A Book Into Your Busy Schedule” the advice is simple, but idiotproof:

2) Designate a library day. Not only are the books free, but being in a library (even if ‘only to browse’) will make you more inclined to read. Having a set day helps avoid library fines for late books. And librarians can help you find the book for almost any topic.

Personally I like to designate a particular spot in my house for library books. While I am reading them I know exactly where they are and when I finish them I know exactly where they are so I can return them. The one local library even sends me a reminder email a day or so before the book is due. How much easier could it be??

Blissfully Domestic recently racked up a hefty bit of library fines and offers this cool suggestion on “How to Avoid Library Fines”:

Elf notifies me when my library books are almost due so I can get to the library before I start rackin’ up the fines. It’s a free service and you can receive notification via email, RSS and cell phone. Check to see if your library participates!

It’s not just the shame, hassle, or few dollars of library late fees that are at play here. Collection agency activity negatively impacts your FICO score and it does so for a very long time even if you pay the outstanding balance. In “5 Ways to Hurt Your FICO Score” there’s this handy reality check:

Small, Unpaid Debts
Believe it or not, that parking ticket you put off paying can come back to haunt you. The same things goes for the movie you returned a week late to Blockbuster and the book you borrowed from the library in 1999. After a certain period of time has passed, some cities will turn a bunch of unpaid debts over to a collection agency. The agency pursues the overdue amounts, and “when a collection agency record shows up on your credit report, it will absolutely hammer your credit score,” says Watts.

That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for a small debt.

So – be at least as responsible as you were with your grade school library and return stuff as close to the due date as possible. It’s plain good Karma…not to mention a frugal and responsibly financial strategy.

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng


Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life coaching for women who are ready to create their lives and businesses in a way that fits who they are rather than how they were told they "should". Visit her website at and get the free 12 part eCourse "How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin" and start taking charge of your own success.