There are many things we purchase these days that we could never have dreamed we’d be paying for a few decades back: Television channels? Checked airplane luggage? Grocery bags?
But a savvy shopper still can find a way to get many valuable things free. From entertainment to education, knowing the tricks can help you save big — even on items for which your neighbors and friends are still handing over cash.
Here’s a look at some of the many valuable items that you don’t ever need to pay for.
Tracing your family tree has never been easier, thanks to online resources. And you can also do plenty of free research using the resources we detail in “11 Free Ways to Research Your Family History.”
For example, here are two favorites: Find A Grave lets you peer into cemeteries worldwide, and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation can provide information about relatives who came to America via that famed immigration gateway.
2. A birthday meal
No matter when your birthday falls on the calendar, there are restaurant chains with free eats for you. For example, you can get a free sub at Jersey Mike’s and a free burger at Red Robin — no purchase necessary.
3. Streaming video
Nowadays, families may pay for premium channels such as HBO, sports subscriptions like NFL Sunday Ticket or streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix. But there are places where you can stream movies and TV shows online for free.
4. Credit scores
Yes, there are ways to get not just your credit report but also your credit score for free. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a good summary of options: You might learn your credit score for free via your credit card company, for example.
5. Cloud storage
If you look in the right place, you will find free online file storage, aka cloud storage. We break down options in “10 Places to Get Free Online File Storage.”
Many libraries offer e-books for download — although just as with paper books, you can only keep them for a limited time.
You know libraries have print magazines available, but check your local branch’s website and you may find free digital access to magazines, too.
Amazon Prime members can read magazines and comics online, and many are free through a feature called Prime Reading.
Museums want visitors. And many of them offer free admission on certain days or to certain groups of people, as we detail in “5 Ways to Visit Top Museums Across America for Free.”
And every year, the National Park Service offers free admission to these protected federal lands and on certain days scattered throughout the year. Here’s the list for 2020.
9. Antivirus software
PCMag awarded its Editor’s Choice honor for 2020 to Avast Free Antivirus and Kaspersky Security Cloud Free.
Macworld points out that while Macs may be attacked less often than PCs, they need antivirus protection, too. That publication chooses Avast Free Mac Security as the best free antivirus software for Macs.
Elite Ivy League universities — yes, even Harvard — offer free online courses you can audit. Also inquire at your own local library, which may offer online classes via LinkedIn Learning or another resource that would otherwise cost you.
11. Checked luggage
As if travel isn’t pricey enough these days, now many airlines charge for checked baggage. But there are ways to avoid paying that fee.
Fly Southwest Airlines, which lets each passenger check two bags for free. Also, consider an airline credit card, which often allows cardholders, and maybe even a companion, a free checked bag. And if you can pack what you need in a small enough bag, you can take it on board with you as a carry-on, which is usually free.
Pianos can cost thousands of dollars new. But if you or someone in your family is itching to play, don’t sweat the sticker price. Here’s the musical secret: Many people need a piano for only a very short time — say, the grade school years when a child is taking lessons.
At any time of the year, people who have passed through the piano years are looking to get this large, heavy object out of their home — so much so that they’ll offer it free. Check Facebook Marketplace or the free section of Craigslist — but be warned, you’ll need a strategy to get that piano moved. It won’t just fit in a Honda Civic.
What are your favorite freebies? Share your tips in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
Earn money when you shop — plus a free $10 bonus
Earn extra money by using Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) — a site where you can earn up to 40% cash back at more than 2,500 stores. As a bonus for joining Rakuten, you'll earn $10 when you spend at least $25 within the first 90 days. Start earning cash back and claim a free $10 bonus today.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.