Now that 2016 is rolling along, the holiday bills are rolling in and cash is tight. But guess what? We still need and want things that meet our needs — soccer cleats for the kids, tools for the yard, maybe a new appliance to replace one that has died. Here’s the good news: Many valuable things can be obtained for free — if you know where to look.
So, take some time before you pull out that tired credit card. And start your quest for free treasures here:
The name makes it clear, right? Reuse is better than recycle, and free is better than not. This site helps organize freebie-loving communities around the world. Look up your city to join a local email list for people looking to find or give away stuff, no strings attached.
Like Freecycle, this site offers listings of freebies by locality. But you’ll have to browse them yourself in a “free” section of the “for sale” category on a much broader classifieds-like page, including traditional job and housing listings, and less traditional personal ads. In other words, you may find more than you bargained for (so to speak) and the broader popularity of this site requires more caution in dealing with potential scams. Don’t let that scare you away, though – there really are lots of good finds.
If you’re the type to plan events, this site could lead to freebies for you and all your friends. Apply to host a party sponsored by big-name companies like Sony, Ford, or McDonald’s, and they might grant you goodies in exchange for the publicity. Applying costs nothing, and past freebies have included branded clothing, kitchen ware, health and beauty products and lots of food.
Is it free if you have to trade something? Sure, if your bargaining chip no longer has much resale value. This site lets you create “have” and “want” lists for games, books, movies, and music – then it matches you up with others.
You do have to pay shipping, but that’s not much different from what you would spend on gas driving to pick up somebody’s used stuff. Plus, the site makes it easy, offering printable labels and providing delivery confirmation so nobody gets ripped off.
If you want to do it the old-fashioned way, there is a local trading section too – but the range of stuff you can get is more limited.
5. Free samples
There are a lot of ways to find fun-size freebies, including getting lucky on frequent trips to the grocery or department store and signing up for endless email newsletters from your favorite brands. Also, just look on websites for products that interest you for free samples. Here are a couple of cosmetic sites that do just that:
For an overview of free goodies out there, the best place is the RetailMeNot.com community.
6. Free-after-rebate (FAR)
These deals are always a little dicey, since mail-in rebates can get lost in the mail, expire or come with tricky conditions. Most are more effort than I’m personally willing to put in, but I look for rebate offers if they’re for things I’m buying anyway. I’ve gotten free wiper blades for my truck, for example.
These are usually a grade or two above free samples, probably because you actually pay for them up front. One of the best places to look is the FatWallet.com forums, which houses constant deals of all kinds. Browse around (keep an eye out for the acronym FAR) or try a search for “rebate.” They also have a message thread specifically for company contact info and methods for winning those inevitable rebate battles. Another great place to check is SlickDeals.net
7. Health freebies
We all hear about the high cost of health care, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is changing that – by helping people who obtain insurance stay healthy with free preventive care. That means there’s no co-pay or co-insurance charge for some important health services.
Worried about how much alcohol you drink? Insurers are required to cover alcohol misuse screening and counseling for free. Concerned that you’re depressed? Screening is free. Want vaccines to fight off the flu, measles or another disease? Your insurance must cover vaccines for those and many other diseases.
Those are just a few of the dozens of screenings, treatments and other forms of preventative care that people with health insurance are eligible to obtain free, according to healthcare.gov. The only catch? You have to have insurance to get them for free.
8. Other health care freebies
Even without using health insurance, you can still avail yourself of free health and preventative care options.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers free eye exams to those that qualify. For details, check out the AAO website.
What about medications? Ask your pharmacist or primary care physicians if they have suitable free samples to share. Don’t forget to keep an eye on pharmacies that offer one-time and other discounts to new customers. It may pay off to change your main pharmacy.
In need of a certain medication? You might qualify for free medications through RXAssist.
9. Exercise giveaways
Personal trainers and posh gyms are great but you can get the same results – a toned, fit body – and keep your bank account healthy, too, when you use some of the free exercise options available.
Want a beautiful place at which to exercise? Admission to national parks is free on certain days. All you have to do is visit the National Park Service website to find out when and where to go.
How about finding a top-flight exercise instructor? Sparkpeople.com offers a myriad of recipes, nutrition and fitness tracking, workout videos, on-site checks and much more – all absolutely, 100 percent free. Sign up, use as much or as little of the site’s features as you want, and they absolutely won’t spam you.
Of course you can strap on your walking shoes and hike around the neighborhood but sometimes we need more motivation to get started or keep going. The American Heart Association offers free guidelines to start your own walking club.
Exercise DVDs can be pricey, so you may want to try before you buy. Exercise gurus including Leslie Sansone and Jillian Michaels have a host of free videos online. Also, check your cable providers’ free extra offerings and you may find some free videos there, too.
10. But wait — there’s more!
Once you start looking at freebies, it’s hard to stop.
Wonder how to turn some home ideas into reality? Home Depot, Michaels and Lowe’s are among the national retailers that offer free in-person and online classes and guides for those that want to amp up their DIY skills.
11. Take classes
In the digital age, there is access to so many experts and courses. Even if you’re dead broke, there’s little excuse not to take an online course. Here are a couple of places to pick up some free education:
- Saylor.com: Choose from Saylor Academy offerings in art history, math, philosophy, economics and more.
- OpenCulture.com: This site offers links to free courses that teach 48 languages, online lectures, free ebooks and more.
12. Phone calls
If you haven’t by now, you should try Skype.com for at least some of your calls. These free calls will help defray cellphone bills.
14. And more…
Go to Facebook and “like” the page for Mr. Free Stuff and you’ll find everything from donuts to dog food for free.
Where do you find free treasures? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.
Nancy Dunham contributed to this post.
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