11 Free Things That Used to Cost Us Money

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As the years roll along, the cost of most things just keeps increasing. That’s inflation for you.

But if you think everything is more expensive now, here’s a bit of good news. Some items actually have gotten cheaper in recent times. In fact, many are now free.

Following are examples of things that used to cost money but no longer do.

1. Investments

Woman working on investments at her computer
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There was a time when you would have to pay a commission if you wanted to invest. But as we have reported, such fees rapidly have disappeared in recent years.

Many of the heavy hitters — Charles Schwab, E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity and Vanguard among them — now offer $0 commission trades on stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

2. Your credit reports

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In the past, if you wanted to see a copy of your credit report, you needed to pay for it. Now, thanks to changes in federal law, you’re entitled to one free report every 12 months from each of the three major credit-reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

During 2022, you actually can get a free copy of your credit report from each company every week on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not hard to request a free report, but make sure you are using the official website: AnnualCreditReport.com.

To get your credit score, however, you typically have to pay. But there are ways to get both your FICO score and your VantageScore gratis too.

3. Books, movies and more

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While you’re at the library, take a look around. Long gone are the days in which your library was filled only with musty and dusty books.

Today, you can borrow e-books, movies and more at many branches — and often via their websites. My local library even has an iPad, Nintendo Switch and electricity usage monitor available for checkout.

Want more? See:

4. Data storage

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Backing up your important documents to the cloud can be a smart way to avoid the heartbreak that comes from a fried hard drive and the loss of irreplaceable files.

In addition, cloud storage is a convenient way to access information and photos from anywhere with an internet connection.

While there are plenty of good cloud storage options that cost money, there are numerous others that offer a certain amount of storage for free. They include Microsoft OneDrive and others we detail in “10 Places to Get Free Online File Storage.”

Additionally, if you have Amazon Prime, you have unlimited photo storage through a feature called Amazon Photos.

5. Music

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This one has come full circle. In the early days of the internet, you could listen to music for free, albeit generally illegally. Then, you had to pay for music through iTunes, Rhapsody or similar services.

Today, we’re back to free music options through services such as Spotify and Pandora. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can also use Prime Music at no additional cost.

6. Reading the news

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Buying a newspaper used to be the way to stay up to date on current events. Now, you merely have to flip on your computer to find all sorts of free news 24/7 on the internet.

Even if you don’t have home internet service, you only have to head to the library to take advantage of this freebie.

7. GPS

Woman using a GPS device while driving
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At one time, you had to pay more than $100 for a GPS unit. In some cases, you had to shell out extra to update maps periodically.

You can still buy separate GPS devices, but if you have a smartphone, there’s really no reason to do so. There are plenty of free GPS-based map and navigation apps that work perfectly fine.

8. Classified ads

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Once upon a time, if you wanted to sell something, you had to fork over money to run a classified ad in the newspaper. Now, there are plenty of free ways to sell your wares.

For years, Craigslist had perhaps the widest reach, but Facebook Marketplace is now the preferred place for many people to list items for sale. There are also free buy/sell groups on Facebook, free smartphone apps and some newspapers that allow free classifieds on their websites.

9. Long-distance phone service

African American woman with cellphone
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There is no reason you should be paying for long-distance phone calls.

If you don’t have a cellphone plan that already gives you free long-distance calls, check out services such as Skype or Google Chat, which allows you to make certain types of calls in the U.S. for free.

10. Credit freezes

Credit freeze
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If you are worried about identity theft, a credit freeze is one way to ensure criminals don’t use your information to take out loans or open credit cards in your name. Up until a few years ago, credit reporting companies could charge you if you wanted a freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.

That changed in 2018 with the passage of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. While credit freezes are now free, they aren’t perfect, and you should still take other steps to protect your personal information.

11. Practically anything — if you know where to look

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Finally, thanks to the internet, you can now get practically anything for free if you know where to look.

Freecycle and Craigslist can help you pick up free stuff, but browsing the web can turn up all sorts of ideas on how to get services for free too.

Here are just a few examples of things we’ve told you how to get for free: