9 Free Things That Used to Cost Us Money

Young couple taking a selfie with a smartphone at home
Rido / Shutterstock.com

As the years roll along, the cost of most things just keeps increasing.

That’s inflation for you, as we note in “8 Basics That Beginning Investors Must Know.” Due to that sustained increase in the general price level of things in an economy over time, you would need around $313 in 2020 to buy the same stuff you could have bought for $100 in 1980.

But 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. Your credit report

working from home
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

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.

We walk you through the process of requesting your reports in “How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps.”

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.

2. Books, movies and more

Prasit Rodphan / Shutterstock.com

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, DVDs, video games and more at many branches across the nation. My local library even has an iPad and an electricity usage monitor available for checkout.

Want more? Check out:

3. Data storage

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

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.

4. Music

Pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

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.

5. Reading the news

reading online
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

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.

6. GPS

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

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.

7. Classified ads

stockfour / Shutterstock.com

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.

The online site Craigslist has perhaps the widest reach. But there are also free buy/sell groups on Facebook, there are free smartphone apps like LetGo, and some newspapers allow free classifieds on their websites.

8. Long-distance phone service

African American woman with cellphone
Rocketclips, Inc. / Shutterstock.com

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 service, check out services such as Skype and Google Voice, which allow you to make certain types of calls in the U.S. for free.

9. Practically anything — if you know where to look

Gligatron / Shutterstock.com

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:

How to earn $30 in less than 30 seconds

Earn extra money by using Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) — a site that gets you cash back at more than 2,500 stores. As a bonus for joining Rakuten between now and Aug. 6, 2020, you'll earn $30 when you spend at least $30 shopping online through Rakuten within the first 90 days. Start earning cash back and claim a free $30 bonus today.

Read Next
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale
17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale

Real estate agents give these renovations low marks when it comes to helping sell homes.

3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older
3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older

These checking accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

The 5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
The 5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2020
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2020

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

22 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
22 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

The dollar store has great bargains on these purchases.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

The Top 11 Jobs That Employers Want Retirees to Do
The Top 11 Jobs That Employers Want Retirees to Do

Tired of age discrimination? Businesses are clamoring for older workers to fill certain roles.

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership
7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership

You don’t necessarily need to join to get in on the warehouse store’s savings.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.