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All Contents © 2016The Kiplinger Washington Editors
There’s only one thing better than getting a good price on something, and that’s getting it for free.
Our list of freebies is packed with 64 something-for-nothing deals. 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 food to free investing and financial services to free technology and entertainment, there’s something here for everyone.
Go ahead. Put away your wallet. We insist!
By the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance
| Updated for 2016
Use a fee-free online trading platform such as Loyal3 to trade stocks for free. Open an account online or through Loyal3's mobile app with absolutely no money. You provide your name, address, employer information, birthday and Social Security number, as well as checking account information to fund your trades. To start buying stocks, you can invest as little as $10; you have the option to buy fractional shares.
Similarly, the Robinhood app charges no commission to trade more than 5,000 U.S.-listed securities, and there are no minimum balance requirements on an account. (Broker-assisted phone trades cost $10; foreign-listed securities cost $50 per trade.)
Also, check with any of the more-traditional online brokers such as Fidelity or Charles Schwab to see if they are offering any promotions. For more, see How to Trade Stocks for Free.
There are millions of pages of free information online, but how many of them enable you to reap a tangible benefit? Consider our favorite free sources for reasoned discussion and hard-to-find financial data for income investors. For example, Closed-End Fund is best for sorting and screening 629 closed-end funds. InvestinginBonds.com offers real-time market data on bond trading action and prices. Screen the tax-free bond universe for top yields at EMMA. And, get monthly updates by sector (such as the High Yield and Mortgage Market updates) from TCW.
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.
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.
EyeCare America, which is a public service program of the American Academy of Opthamology, provides free eye exams and up to one year of care for any disease diagnosed during that exam for those without private insurance who are 65 and older and haven’t seen an eye doctor in three or more years. Visit EyeCareAmerica.org for program guidelines and to see if you qualify.
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.
Several supermarket pharmacies -- including Harris Teeter, Meijer, PriceChopper and Publix -- offer select antibiotics, diabetes medications and other generic drugs for free. You might need to enroll in a pharmacy loyalty program to receive the free drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies also offer free and low-cost drugs to low-income people without prescription-drug insurance. You can use the RxAssist database to find free medication through drug companies' patient assistance programs.
Need help sticking to a diet and exercise plan? Turn to sites such as Fatsecret.com, MyFitnessPal.com and SparkPeople.com for free meal plans and calorie counters and to put together a fitness plan and track your progress, and get support and advice from other users.
You might also get free diet and fitness help from your employer; ask if your workplace has a wellness plan. These programs may include free gym access, weight-loss support groups and smoking cessation programs. Some will even pay you for your progress.
You may be able to find free fitness and wellness 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, libraries or community centers, 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.
Want to try meditation? Many centers offer free classes. Shambhala meditation centers located across the country offer free “learn to meditate” classes. We also found free intro classes at Zen meditation centers in Houston, Des Moines, Cambridge, Mass. and more.
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.
Several state park systems -- among them Maryland, New Hampshire, New York and Texas -- offer older adults free admission or a free annual pass. (Some passes require a small processing fee.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Movie tickets, cable TV, Netflix and TiVo subscriptions can add up. Watch free movies and TV series online at Crackle.com or head to the TV networks’ Web sites. You can also test out Hulu.com for a week for free.
If you sign up for text alerts from movie rental service Redbox, you’ll get a promo code each month for a free movie rental.
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.
If you have a Kindle or the free Kindle reading app, you can swap e-books with your friends for as long as 14 days per book.
SEE ALSO: Ways to Borrow and Read More Free E-Books
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.
Get your groove on with free music streaming services, such as Pandora.com, Grooveshark.com and Spotify.com. You can listen online or install their handy apps for on-the-go access.
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 students to work at least ten hours a week to offset the cost of their education. College of the Ozarks in Missouri also requires students to participate in a work program rather than pay tuition. See our College Rankings special report for more colleges and universities that offer academic excellence at a good price.
Many accredited, degree-granting institutions offer tuition waivers for older adults to earn credit or audit classes.. In fact, several states have laws requiring state-supported institutes of higher learning to waive tuition for older residents (usually age 60 or 65 and older). For example several Kentucky institutions, including the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, waive the tuition and fees for anyone 65 or older. Seniors in Ohio can audit classes for free as part of Kent State University’s Senior Guest Program.
If you want to get an advanced degree, there’s a chance your employer might help you pay for it. 52% of the companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management for its 2015 report on employee benefits said they offer graduate educational assistance (56% offer undergraduate assistance). On average, employers offer a maximum reimbursement of about $4,500 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.
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.
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.
Whether you want to learn a new language to boost your résumé or prepare for a trip in a foreign country, you can take free language lessons online. 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 learn a few key phrases or even become proficient in another language.
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 résumé 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.
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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.
Middle-income families spend nearly $13,000, on average, for food, housing, health care, clothing and more in just the first year of a child’s life, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Expenditures on Children by Families annual report. Fortunately, there are a variety of freebies that can help keep down the costs of having a baby.
For example, families who feed their infants with formula can register with companies such as Similac to get free infant formula samples. Gerber offers a free baby nutrition kit. Sam’s Club offers free samples of its Simply Right diapers and wipes, and you can sign up with diaper manufacturers like Pampers to get free samples. Parents who create a baby-gift registry at Target receive free samples and $50 in coupon savings, while those who sign up for an Amazon.com registry are eligible for a free welcome box.
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 and our model portfolios to establish the mix of investments that’s right for you.
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.
Your credit report can affect 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 once a year, no strings attached.
Several sites also offer free credit reports -- as well as credit scores and monitoring. At Credit.com, you can see your Experian and Vantage 3.0 credit scores, view your “credit report card” that shows how you're doing in five key areas on your credit report and receive alerts when something changes on your report. Credit Karma offers weekly updated free credit scores and reports from Equifax and TransUnion and will monitor your reports daily and notify you of any significant changes. Credit Sesame offers a free credit score from Experian and TransUnion and free monitoring. At Quizzle you can get a free VantageScore credit score and Equifax credit report every six months.
By using your credit card to pay, you may be entitled to some valuable freebies. For example, most credit cards come with free rental-car insurance, and some will cover the cost of your vacation if you have to cancel your trip or reimburse you for luggage that is lost, stolen or damaged during flights purchased with eligible cards. Call your card issuer to find out what perks you qualify for.
Other credit card perks include free extended warranties, free cell-phone replacement and free museum admission. Check out 11 Overlooked Credit-Card Perks for more.
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.
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 to 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%).
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 you might expect throughout the year:
-- Free pancakes from IHOP on National Pancake Day in March
-- Free California Tortilla chips and queso, free cookie from Great American Cookies and free Schlotzsky’s sandwich on tax day in April
-- Free treats for moms on Mother's Day from restaurants such as McCormick & Schmick's, Fogo de Chao and Shoney'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.
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 Ways to Get Free Ice Cream for more.
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.
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.
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 Best Birthday Freebies.
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.
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 more than 150 participating inns, resorts and boutique hotels in 100 cities 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.
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.
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. And then there's Tingo, which automatically rebooks your room at the lower rate if the hotel drops its price. You'll get a refund for the difference.
For rental cars, try AutoSlash.com.
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 (volunteers must pay a subscription fee of $40.) In the U.S. alone, there are 2,045 host farms. 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).
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.
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.
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?
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 also organize free shredding events in cities where they have a presence.
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.
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.
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 ($69.99) 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.
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. Or, try WhatsApp, which lets you send messages to other users for free over a WiFi connection.
SEE ALSO: Save Big Bucks on Your Wireless Plan
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.
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 $62,000 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 to prepare your return.
If you made $54,000 or less last year, you may qualify for free tax help from the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Through this program, IRS-certified volunteers help taxpayers prepare their tax returns for free. At some locations, qualifying taxpayers can also e-file their returns through one of the IRS Free File software partners. See Ways to File Your Taxes for Free for a complete list of options.
With free online backup storage, you can share files and protect them from computer crashes, theft and natural disaster. Windows OneDrive and Apple iCloud both give you 5 gigabytes of free, secure digital storage space. You can also use Dropbox (2 GB free).
Auto service chain Pep Boys offers five free services: battery tests, code retrieval, windshield wiper replacement, brake inspections and alignment checks. No purchase is necessary to take advantage of any of the services, but free brake inspections are limited to Pep Boys Rewards Members. At Advance Auto Parts, you can get electrical testing, wiper installation, loaner tools, and oil and battery recycling for free.
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.
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.
National auto-parts retailers, such as Advanced Auto Parts, AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Pep Boys, 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.
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.
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. Fifteen 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.
Five 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 mobile apps can help you save money at the supermarket. For example, 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.
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 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.
If you sign up (for free) for cosmetics store chain Sephora’s Beauty Insider rewards program, you’ll get a free beauty product during your birthday month, and you can take free beauty classes at select stores. You can get a free gift during your birthday month from Ulta by signing up for emails from the beauty retailer. Allure magazine gives away free beauty product samples each month to several hundred people who fill out an online form. And, several makeup companies alert their Facebook fans to free samples, so check with your favorite brand for offers.
State treasuries and other agencies are holding billions in unclaimed assets, and some of it could be yours. Accounts that have been inactive for at least a year are considered unclaimed assets, and can include checking and savings, payroll checks, utility deposits and tax refunds. They may also include stock certificates, certificates of deposit, insurance benefits, pension payments and safe-deposit-box contents.
Anyone can search a state’s unclaimed property database (go to www.unclaimed.org for links) or go to www.missingmoney.com to search 39 states’ databases at once. See 8 Places to Find Free Money for more.
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