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Want something for nothing? Go online, because Freecycle’s got company.
Free beauty products, children’s items, restaurant meals, furniture, electronics, or even cellphone service – all you have to do is look.
Sometimes this means a one-time sign-up, but ongoing grab bags of goodies also exist, letting you browse whenever you have a minute. You might not even have to do the browsing, because reputable freebie bloggers will do the filtering for you.
Free stuff has never been so easy to get, according to Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson. Once you’ve watched his video, read on for more details.
Depending on where you live The Freecycle Network can mean a constant stream of fabulous freebie opps or a sluggish trickle of “meh”-ness. After all, people in affluent areas have more to give, and sometimes a Freecycle group can be less than well-organized.
Given that Freecycle is a volunteer organization, it’s a little hard to complain. Besides, when it works it’s fabulous. A relative has gotten furniture, children’s clothing and other goodies. When I lived in Seattle, I received canning jars and tree fruit. I also used Freecycle to give away framed prints, a two-CD set of “The Nutcracker,” a paraffin hand spa and an unopened pair of anti-embolism stockings (which saved car-free me from having to lug all this stuff to the thrift store by bus).
Similarly, the “free” section of Craigslist may yield some real keepers, as could Listia.com (an auction site for free stuff) and trading sites such as Swapmamas, Swapstyle and BookMooch. Sure, you have to pay for the gas to pick up Freecyle/Craigslist swag or pay for shipping from the trading sites – but do the math and balance the total against the cost of buying new items. It might be worth it.
You also need to keep in mind what I call the “flake factor.” Flakes are the folks who offer you a futon or bookcase but aren’t home when they said they’d be, or who gave it to someone else and forgot to tell you. Get a phone number or at least an email address so you can remind them you’re coming over.
There’s also the fear factor, i.e., you’re going to the home of a total stranger/inviting a total stranger into yours. He or she might be sizing up the joint for future burglaries or, maybe, intending to do you some sort of harm on the spot. Think about meeting in a public place (for smaller items) or bringing the couch or bookcase outdoors when the trader shows up.
When I did business via Freecycle or Craigslist, I met the other party in the lobby of my apartment building. But I also made sure that my son-in-law, who has studied martial arts, was taking a cigarette break outdoors each time.
Encouraging consumer loyalty
Looking for an ongoing source of gratis goodies? Sign up with freebie bloggers like HeyItsFree.net, Hunt4Freebies, The Freebie Blogger and Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder, who uncover an amazing variety of free stuff, from housewares to snack foods to beauty products. (Tip: Start sending away for nonperishable freebies now and you might not have to buy a single stocking stuffer next Christmas.)
You can also go the social media route. Companies anxious to promote products, encourage brand loyalty and woo additional customers have turned social media into a nonstop giveaway. A super-simple method is to follow “freebie tweeters,” such as @freestuffrocks and @heyitsfree. Or follow your favorite brands on Twitter, or click “like” on their Facebook pages.
Social media contests abound, too, some of them as easy as hitting “like” or re-tweeting an offer. Then again, you might actually have to do a little work: write something, post a photograph or even make a video. However, the prizes can be primo, e.g., trips, jewelry, high-value gift cards and electronics.
A few best practices for social media freebie-finding:
- Focus on local businesses. The contestant pool is generally smaller (unless you live in a huge city).
- Watch local franchisees. Your local Chick-fil-A may give out freebies independent of the national office.
- Start a separate email account. Use it for all giveaways/freebies/contests, not just the ones on social media.
If you’re willing to put some time into this, check out “tweet chats” and “Twitter parties.” The former is a chance to talk about a specific topic (personal finance, parenting, education) and the latter is an online promo party that includes the sharing of ideas. Prizes are awarded randomly to participants; one that I attend regularly has been offering several high-value Amazon gift cards each week.
A site called Tweeparties maintains a calendar of upcoming Twitter parties, as do some deal and mom bloggers. For a list of chats, check Tweetreports or Tweetchat. Note: You’ll have to spend up to an hour at each event, but if the topic interests you that’s not so bad.
If you have opinions to share, you might get paid for them by joining Amazon Vine. Writing helpful reviews on Amazon can lead to an invitation to try out new and early-release products. Yay, free stuff!
Want to make your next big trip a lot more affordable? Get your lodgings for free through organizations like:
- Couchsurfing International Inc. Just what it sounds like: You sleep on someone’s couch (or maybe in a spare room) for free.
- Tripping. While this site seems to have a vacation-rental focus, its “Tripping Community” is a network of folks who offer free home stays all over the world.
- Servas. This international peace association has matched travelers to hosts for more than 50 years; today it operates in more than 100 countries. There’s an annual membership fee of $25 to $85, but that’s less than the cost of one night in a hotel in many places. For info on joining, click on the Web page for your country.
To stay in touch while you’re traveling – or while you’re driving to work – check out the option of free cellphone service, through companies like FreedomPop and Scratch Wireless. You need to have a specific type of phone, but how are you gonna argue with free? For details, see “How to Get Free Cellphone Service.”
Free meals, movie tickets, beauty products, gift cards, ice cream and more are available to you every year in honor of your birthday. Since some of these are good for the week or even the month of your birthday, you can s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the celebration and pocket the savings. For more info, see “How to Find Hundreds of Birthday Freebies.”
All free stuff, all the time
One thing you shouldn’t do: a general online search for “free stuff” or “freebies.” You’re likely to find websites with viruses or malware that will infect your computer, or “free” offers that ask you to provide a credit card. Guess why.
Some additional avenues for free stuff:
- Join rewards sites. Get gift cards or cash for doing online searches via InboxDollars, Qmee.com, the Bing search engine and Swagbucks. You won’t exactly get rich, but why not make your searches pay? The rules vary; for details, see “Get Paid to Do Online Searches.”
- Send away for rebates. But only if you’re organized enough to do the paperwork/online form immediately after getting the product. Plenty of rebates just never get filled out. I’m pretty diligent because I like those free-after-rebate items, whether they be toiletries or office supplies.
- Use rewards credit cards. If you’re going to charge something, why not get a little payback? Points from several cards paid for almost all of my holiday gifting this year. For the best rewards, use our credit card search.
- Be a loyal customer. Retailers and restaurants let you rack up points to trade in for free food or store credit (hi there, all you CVS ExtraCare fans!). Sign up for any rewards programs offered. Tip: If you’re making a coffee or lunch run to any rewards retailer, ask if any co-workers want to put in an order. They’ll pay for their drinks or Danish but you get to keep the points.
- Stop buying books. Millions of public domain classics are available for free at sites like ManyBooks.net, Open Library, Google Play (formerly Google Books) and Project Gutenberg. Check a site called Gizmo’s Freeware for a list of 913 sites for free e-books and 224 for free audio books. Or go to the Kindle or Barnes & Noble bookstores and type “0.00” in the search bar; that day’s list of free books will pop up.
- Get creative with eBay. If an item you like went unsold after being listed for less than $1, email the seller to see if he’s willing to part with the item in return for postage. This article on eHow.com notes that folks sometimes just want to get rid of a bunch of clutter. Or try this: If the person has similar interests, let him know what you’ve got and propose a trade.
- Write a letter. Drop an email to your favorite company and you may get a free product, or at least some high-value coupons. Instead of saying “I don’t know how I lived before I found Stacy’s Pork Rinds,” give a concrete example of how a product improved your life, e.g., “ZapStains removed all the blueberry stains from my son’s shirt after a pie-eating contest.” If what you get in return is a “Thanks – we love hearing from our customers,” well, all it cost you was a few minutes to compose the email. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- Put it out in the universe. Another blogger I know is crazy about coin collecting. When I found an old buffalo head nickel whose date had been worn clean off, I figured it wasn’t worth more than 5 cents to me. So I mailed it to the blogger, who was delighted with the coin (and a few extra karma points won’t hurt me a bit). If there’s something you want, let it be known.
Do you have other tried-and-true ways to find free stuff? Share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.