Now that 2017 is rolling along, the holiday bills are rolling in and cash is tight. But guess what? We still need and want things — 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 — as well as some super useful services — 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 and services here.
1. Phone calls
If you haven’t by now, you should try Skype.com for at least some of your calls. You can download the app to your computer, mobile or tablet and make voice calls, video calls and international calls for free.
2. Garden, household and project supplies
Have the need for some pavers, a garden trellis, insulation? Many supplies and odds and ends are available through the local listings on Freecycle and Craigslist (click on the “free” category in the For Sale section). Mind you, some of the stuff that people are trying to shed is free for a reason — I personally wouldn’t want most of the free sofas or mattresses I see listed (eww!).
But there are many great treasures — and getting them this way helps keep useful things out of the landfill. So, for instance, from my local Freecycle listings right now, I could nab a dog kennel, some glass-and-metal display shelves, a fresh-water aquarium and moving boxes. The local Craigslist freebies include an old piano, a working refrigerator, shipping pallets, wood chips for landscaping and a big load of broken tiles for someone’s next mosaic project.
The public library is an awesome resource. Make sure you have a library card for free access to thousands of books, including many that are now out of print. If you still love to read old-fashioned books and keep them on the shelf, try out sites like BookMooch, which allows you to search for and get free books from other members. (You can also offer books you are willing to give to another reader.)
If you have made the switch to digital reading, the options available to you continue to expand. Check out these “11 Places to Get Free e-Books.”
Note that a lot of resources for free stuff are available year-round. But some other freebies come and go, which is why Money Talks News publishes new free offers every month. Check out our latest roundup: “6 Fabulous Freebies You Can Get in January.” And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss the February freebies!
4. Tax preparation
When this time of year rolls around, it can be doubly painful — to do the work it requires to pull together tax documentation and then to pay for help with the filing. But you may not need to fork over any money for tax filing.
For people with low and moderate incomes there are a number of free services available for help with tax filing, including Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a free, IRS-sponsored service for people who make $54,000 a year or less, and IRS FreeFile, no cost tax-preparation-and-filing software for people who make $64,000 or less.
But there are other options, even if you earn a higher income. Check out “7 Ways to Get Your Taxes Done for Free.”
5. Preventive health care services
As long as the Affordable Care Act remains intact — it survived the biggest GOP challenges in 2017 — people who have health insurance can get free preventive care. That means there will be no co-pay or co-insurance fee charged for some important health services.
Worried about how much alcohol you drink? Private insurance companies now are required to cover alcohol abuse 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 preventive care that people who buy health insurance are eligible to obtain free, according to healthcare.gov. The only catch? You have to have health insurance to get them for free.
Of course, lawmakers continue to debate the ACA, or Obamacare — and chip away at the edges of the program. So if you need preventive care, you should probably do so without delay.
6. Other health-care freebies
Even without using health insurance, you can still avail yourself of free health care and preventive care options.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers free eye exams to those who 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.
7. Party swag and goodies
If you’re the type to plan events, the site HouseParty could lead to freebies for you and your guests. Apply — for free — to host a party with sponsorship from one of the big-name companies listed on HouseParty, and you can score all sorts of goodies in exchange for some publicity.
Past freebies have included branded clothing, kitchen ware, health and beauty products, and lots of food. Upcoming party opportunities include three geared for Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 4): “Kikkoman Big Game House Party,” “Cooked Perfect Fire Grilled Wings Big Game Party,” and “Jose Cuervo Big Game Party” (21 years and older only for the tequila theme.) Check out what other HouseParty hosts have been able to do with these freebies on the HouseParty Facebook page.
8. Fitness guidance and inspiration
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.
For instance, 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.
Want more variety? Consider these 10 free or cheap fitness apps that offer a wide range of exercise and diet guidance, as well as many means of motivation.
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.
9. National parks entry
If you love the great outdoors, consider planning a trip to one of this country’s spectacular national parks on a free-admission day. This year the National Park Service has scheduled 4 fee-free days. The next one up is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15.
10. DIY skills
Wonder how to turn some home ideas into reality? The Home Depot and Michaels are among the national retailers that offer free in-person and online classes and guides. So, for instance, my local Home Depot has upcoming workshops on “Easy Bath Updates,” “How to Install a Tile Floor” and how to build a “Stacking Tote Tower” for storage. At Michaels site, I’m seeing a whole slew of upcoming classes for kids and adults for making such things as watercolor greeting cards, personalized signs and clay “slime.”
11. Mind-expanding classes
The digital age has given us access to all kinds of experts and instructional 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 e-books and more.
12. Free samples
There are a lot of ways to find fun-size freebies, including signing up for email newsletters from your favorite brands. Also, you can check the websites of your favorite companies for free samples, such as Sephora for makeup and beauty products. Or, if want to peruse a whole bunch of free stuff out there, check out sites like SnagFreeSamples and Mr. Free Stuff to see what’s currently offered.
Where do you find free treasures? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.
Nancy Dunham and Brandon Ballenger contributed to this post.