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As the years roll along, the cost of most things just keeps increasing.
That’s inflation for you. As we recently put it in “8 Basics That Beginning Investors Must Know,” you would have needed $290.88 in October 2017 to buy the same stuff you could have bought for $100 in October 1980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.
But some items actually have gotten cheaper in recent times. In fact, many are now free.
Following are 10 examples of things that used to cost money but no longer do.
1. 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, you have plenty of free options to sell your wares.
The online site Craigslist has perhaps the widest reach. But there are also free buy/sell groups you’ll find on Facebook, and some newspapers allow free classifieds on their websites.
2. Reading the news
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Speaking of newspapers, buying one 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. (One note of caution in the era of hacking and trolling, though, is to check the reliability of the online news sources you read.)
Even if you don’t have home internet service, you only have to head to the library to take advantage of this freebie.
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 CDs, 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:
- “5 Easy Ways to Get Free Books“
- “11 Places to Find Free E-Books” (and “How to Enjoy E-Books Without Buying an E-Reader“)
- “5 Sources of Free Audiobooks“
- “17 Places You Can (Legally) Download or Stream Free Movies and TV“
4. Budgeting software
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You can still buy software programs like Quicken. But unless your finances are complex, there’s probably no reason to shell out the cash. Instead, use any number of free budgeting websites or apps, such as Mint or PowerWallet.
5. Your credit report
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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 each year from each of the major credit reporting companies.
Typically, you have to pay to get your credit score. However, there are ways to get that gratis, too.
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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.
7. Long-distance phone service
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There is no reason you should be paying for long-distance calls. If you don’t have a phone plan that already gives you free long-distance service, check out services such as Skype and Google Voice, which allow you to make calls in the U.S. for free.
8. 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, others such as Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox offer a certain amount of storage for free.
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At one time, you had to pay $100-plus for a GPS unit. In some cases, you had to shell out extra to update maps periodically.
You can still buy separate GPS systems, 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.
10. 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 with 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:
- Prescription drugs
- Vacation lodging
- Amazon gift cards
- Admission to museums
- Antivirus software
What else can you add to the list of items that used to cost money but are now free? Share your suggestions by commenting below or on our Facebook page.