Smart Buying


Fabulous Freebies 2012

INVESTING FREEBIES

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.For more information, see 7 Best Free Investing Apps.

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, E*Trade, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Vanguard have free commissions on ETFs, meaning you don’t have to pay anything extra when you buy or sell. Learn more.

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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.

Then, check out Kiplinger’s 25 favorite funds, our model portfolios or our Mutual Fund Finder to establish the mix of investments that’s right for you.

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.

Get answers to your toughest personal-finance challenges in our free weekly live chats with financial planners and Kiplinger editors.

Sign up for free email alerts for the latest insights from your favorite Kiplinger columnists.

And follow Kiplinger on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook to keep up with us on social media.

SHOPPING FREEBIES

Free Shipping
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.

Many retailers’ sites offer free shipping if you’ll pick up the order at a local store, including AceHardware.com, BestBuy.com, Payless.com, REI.com and Walmart.com.

Free Car-Buying Help
Hate to haggle? Let someone else take the wheel. If you’re already a member or customer of AAA, Costco, Consumer Reports or Geico Insurance, you may get auto-buying assistance for free. Simply tell them the make, model and extras you want, and they’ll negotiate a price from local dealerships on your behalf. Some credit unions and alumni associations offer this freebie, too.

If you’ll be handling the negotiations yourself, go to Truecar.com to see what others in your area are paying for the same car. Plus, the free site will show you the best local no-haggle price and info on dealer incentives and fees.

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
Back to school season brings tax-free shopping days in several states. That means residents may be able to avoid paying sales tax on clothing, shoes and other school and office supplies.

Some states have tax-free shopping days at other times of the year. For example, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have sales tax holidays for energy-efficient appliances. Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia have tax-free days set aside for buying generators and other storm-preparedness supplies. And on the first weekend of September, Louisiana residents won’t pay sales tax on firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies. Get more information.

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 Red Laser, which scans any barcode in the store and instantly compares prices for the same item online. For in-store coupons, try or Yowza.

FINANCIAL FREEBIES

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.

There’s a slew of free apps for your mobile phone that can simplify your financial tasks. Among our favorites are apps from Mint.com 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.

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.

Free Checking
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 ING Direct and Ally Bank. They give you free ATM access and free online bill-paying, plus you earn free interest (free money!) on your deposits as well. For more information, see Best Deals in Online Banking, 2012.

Free Cash
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 like ShopAtHome.com, Ebates.com or 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%). For more information, see 3 Rewards Credit Cards for Big Spenders.

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 $57,000 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.

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