by Sarah Cassell, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing

Reading and watching movies are two of my favorite ways to recharge my batteries. There's nothing more relaxing than getting lost in a good book during my morning commute.  There's just one problem: books and movies can be expensive—especially when you're living on a budget.

Thankfully, there are a number of resources, programs and apps to help you minimize your out of pocket spend on games, movies and books. Here are five ways you can access free materials for your entertainment and enjoyment.

Free Audiobooks: SYNC

Thanks to SYNC, you can stock up on free young adult audio books this summer! This program was designed to help teens understand that reading can be done through listening. Thanks to generous sponsors at AudioFile Magazine, two titles are available to download for free every week during summer vacation. The program pairs popular classics (like works by Shakespeare, Hawthorne and etc.) with a modern and new title that shares similar themes. You can download one or both books offered that week.

Titles are updated every Thursday through July 25, so remember to check back for new books (or sign up for alerts and reminders so you don't miss out).

Free Games and Movies: Microsoft Rewards

You can earn points through Microsoft Rewards, just by doing the things you already enjoy. Signup to the rewards program and start earning points that can be redeemed for movies, games, apps, Microsoft products. How do you earn points? There are two ways to accrue points: search on Bing or shop at Microsoft in-store or online.

Free Audiobooks and eBooks: Libby

When you're working long days, it can be challenging to make it to your local library after service. One of the reasons we love local libraries is that they offer a wide selection of titles you can borrow digitally. All you need is a library card.

With Libby, connect your library card to your account and instantly you can browse your library's audiobook and eBook selections. You can browse, place items on hold, checkout and read/listen to books all within the same application.

Bonus – digital loans automatically expire and are returned to your library when they're due, so it's impossible to rack up late fees.

Free Games, Movies and Books: Google Opinion Rewards

With this app, you can earn credits for the Google Play Store simply by answering survey questions. The surveys range from asking you about Google products, features or services you recently used, about shops you've recently visited, or asking you to rate or review restaurants or businesses.

Most surveys consist of 2-3 multiple choice questions and take less than a minute to complete. You don't earn credits for every survey you take, but many short surveys will offer an average $0.10 per survey. It may not sound like much, but it adds up quickly if you're answering surveys consistently.

The Google Play Store credit can be used on games, movies, as well as books.

Free eBooks and magazines: Amazon

If you and your roommates have already invested in an Amazon Prime membership, free eBooks are included in your membership.  You can download up to ten titles from Amazon Prime Reading (at one time) to your Kindle app. Their selection tends to be more limited, but the offer a mix of magazines, books and audiobooks.

Additionally, Prime members can gain early access to new books through their First Reads program. Every month Amazon's editors select their six favorite new titles across a variety of genres (Contemporary, historical fiction, science fiction, memoir and more). Members can download one of the books for free each month. 

Living on a Stipend while Serving with City Year: Free Audiobooks, Books, Games and Movies. Here, a female City Year AmeriCorps member with curly brown hair is wearing her iconic City year red jecket and reading a novel alongside one of the students she works with at the school where she serves.

I've been using many of these tools for nearly eighteen months. In that time, I have saved hundreds of dollars on entertainment for my commute to and from work. Since seeking out free alternatives, I can honestly say that I've only spent about $40 on hardcover books.

For more resources about living on a stipend, check out these great posts:

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