It’s Freebie Friday! In celebration, today we’re running part 1 of a special series from Kiplinger Magazine and featured on kiplinger.com. So read on for the first 20 of 70, yes 70, ways to get free stuff from food to a free college education. Enjoy!
By: Cameron Huddleston, August 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.
Free Perks for Your Pet – 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.
Free Tuition – 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.
(Freebham Editor’s Note: As noted above, definitely check with your employer for opportunities. One example is from regional department store operator Belk, which has teamed with the National Retail Federation and the University of Phoenix to offer a competition for 20 of their employees interested in furthering their retail education and career to receive a full-ride scholarship, even if that means going from a bachelors degree to a doctorate.)
Free Lodging – 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 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 Preventative 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.
Free Trees – 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.
Free Fruit – 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.
Free Tools – 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.
(Freebham Editor’s Note: For more information on ways to get free food at restaurants, click on the “Eat” tab on our home page for a listing of places nationwide that have special offers such as club and birthday perks.)
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.
Free Flights – 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.