21 things you can get for free(Read article summary)
One of the best ways to become richer is to stop paying for things you could be getting for free. Here are 21, from cars to software.
Here are onlyÂ two ways to become richer â€“ make more or spend less.
There are a few ways to make more, fromÂ getting a raiseÂ to findingÂ weird ways to make extra money. And there are tons of ways to spend less. One of the best? Stop paying for things you could get free.
1. Free cars
Many people want their cars moved from place to place, but donâ€™t want to do the driving. Sometimes these cars are delivered by truck, but often theyâ€™re driven â€“ by people like you. If you have a clean driving record, a car delivery company likeÂ AutoDriveawayÂ mightÂ hook you up.
I did car delivery a few times when I was in college â€“ itâ€™s a great way to get where youâ€™re going.Â Itâ€™s best if youâ€™reÂ flexible about when you leave,Â return, and perhaps even where you go. You still have to pay for gas, and the trip homeÂ can be problematic. IÂ used to hitchhike,Â but smarter choices today would beÂ bus, plane, or waiting at the other end for another drive-away car.
For more, seeÂ How to Drive Across the CountryÂ Free.
2. Free lodging
Why stay in a hotel when the nonprofitÂ Couchsurfing.orgÂ offers tourists a chance to stay at homes for free? Make friends with sponsoring families throughout the United States and countries ranging from Croatia to France. You have to set up a profile on the CouchSurfing website, which provides tips on how to find families willing to open their homes to you. Obviously, the digs wonâ€™t be fancy, but theyâ€™ll be free.
Another way to get free lodging is to home-swap. Check outÂ Best Price for a Hotel Room? $0.
3. Free audio books
Now you can find out for free the fate of Pip in Charles Dickensâ€™ â€śGreat Expectationsâ€ť or Elizabeth in â€śPride and Prejudiceâ€ť as you drive or jog. Download free audio books from the nonprofitÂ LibriVox.org, which has volunteers recording classics in the public domain â€“ including many Shakespeare plays. You can also volunteer to help by reading. LibriVox will even provide you with free recording software.
4. Free food
Thereâ€™s at least one day every year when you shouldnâ€™tÂ think of paying for a meal.Â Frugal Living has aÂ list of hundreds of businesses that offer birthday freebies, most of which are food.Â For a free libation at your favorite pub, do what I do: Loudly proclaim itâ€™s your birthday and demand that everyone within earshot pick up the next round.
5. Free food for kids
Donâ€™t go to another restaurant that doesnâ€™t feed your kids for free.Â MyKidsEatFree.comÂ offers a roadmap of where you can save on kidsâ€™ meals â€“ just type in a state and city. Youâ€™ll pay but your kids wonâ€™t at more than 5,000 restaurants across the country.
6. Free samples
Before you go to the drugstoreÂ and shell out silly sums for travel sizes of your favorite toiletries, go toÂ Volition.comÂ or one of many other websites that offer free samples. In addition to soap, shampoo, etc., you might find all manner of interesting things. For example, weâ€™ve spotted circus tickets, a free diet analysis, and free advance movie screenings. Other free mega-sites includeÂ TheFreeSite.comÂ andÂ freechannel.net.
7. Free TV
Despite that more than 100 million Americans shell out anÂ average of $75Â every month for satellite or cable TV, local channels are stillÂ free. AndÂ thanks to digital signals, reception is better thanÂ ever. Need more programming without the big cable bill? No problem. Check outÂ You Donâ€™t Have to Pay for Cable TV.
8. Free software
You can get free software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and other uses by going toÂ OpenOffice.org. And thatâ€™s the tip of the iceberg. No matter what kind of software you want, you can probably find it free.Â Check outÂ 5 Best Free Software Programs.
9. Free anti-virus
This one could go under â€śfree software,â€ť but itâ€™s important enough to warrant its own spot on the list. Check outÂ Antivirus Software is a Waste of MoneyÂ for more.
10. Free speech
Make your voice heard around the world with your own blog. Many companies will help you set up your own site at no charge, such asÂ WordPressÂ orÂ Blogger. Theyâ€™ll even give you free, easy instructions and a choice of blog templates.
11. Free foreign language lessons
The BBCÂ is on the other side of the pond, but it offers aÂ free 12-week classÂ to learn French, Spanish, Italian, or German, gratis. Youâ€™ll even get a certificate at the completion of the course. BBC also offers other audio and video courses in the four languages â€“ as well as help in learning more exotic languages such as Chinese, Russian, and Greek.
12. Free checking
According toÂ The Wall Street Journal,Â the average minimum checking account balance required toÂ avoid a monthly fee at U.S. banks isÂ $723 â€“ and the average monthly fee is $5.48.
But banks arenâ€™t the only game in town. While not all offer free checking, the prospect of lower fees is one ofÂ reasons You Should Join a Credit Union.
Another option is online-only banks. Without the overhead of brick-and-mortar branches, the terms are often much better.Â
Too much hassle to leave your bank? Threaten to and see if you can have fees reduced or eliminated.
13. Free credit reports and scores
Donâ€™t ever pay for a copy of your credit report. Instead,Â go toÂ AnnualCreditReport.comÂ for a free look at your credit history once a year.
When it comes to free credit scores, you can turn to sites likeÂ Credit KarmaÂ orÂ Credit Sesame, although they wonâ€™t give you the most widely used score, the FICO score. For that, you could try enrolling in a FICOÂ product thatÂ comes with a free score, then cancelling within the cancellation period.Â
14. Free cash
Tired of payingÂ a $2.50 â€śconvenience feeâ€ť for using an ATM thatâ€™s not in your bankâ€™sÂ network?Â Use an app likeÂ ATM HunterÂ to find a branch ATM. If you canâ€™t find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back with no fee when you make a purchase.
15. Free information
Use the search feature on your smartphone, orÂ text a business name to G-O-O-G-L-E, and youâ€™ll get the number texted back. You can also dialÂ free 411Â (1-800-Free411). The results are sponsored by companies (youâ€™ll have to listen to a 10-second ad), but itâ€™s free.
16. Free scholarship search
Plenty of websites offer free searches for scholarships, such asÂ Fastweb. Thereâ€™s even a company calledÂ Free Scholarship SearchesÂ that offers links to 40 websites that offer free scholarship searches.
17. Free baggage
My wife and I went to Europe for 10 days with just one carry-on each. If we can do it, so can you. But if you insist on checking a bag, try to fly with the only two airlines that allowÂ one free checked bag:Â Southwest andÂ JetBlue. And avoid the two that slap consumers in the face byÂ charging forÂ carry-ons:Â Spirit and Allegiant.
Need to check and need to fly an airline that charges? Delta, United, and American all offerÂ credit cardsÂ that include checked-bag fee waivers for cardholders and, in some cases, their companions.
18. Free entertainment
As we point out inÂ 19 Tips to Save on Entertainment, your local library,Â parks, and universitiesÂ offer lots of free fun, from books to plays to concerts. Join email lists to see whatâ€™s up. And of course, thereâ€™s the Internet, offering free games as well as articles. Just go to the website of your favorite news source.
Volunteering doesnâ€™t cost a dime and can pay off for both you and your community. Local animal shelters, home-building groups, shelters, and food banks are always looking for volunteers. And check out volunteer opportunities at local festivals and events. By volunteering, you get to go to the event free.
19. Free water
While technically not free, tap water is about as close as you can get. If youâ€™re concerned about water quality, buy a filter. But donâ€™t ever pay for water at a convenience store.
20. Free telephone calls
Always calling a loved one long-distance? If you both get something likeÂ Skype, you can talk all you want without paying a dime.Â And with a service like Google Voice, you can get all of your cell phone calls free too.
21. Free everything else
You have something you donâ€™t want, but itâ€™s too valuable to throw away. You might donate it to charity, but you also might give it away at sites likeÂ CraigslistÂ orÂ Freecycle, a nonprofit set up to help you find free stuff and keep it out of landfills. From used furniture to sport equipment, youâ€™ll be amazed at what people give away.
Bottom line? While the best things in life are always free, so is lots of other stuff.Â If you want to find some extra money in your budget, stop paying for things you could have for nothing.
Stacy Johnson is the founder and CEO ofÂ Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.