10 Things People Buy They Should Get Free

Life’s tough enough without paying for things you could be getting free. Here are some examples – see if you can add to our list.

Your mom always told you that money doesn’t grow on trees. She’s right, but then if you don’t waste it, maybe you don’t need one anyway.

There are plenty of free things you can pluck from the web as well as from libraries, parks, banks and other businesses. Here’s a look at more than a half dozen valuable freebies:

First, take a look at the this recent news story Stacy turned in, then I’ll provide more details.

Here’s another look at that list, along with a few more.

  1. Free checking. Last week we wrote an article about how, at many banks, free checking was soon to become fee checking. But plenty of banks still offer free checking accounts. SunTrust, for example, offers a free plan with no minimum balance required. And you get free online and ATM service too. Wachovia and U.S. Bank still have their own version of free accounts. Chase even offers $100 for opening such an account. Indeed, a host of banks and savings and loans offer free checking. So far. When you’re looking for lower fees, including free checking, always to look to smaller local banks and credit unions.
  2. Free credit reports. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com for a free look at your credit history once a year. If the Financial Regulatory Reform bill passes, you might also one day get a look at your credit score. Read about other changes ahead here.
  3. Free cash. If you can’t find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back with no fee when you use your ATM card to make even a small purchase. You can buy a candy bar or a Diet Coke and get back up to $100 in cash from Wal-Mart. Target will give you back $40 if you use your ATM card for a purchase. Grocery stores also offer cash back. And then there are iPhone and other apps that will help you locate ATMs: Here’s one.
  4. Free information calls. Bing 411 (1-800-BING-411 or 1-800-CALL-411) allows you to find local shops and restaurants, as well as get driving directions, traffic reports, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather reports.1-800-FREE411 allows you to get any number, business or residential, in exchange for listening to a brief ad.
  5. Free scholarship search. Plenty of websites offer free searches for scholarships, such as Fastweb. There’s even a company called Free Scholarship Searches that offers links to 40 websites that offer free scholarship searches. And check out our story, 6 Tips to Pay Less for a College Degree
  6. Free baggage. Sure, nearly all airlines are charging to check baggage but at least one doesn’t: Southwest. And remember carrying on bags is still free, except for on Spirit Airlines.
  7. Free entertainment. Your local library and parks offer lots of free fun, from books to movies to concerts. Join their e-mail list to see what’s up. And of course, there’s the Internet, offering free games as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Just go to the website of your favorite periodical.
  8. Free Water. While technically not free, tap water is about as close as you can get. If you’re concerned about water quality, buy a filter. But don’t ever pay for water at a convenience store.
  9. Free TV. Thanks to sites like Hulu, you can now watch many popular television shows online for free. If your favorite shows are free on the web, why pay for cable or satellite? Check out You Don’t Have to Pay for Cable TV for more.
  10. Free telephone calls. Services like Skype and AIM let you communicate with other users for free. Always calling a loved one long distance? If you both get copies of something like Skype, you can talk all you want without paying a dime. And with a service like Google Voice, you can get all of your cell phone calls free, too.

That’s a few quick ideas, but we know there are dozens more. Share your favorite and help make this list even better.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Durell Kane

    you can also get “free” water at your local fast food/restaurants by asking for the courtesy cup. if you are eating in you can always refill it. i even know some people that ask for the courtesy water cup and fill it with fountain drinks 😉

    • Anonymous

      And that would make those people you know, low-life thug thieves. 

      I guess these people you know feel that the restaurant “owes” them free sodas? 

      Get some new friends dude. 

  • When chatting on the internet, like Yahoo messenger, you can also talk for free, even internationally. Just upgrade your messenger, both parties, click on “voice call” or, even “video chat”, if both parties have a webcam. Nice way of keeping in touch with family members who live far away, or even overseas! All for free!

  • How can you recieve Free Internet ????

    • Allan Kellogg

      Some cities now have free unsecured wifi

  • S

    Goog 411 is apparently not in service anymore

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but NOTHING is free.  You pay taxes which go to the library – you’re paying for the services there.

    You watch HULU on your computer, but you can only do that if you have an internet service provider, which you pay for.

    You drink water from the tap — you pay the monthly water bill.

    You pay a monthly cell phone bill, which allows you to access 411, free or whatever.  You’re paying airtime, etc.

    Etc, etc, etc. 

    • Matthew Turner

      You will be paying taxes regardless of whether you use the service or not, so that argument is out…

      Where I live, high-speed internet is 2/3 as expensive as basic cable, never mind HD, DVR, or other services.  So I canceled my cable and am now piping my computer into my TV to watch pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want, for roughly $50 a month.

      The monthly water bill isn’t going anywhere – you need water – so that argument is out…

      I don’t have a land line, and my company pays for my cell phone, so again, that argument is out…

      This was a good article.  These tips, combined with a little creativity, can essentially act like a second job in terms of the amount of money you save.  When you add everything up, its pretty impressive how much money the average person wastes – even the “frugal” ones.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing stuff… thanks for the post

  • GOOG411 is not available anymore. Try Microsoft’s 1-800-BING411 (1-800-246-4411)

    • erik jespersen

      GOOG411 sucked anyway.

  • Anonymous

    What’s the definition of free? I do believe I have to look it up.

  • Anonymous

    Please stop giving out 800-GOOG-411.  This phone number has been disconnected for some time!

  • Free education: online education sites such as  http://www.khanacademy.org/#  and MIT online free courses
    No sheepskin but a real education

  • H

    Suntrust will no longer have free checking in November. 

  • Jon Colson

    Love the list, but on the banks.  They might have changed, but when Chase moved into my area, taking over Washington Mutual, they “Chased” away a LOT of customers with HIGH and HIDDEN fees.

  • If you are already paying for a base internet fee per month, Skype or AIM might be good options to negate using cell minutes or getting a landline. BUT if you are using broadband internet, you’ll eat through your data amount more rapidly with voice and video than emails. Weigh your usuage just like cell phones. Check about prepaid broadband plans especially over satelite internet.

  • Here’s one for video gamers.  If you are like me you end up buying brand new video games for $60.  I do this for certain multiplayer games because I like being able to keep up with other players and not get left in the dust when it comes to learning how to play online.  However, certain games that are mostly single player based you can get much cheaper just by waiting.  The value of video games go down with time and usage and you can usually save a lot of money just by buying used games.  Case in point: I recently bought a video game for $26.  I ended up beating it within a week and it was fun but did not have very much replay value.  Instead of spending $60 on it when it first came out I saved myself $34 and was able to sell it back to put towards a new game.  To me some games are worth the $60 but they have to satisfy certain things.  It has to be fun to replay.  It has to have multiplayer online.  It has to be something very interesting.  Games like the Halo series and the Call of Duty series are sometimes worth the $60 just because of the multiplayer aspect.  But certain games that have no multiplayer aspect are just not worth $60 because once you are done with it there is nothing else to do except hope for downloadable content which costs evn more money.  Refurbished consoles from reputable companies like GameStop may also be a good idea.  They are usually just as good as a new console and come with a warranty AND they are cheaper.  I have a refurbished Xbox 360 and it cost me almost half the price of a brand new one and works just fine.  Another good strategy is finding a person who has a broken console and wants to throw it out and taking it off their hands and sending it in for repairs.  A friend of mine in the Army proved this concept works.  I broke two Xbox 360’s in Iraq and was too impatient to send them in and pay for the repairs so I bought a new one.  I gave him the broken ones and he sent them in for repairs.  His total cost of getting both repaired came to a little less than the price of one brand new one.  I took a broken PSP off my friend’s hand and my brother wants one.  Instead of buying a brand new one for $200 I’m sending the broken one to be fixed and he will get a perfectly good one and it will cost me less than buying a new one.  All of this also works the same with movies and other entertainment hardware such as TVs and DVD/BLU-Ray players.  Repairs can be expensive but are still cheaper than buying brand new stuff and it should always work just as well if not better.  Need anymore gaming advice?  Send me a message at [email protected]

  • Oh yeah, here are a few tips with vehicles.  This one can be tricky because it’s a vehicle.  Vehicles can spawn all sorts of problems if you aren’t careful and have them checked by a mechanic.  My brother has a Ford Explorer although I forget what year.  Anyway, he was looking for a vehicle and my mother found a place that was selling vehicles with bad transmissions for as low as $100.  She bought the vehicle and had the transmission replaced.  A very expensive repair but when you look at the cost for another used vehicle in decent condition the repair cost less than that and now you have a brand new transmission.  The rest of his vehicle is in good shape so he actually got a good bargain on getting it repaired.  I myself have a 95 Honda Passport.  It cost $2,000 but when I got it the clutch went bad less than a year later.  I had the entire clutch assemply replaced and it cost me $1,300.  Sounds crazy you say?  May as well buy another used vehicle you say?  Well the total cost of buying it and replacing the clutch may have totaled up to $3,300 but now I have a brand new clutch which means my vehicle will last much longer.  I have decided to make an investment in my vehicle by saving money and replacing parts when they start to go bad.  A brand new vehicle can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  But by replacing certain parts and keeping up with maintenance my vehicle will be just as good as, if not better than, some used cars on the market and cost less.  Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it is better to just get another vehicle when so many things go bad that fixing all of them would like replacing the entire vehicle.  Plus you have to think of gas mileage nowadays.  If the vehicle you are repairing will cost a lot of money and you are not going to get good gas mileage anyway then sometimes it’s better to just get a vehicle with better gas mileage, even if you have to repair it.  This is a classic case of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

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