Fabulous Freebies 2014
There’s only one thing better than getting a good price on something, and that’s getting it for free.
Our list of 68 freebies is packed with more something-for-nothing deals than ever. We don’t allow any useless junk on our list, only quality goods and services that you would happily pay good money for (or perhaps you already are). From free investing and financial services to free technology and entertainment, there’s something here for everyone.
Go ahead. Put away your wallet. We insist!
Free Perks for Your Pooch
Caring for Fido can be expensive, but there are plenty of free goods and services dog owners should take advantage of to save money. For example, some restaurants offer free treats to dogs during happy hour. And some hotels, such as Red Roof Inns and the Kimpton hotels, don’t charge extra for pets. For more, see Freebies for Your Dog.
Free Samples and Products
You can score everything from small tubes of toothpaste, bottles of shampoo, mouthwash and deodorant to books, magazines, food and clothing. One of the easiest ways to find free samples and products is to visit blogs and sites that cull freebie offers from a variety of sources, such as Hey, It’s Free! and Mr. Free Stuff. Manufacturers such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Procter & Gamble regularly offer a limited supply of samples and full-sized products. (Beware offers that require you to pay for shipping.) And follow your favorite brands, companies or retailers on Facebook and Twitter to hear about freebies first-hand.
You can actually get a free college education at a handful of schools. For example, Berea College, in Berea, Ky., provides all students a four-year tuition scholarship that amounts to nearly $100,000. Alice Lloyd College -- another Kentucky school -- doesn’t require students from a 108-county area in Central Appalachia to pay tuition, but it does require them to work ten hours a week to offset the cost of their education. College of the Ozarks in Missouri requires students to participate in a work program rather than pay tuition. See our College Rankings special report for more universities that offer academic excellence at a good price.
Free Money for Grad School
If you want to get an advanced degree, there’s a chance your employer might help you pay for it. Half of the companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management for its 2014 report on employee benefits said they offer graduate educational assistance (54% offer undergraduate assistance). On average, employers offer a maximum reimbursement of $4,591 for tuition and education expenses.
Typically, employers that help employees pay for grad school require that they maintain a certain grade level and remain employed with the company for a period of time after completing a degree program.
Avoid hotel fees altogether by house swapping or house sitting, couchsurfing, or even farming.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) allows travelers to stay and eat free on an organic farm in America or overseas in exchange for a few hours’ help each day. In the U.S. alone, there are 1,675 host farms and 15,000 registered volunteers, who must pay a subscription fee of $30 (fees vary depending on the country in which you want to volunteer). Similarly, engaging in a house sit or exchange allows you to stay in homes all over the world for just the cost of a membership.
More adventurous types can arrange to sleep on a local’s couch (or guest bed) for free through Couchsurfing.org. Just create an online profile, and look for places to stay in your destination. Be sure to use the various screens and safety features Couchsurfing offers, such as verified reviews and references, messaging systems to communicate with potential hosts and secure payment options (such as holding funds until you have had a chance to inspect the property).
Free Video Games
New video games cost about $60 when they hit retailers’ shelves. And even used games can be pricey. However, you can get your gaming fix for free. Score a free game rental every month from Redbox by texting “GAMETIME” to Redbox at 727272. Redbox rental kiosks can be found in nearly 40,000 locations in every state.
Free Document Shredding
Don’t own a shredder, or don’t want to clog yours up shredding a stack of papers a mile high? Local governments, police departments and solid-waste agencies in at least 23 states offer free shredding events once or several times a year to help residents keep documents with personal information out of the hands of identity thieves. Shredding companies such as Shred-it and Cintas also organize free shredding events in cities where they have a presence.
Free Credit Score and Monitoring
Credit scores measure your creditworthiness. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate will be on a loan. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your credit score, especially if you plan to apply for a loan or credit card soon. At Credit.com, you can view your “credit report card,” updated monthly, to track various types of credit scores free. See How to Get a Free FICO Score for more information on seeing the score commonly used by lenders.
You don’t have to pay $15 or more a month for credit monitoring because two Web sites do it free. Credit Sesame will monitor your Experian credit report daily and will send you an e-mail alert about changes to your report, such as a new line of credit opened in your name. Credit Karma tracks your TransUnion credit report daily and notifies you of any significant changes. If something unusual appears on either report, you can get your credit report free from credit bureau Equifax through AnnualCreditReport.com (if you haven’t ordered one in the past year).
Free Auto Services
Auto service chain Pep Boys offers eight free services, including tire repair, tire rotation and brake inspection. No purchase is necessary to take advantage of any of the services.
If you’re buying a new car, consider the value of free maintenance programs offered by various automakers. New cars typically don’t require a lot of upkeep, so a nonluxury brand, such as General Motors, Toyota or Volkswagen, with a free maintenance program might not offer you a lot of savings and shouldn’t sway your purchasing decision. But free maintenance on a luxury brand, such as BMW, Cadillac or Volvo, can save you a lot because service costs are much higher than they are for nonluxury brands. See The Value of Free Maintenance Offers on New Cars.
Free Preventive Care
As part of the new health care law, most health plans now must provide a variety of preventive-care benefits free -- even if you haven’t met your plan's deductible for the year. Among the benefits that are fully covered: screenings for high blood pressure, mammograms for women older than 40, and routine vaccinations for children, as well as a long list of other tests and services. See the preventive-care page at Healthcare.gov for a full list of these preventive services and eligibility requirements.
Some utility companies offer customers free trees to help reduce energy use through strategic planting, so check with yours to see if it offers such a program. Local governments and conservation districts also give away seedlings on Arbor Day or during other events. For example, West Sacramento, Cal., gives residents up to two free 15-gallon trees a year if they attend a workshop on tree planting and care.
Many cities, counties and utility companies also offer residents free mulch, made from recycled leaves or wood from tree trimmings and tree removals, if you pick it up.
Run by so-called urban foragers, FallingFruit.org has an interactive map that shows where you can harvest your own fruit -- as well as herbs, nuts and vegetables -- from trees and plants that grow mostly on public lands. You can sort by location or fruit type. Then you can drill down to individual locations to see what type of fruit grows there, when it’s in season, and whether it’s on public or private land. You also can see reviews by other foragers and a street view image courtesy of Google.
National auto-parts retailers, such as Pep Boys, Advanced Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts and AutoZone, let you borrow expensive-to-own, specialty tools to repair your car. You’ll have to pay a deposit (which varies depending on the tool), but you’ll get it back when you return the tool.
Several cities also have tool lending libraries that let residents borrow tools -- from plumbing tools to circular saws to demolition hammers and more -- free. Check this list to see if there’s one near you, but note that some of these libraries require a membership fee.
Free Food at Restaurants
Your favorite snack shop or fast-food restaurant may have an annual freebie day. And some places offer freebies on certain holidays or special days, such as tax day, Mother's Day and Veterans Day. Here's a list of what to expect throughout the year:
-- Free pancakes from IHOP on National Pancake Day in March
-- A free Rita’s Italian Ice in March
-- Free Arby's fries, California Tortilla chips and queso and Cinnabon Bites on tax day in April
-- A free Haagen-Dazs ice cream and free treats for moms on Mother's Day from restaurants such as McCormick & Schmick's in May
-- A free doughnut from Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, LaMar's and Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop for National Donut Day in June
-- A free 7-Eleven slurpee on 7/11 and a Chick Fil-A meal in July
-- Free meals for veterans at Applebee's, Chili's, Golden Corral, Lone Star Steakhouse and more restaurants on Veterans Day in November
Check with your favorite establishment to see if it offers any freebies throughout the year.
Free Hotel Stays
If you tend to stay at one hotel chain’s properties more than others, sign up for its loyalty program to rack up points for your stays and earn free nights. For example, Hilton HHonors members earn 10 points for each dollar spent on room rates and other eligible room charges. Earn a free night’s stay with 5,000 accumulated points.
There are other ways to score free hotel stays. Stash Hotel Rewards offers members who stay at any of the nearly 200 participating inns, resorts and boutique hotels the ability to earn points for free nights. And with the Hotels.com Welcome Rewards program, you can earn a free night after booking ten nights through the site.
Or get a hotel-branded credit card to earn points toward free stays every time you make a purchase. Just watch out for cards with annual fees, and make sure you pay off your balance each month so you don’t incur interest charges. See Hotel Rewards Cards That Pay for more information.
Sign up for airlines’ frequent-flier programs to accumulate points toward free flights and other goodies. See the Program Profiles at FrequentFlier.com for the lowdown on each airline’s rules. Or consider getting a credit card affiliated with the airline you use most frequently to earn points toward free flights. See our picks for the six top airline rewards cards.
Free Computer Security
You don’t have to pay $50 or more a year for security software. You can download a free anti-virus tool, such as Avast, and a free anti-malware tool, such as Malwarebytes, says Mark McCurley, senior information security advisor for Identity Theft 911. Don't get hung up on the distinction between a virus and malware; a virus is simply a type of malware. However, different anti-virus and anti-malware tools will protect against different known threats, so downloading both is a prudent step, he says.
Free Ice Cream
Several ice cream -- and frozen yogurt -- shops offer freebies throughout the year. Some require you to join a club and sign up for e-mail alerts, but others simply give it away. For example, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream offers free mini ice cream cones to children shorter than 40 inches. You can join Dairy Queen’s Blizzard Fan Club to get a buy-one, get-one-free Blizzard coupon. And Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops have a Free Cone Day each year in the spring -- usually April. See How to Get Free Ice Cream for more.
Free Language Lessons
Prepare for your international getaway with the free foreign language lessons online at FSI-language-courses.org. Or go to Openculture.com for a list of lessons around the Web that you can download to your MP3 player. Your public library may also offer courses or software to help you prepare for your travels.
Free Stuff on the Road
Traveling is expensive enough. Don’t get nickel-and-dimed at every step of the way. Stay at hotels that offer free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free fitness facilities, free parking, and other perks. Priceline.com maintains a searchable database of hotel freebies.
Traveling with kids? You deserve even more freebies. Children under age 2 can fly any airline or ride Amtrak free of charge when they sit on a paying adult’s lap. Also, watch for kids-fly-free, kids-cruise-free and kids-ski-free promotions, and ask the cruise or resort in advance about free supervised kid programs so you can have some much-needed grown-up time.
Free Price Watcher
Don’t you hate it when you pay for a flight, and then the price drops? Enlist the help of Yapta.com, which tracks your flight’s price after you buy your ticket. If the fare drops, it will notify you and help you collect a refund or travel vouchers from the airline. (Note: Yapta only kicks in if the price drop exceeds the ticket-change fee you’d be obligated to pay.) Yapta does the same for hotels too. Tingo automatically rebooks your room at the lower rate if the hotel drops its price. Then you'll get a refund for the difference. For rental cars, try AutoSlash.com.
Free Tour Guides
To get a real feel for a city when you’re traveling, team up with a local. The Global Greeter Network organizes volunteers in several cities worldwide to show you around, give you the inside scoop and answer your questions. Tours can last a couple hours, and there’s a strict no-tipping policy.
Prefer to explore at your own pace? Browse the free audio walking tours available for download at iTunes.com, Audisseyguides.com and iAudioguide.com. You can also search the Web for walking tours of your destination. In our simple search, we found free audio tour downloads from Boston and Chicago to Dublin and Jerusalem.
Free Credit-Card Perks
By simply carrying a credit card, you may be entitled to some cool travel freebies. For example, most credit cards come with free rental-car insurance, and some cards will cover the cost of your vacation if you have to cancel your trip. Call your card issuer to find out what perks you qualify for.
International travelers can get slammed with a 3% currency conversion fee every time they charge their credit cards, or withdraw money from an ATM overseas. Bypass the fee with a Capital One or Discover credit card.
SEE ALSO: 9 Overlooked Credit Card Perks
For many basic computing needs, you can get free software rather than shelling out for the Microsoft Office Home & Student suite ($139.99), Quicken Deluxe for budgeting ($64.99), Adobe Photoshop Elements for photo editing ($99.99) and other popular programs.
For word processing, spreadsheets and multimedia presentations, try Google Docs. To manage finances, we like the free budgeting program at Mint.com. And for photo and video editing, try Picasa or Pixlr.
Don’t sweat enrollment fees and gym memberships. It doesn’t cost a penny to put on your sneakers and go for a walk or jog in your neighborhood, or to join a pick-up game of basketball at your local park. To encourage public health, more communities are installing free outdoor gyms for adults at public parks. Residents of Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Antonio and others can use free equipment for strength training, flexibility and cardio workouts.
Prefer to work out at home? Check out a fitness DVD from your local library.
Or with companions and instructors? You may be able to find free fitness classes taught by experts in your area. For instance, Lululemon Athletica stores offer free yoga classes weekly. Many communities host free workouts in public parks or libraries, too. For instance, we found free yoga classes in Miami, New York and Los Angeles; free tai chi sessions in San Francisco, Omaha and Washington, D.C.; free Zumba classes in Chicago; and more.
Free Diet and Fitness Help
Need help sticking to a diet and exercise plan? At Fatsecret.com, MyFitnessPal.com and SparkPeople.com, you can craft meal plans and count calories, put together a fitness plan and track your progress, and get support and advice from other users.
Some employers offer free diet and fitness help to their employees. These programs may include free gym access, weight-loss support groups and smoking cessation programs. Some will even pay you for your progress. Ask if your workplace has a wellness plan.
Free Flight Perks
Domestic airlines are stingy with giveaways. But some airlines still offer a few freebies for fliers. One of our favorites: Southwest lets you check two bags for free -- which can save you up to $120 on a round-trip flight. JetBlue lets you check one bag free, plus gives you access to free TV, satellite radio and all-you-can-eat snacks.
Free Rx Drugs
Bring in your prescriptions and you can get some antibiotics free at several pharmacies, including those at Giant Eagle, Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix and Schnucks. You can also get free prenatal vitamins at Meijer, Shoprite and Schnucks. Meijer, Publix, Price Chopper and ShopRite stores give out free diabetes medications and supplies. See How to Get Free Prescription Drugs for more information.
Free Unlimited Texting
Save money on your cell phone plan by using a free texting service such as Textfree. It assigns you a free phone number through which you can send and receive texts as much as you want on your Android devices, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
SEE ALSO: Smart Ways to Save on Smart-Phone Plans
Free Investing Apps
Stay up-to-date on the financial markets with free apps on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android. Some of our favorites: Bloomberg for up-to-the-minute stock quotes and breaking news, Morningstar for mutual fund research at your fingertips, and Yahoo Finance for the latest financial headlines, stock news and videos.
Free Capital Gains
Who wouldn’t love to let their investments grow 100% tax-free? Take a pass on paying capital-gains taxes by investing in a Roth IRA. Any money you put into your Roth grows tax-free, and you won’t owe Uncle Sam a dime when you cash out in retirement. It’s all yours. Learn more.
Free ETF Trades
Here’s a great commission rate on exchange-traded funds: $0. Several big brokerages, including Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Vanguard have free commissions on some of their ETFs, meaning you don’t have to pay anything extra when you buy or sell.
Free Savings Bonds
Before you make any purchase online, consider making BondRewards.com your starting line. You click on an affiliated e-tailer (there are hundreds) to do your shopping as usual, and a percentage of your purchase is given back to you in your BondRewards account. You then redeem your rewards for U.S. savings bonds or cash.
Free Portfolio Checkup
Are your investments as diversified as you think they are? You needn’t pay a financial planner to evaluate your holdings. Simply use Morningstar.com’s Instant X-Ray tool to check for balance among stock sectors, investment styles, geographic regions and more.
Free Financial Guidance
Prosper from the actionable, straightforward guidance found across Kiplinger.com and our related social-media platforms. Learn how to cut your tax bill, maximize returns on your investments, save more for retirement, plug insurance leaks, get the best banking and credit deals, and so much more.
If you love to shop online but hate to pay for shipping, go to FreeShipping.org. The site can direct you to retailers who offer free shipping on every order, big or small. The site also gives you coupon codes to snag free shipping at other retailers.
Free Travel Apps
Several free mobile applications can help you save time and money when you travel by car. For example, GasBuddy helps you find the cheapest gas prices near you. Waze provides real-time traffic information contributed by users, so you can find the best route and avoid backups (so you don’t waste gas). You also can use Waze to find the cheapest gas station along your route. Yelp is great for finding restaurants, shops, attractions and more because it provides reviews, star ratings and directions to help you get to the place you want to go. And the Last Minute Travel app offers travelers access to wholesale prices for hotels in more than 150 countries and discounts on theme parks, sporting events and similar activities.
Free Kids Meals
Don’t you hate buying a $12 entrée for a picky 6-year-old? Visit KidsMealDeals.com to find restaurants where kids eat free. Better yet, call your local eateries or connect with them on Facebook to find out if they offer kids’ deals. Some do but don’t advertise them, so it’s worth asking.
Free Sales Tax
The chance to make purchases free of sales tax isn’t technically a something-for-nothing deal, but it’s definitely a money-saving opportunity you don’t want to pass up. Sixteen states have sales-tax holidays in July or August that allow consumers to make noncommercial purchases of back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies, tax-free.
Six states exempt purchases of Energy Star products on certain days of the year. And three coastal states have sales-tax holidays for hurricane preparedness items. See a complete list of sales tax holidays from the Federation of Tax Administrators.
Free Grocery-Shopping Assistance
Free mobile apps can help you save money at the supermarket. For example, ZipList lets you organize your shopping lists, recipes and grocery deals in one place. You can create your shopping list online and access on your phone while you're shopping. Favado automatically matches coupons with items on your shopping list (you can load the coupons to your store’s loyalty card or print them). It also lets you easily compare sales and prices across a range of supermarkets, drugstores and big-box retailers -- including Whole Foods, Sprouts and Trader Joe's -- to find the best deals on items you regularly buy. You'll also be notified when items on your favorites list go on sale at stores in your area.
Free Shopping Apps
Are your key ring and wallet getting crowded? Use the free Key Ring app to store all of your bar-coded loyalty, membership and library cards on your phone. You simply scan your phone at the point of service. Online shoppers can stay organized with Slice, which tracks packages and notifies you of price drops on items you already bought so you can recoup the difference from the merchant.
To help you get the best price, use apps such as Red Laser or ShopSavvy, which scan any bar code in the store and instantly compare prices for the same item online. For in-store coupons, try Coupon Sherpa or RetailMeNot.
Free Credit Report
Your credit report can impact your interest and insurance rates as well as your ability to land a job or apartment, so it pays to make sure it’s accurate. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, no strings attached. You also can get your full TransUnion credit report free at any time from Credit Karma, and a free Equifax credit report every six months from Quizzle.com. See Get a Free Credit Report More Than Once a Year for more information.
Free Financial Apps
There’s a slew of free apps for your mobile phone that can simplify your financial tasks. Among our favorites are apps from Mint to track your spending and investments, Allpoint and Moneypass to find surcharge-free ATMs nearby, Expensify to automatically compile receipts for your business expense report, and Venmo or Paypal to instantly pay your friend back for dinner before you even leave the table.
Most banks also have free mobile banking apps that allow you to check your balance, transfer funds and make deposits on the fly. To learn more, see Why You Should Try Your Bank’s Mobile App.
Free Retirement Planning
A free tool at Fidelity.com enables everyone, not just Fidelity customers, to estimate future retirement expenses and income. It recommends appropriate investment strategies to generate steady income (with or without using annuities) and provide growth to keep pace with inflation.
This freebie is getting harder to find without having to jump through a lot of hoops. For the best free checking accounts, look to online banks such as Ally Bank and Bank of Internet USA. They give you free ATM access and free online bill-paying, plus you earn free interest (free money!) on your deposits as well. Or check with community banks and credit unions, which you can find at culookup.com or Kasasa.com.
SEE ALSO: What to Look for in a Checking Account
You have to buy groceries and gas anyway, so why not use those purchases to get a little more green in your wallet? Sign up for a rewards credit card and get free money, gift certificates, airline miles or other perks. (Of course, it's only free if you pay the balance in full each month without incurring interest charges.)
You can get even more free cash when you shop online by starting at rebate portal sites such as BeFrugal.com, Ebates, Extrabux and FatWallet.com. You select a retailer from their lists, and they pay you back a percentage of your purchase price (typically between 1% and 10%).
SEE ALSO: Best Cash-Back Rewards Cards
Free Legal Advice
Nolo.com has been Kiplinger's go-to source for legal information for a long time, and it's still the best. The Web site is packed with free advice on a wide range of legal issues, such as estate planning, buying or selling real estate, managing a business and more. Nolo is authoritative, yet clearly explains when your situation calls for hiring a lawyer.
Free Tax Software and Guidance
Preparing your income taxes doesn’t have to cost a lot. Check out the IRS’s Free File program. If your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less, you qualify for free tax-prep software and filing. If you make more money than that, you can still file for free, but you don’t get the free software.
Have a tax question? Call the free IRS help line at 800-829-1040. Many communities also offer free face-to-face help during tax-filing season, with volunteers at public libraries and community centers. See the IRS’s list of free tax return preparation resources for details.
Free Birthday Treats
A number of eateries offer birthday freebies to customers who sign up for their e-mail lists of join their "clubs." For example, you can get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday if you sign up for the Baskin-Robbins Birthday Club. You can get a free burger on your birthday if you join Ruby Tuesday's So Connected program. For more, see 10 Great Birthday Freebies.
You can also sign up to score free food on your birthday from a number of eateries, including Cold Stone Creamery, Denny’s and Famous Dave’s BBQ. Search the web for “birthday freebies,” or call your local restaurants to ask whether they offer a deal.
Free Books, Movies, Music and More
Your public library is a freebies Mecca. Most offer books, magazines, audiobooks, e-books, video games, CDs and DVDs for free (as long as you return them on time, of course). Your library may also host free activities such as book clubs, lectures, film screenings, children’s story hours and craft activities.
Grab your pole and hang a "Gone Fishin’" sign on the door. Most states have free fishing days when you can fish without a license, saving you about $7 to $30, depending on your location. You’ll find a list of states and dates at TakeMeFishing.org, or check with your local fish and wildlife agency for details.
Many locales let kids fish for free year-round. The age cutoff varies by state but is usually in the teens.
Free Movies and TV
Movie tickets, cable TV, Netflix and TiVo subscriptions can add up. Yet there are several free options to get your couch potato fix. Watch free movies and TV series online at Hulu.com and Crackle.com (check out the Crackle app for your phone). Or, head to the TV networks’ Web sites. If you sign up for text alerts from movie rental service Redbox, you’ll get a promo code each month for a free rental. And Redbox occasionally sends special offers to customers who sign up to receive emails.
You can catch free movies on the big screen, too. Many communities nationwide show free outdoor movies in the summer. Plus, your kids can catch free family films throughout the summer at several theaters, including Bow Tie Cinemas, Marquee, and Muvico.
Free Museums and Parks
Many top-notch museums, galleries and zoos offer free admission year-round, including the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Others, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, let you in for free on certain days of the week or month.
Bank of America cardholders can gain free admission to more than 150 museums on the first full weekend of every month.
Our national parks boast some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and some don’t charge entrance fees, including the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway. Plus, on several days throughout the year, you can get in free to all national parks that usually charge admission. Here’s the free-admission schedule.
At Gutenberg.org or the University of Pennsylvania online books page, you won’t pay a cent to legally download thousands of books whose copyrights have expired, including War and Peace, Moby Dick and Little Women. You can also search for free e-books at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and iTunes.com.
For newer titles, check out your public library. Or join a free online lending community such as ebookfling. You list your Kindle and Nook ebooks on the site (the publisher has to have chosen to enabled the title for lending), then you swap ebooks with other members. Borrowers have 14 days to read the book.
If you love to read but don’t have the time, download free audiobooks legally from Librophile.com and BooksShouldBeFree.com. You can listen on your computer or MP3 player while you sit in traffic, fold laundry, exercise or simply relax. The sites offer up classic books whose copyrights have expired, including works from Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, Ayn Rand and more. They also have children’s titles, such as The Three Little Pigs and The Secret Garden.
To get newer audiobook titles for free, check out your public library.
Free Concerts and Performances
A great way to see performances for free is to volunteer as an usher at a local theater. Call the theater manager to find out how to sign up.
If you can’t commit to a long-term volunteer gig, take advantage of the occasional free concerts that some performing arts centers hold. For example, the Kennedy Center in Washington hosts a free concert every evening. Even if you can't make it to D.C., many of the concerts are viewable online. And communities across the country have free lunchtime and evening concerts in the park during summer months. Check the Web site of your local government or downtown development district for details.
You needn’t pay a small fortune to see world-class athletes in action. Get an up-close look at your favorite baseball and football teams in action during spring training for Major League Baseball and summer training camps for the National Football League.
You can also watch Olympic athletes train in Park City, Utah, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Chula Vista, Cal., for free.
Want to learn something new in your spare time? Many local retailers offer free workshops. For instance, improve your culinary skills at Williams-Sonoma’s free technique classes. At REI take a free clinic on bike maintenance, backpacking, camp cooking and more. Apple, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Michaels stores offer free classes for adults and kids. Check your local library, too. We’ve seen hands-on workshops for computers, chess, knitting and more. Or check out a book or DVD on a topic that interests you, such as origami, pilates or international cooking.
In an effort to lure you inside, more restaurants and retailers are offering free Wi-Fi, including Starbucks, McDonald’s and Barnes & Noble. Some public libraries, campgrounds and hotels offer this freebie too. Go to WiFiFreeSpot.com to find places to surf when you’re away from home. Or download the Free Wi-Fi Finder app at iTunes.
Free Money for Tuition
Put a dent in that tuition bill by searching for scholarships at FastWeb.com, or apply for one of the grants handed out by the federal government. Several states also award grants which don’t have to be repaid. Contact your state’s department of higher education to learn more.
Many colleges and universities post course material and lectures on their Web sites, including Johns Hopkins, University of Notre Dame and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Saylor.org compiles open coursework from top-notch universities into more than 200 classes and awards certificates upon completion.
You can also go to Apple’s iTunes U to access more than 250,000 free lectures, videos and other materials from 600 universities, including Oxford, Stanford and Yale.
Free Digital Storage Space
With free online backup storage, you can share files and protect them from computer crashes, theft and natural disaster. Windows OneDrive gives you 15 gigabytes of free, secure digital storage space. You can also use Amazon Cloud Drive (5 GB free) or Dropbox (2 GB free).
Free Education Apps
Like it or not, kids and technology are drawn to each other. So why not use that magnetic power for good? For elementary-age kids, check out the iTooch app for math, science and language arts activities, the MeeGenius app for reading, and the free PBS Kids apps for educational games and videos. For middle schoolers, try the Blanks app for vocabulary, and Khan Academy app for math and science videos.
Free Résumé Help
Whether you’re applying for an internship, searching for your first job out of college or polishing a seasoned résumé, you can get free help with your job hunt. Stop by a One Stop Career Center (a service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor) in your area. Trained staff can help you with resume writing, interviewing skills and online job searching techniques. The centers also offer job training programs, or they can arrange on-the-job training and apprenticeships with local employers.
You can also watch for workshops at your local library, community center or college.
Free Passport Photos
You’ll pay about $15 at the post office to get your picture taken for your passport. Instead, take your photo with your own digital camera, then upload it to ePassportPhoto.com, which will help you size it properly before printing on your home printer. The best part: You can redo your picture as many times as you like. After all, who wants to get stuck with a bad photo for the next ten years?
Free Computer Classes
Brush up on your computer skills at your public library, which may offer a variety of free computer and technology classes. Some common courses include Internet and email basics, spreadsheet and word processing, digital photography and image editing, and family history research. For instance, New Yorkers looking for even more free tech guidance for their personal computers can attend the hands-on PC Maintenance workshop at The New York Public Library -- one of more than 25,000 free programs offered at the Library’s branches across the city.
To limit your landline costs or avoid using precious minutes on your mobile-phone plan, use a free calling service such as Skype, Viber or Vonage Mobile. All three allow you to make free calls to other users of these services. Skype and Viber can be installed on mobile phones and computers. Vonage Mobile is available only for iPhone and Android users. For more information, see How to Make Free Calls.