On any given day, you can find a large variety of 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 -- if you know how, that is.
“A lot of it comes down to luck and freebie karma,” says Julia Scott, founder of BargainBabe.com, a money-saving blog that provides a daily roundup of freebies. However, there are several tactics she and other freebies hunters use to track down free samples and products. Here are six that are guaranteed to help you find complimentary goods.
Let others do the work for you. 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. For example, sites such as Hey, It’s Free! and Mr. Free Stuff are devoted entirely to freebies. You also can find lists of freebies on money-saving sites, such as Coupon Cabin, Hip2Save and Slickdeals. In addition to maintaining a list of freebies, Savings.com frequently has enter-to-win giveaways for big products, such as its current promotion for a Hewlett-Packard laptop computer.
You can find free samples featured on several blogs that offer tips on couponing and saving money, but BargainBabe.com has one of the best lists. Scott says she and her staff try to feature only items that are truly free and don’t require consumers to jump through a lot of hoops to get them. For freebies and giveaways from local businesses, check with money-saving blogs geared toward a particular city or region, says Sara Steigerwald, founder of SistersShoppingOnAShoestring.com. She frequently partners with local businesses to provide special offers on her blog. Do an online search for your city and the keywords “frugal site” to find blogs that focus on deals in your area, she says.
Use social media. You often can get access to free samples by following your favorite brands, companies or retailers on Facebook and Twitter, Steigerwald says. In fact, several companies require customers to “like” them on Facebook in order to claim freebies, she says. Plus, you’re more likely to get full-sized products (rather than small samples) through social media offers than through many other outlets. If you just want to find out about any and all freebies regardless of brand or retailer, do a search on Twitter and Facebook for #freesample, #freebies, #giveway or #deal to see what offers are available.
Do a Google search. An easy way to find offers for specific products is to do a search on Google using the product name plus the keywords “free sample,” says Jane George, community relations manager/content manager at Slickdeals. However, only click on links in your search results to manufacturers’ sites or trusted retailers’ sites, not third-party sites you’re unfamiliar with that are touting free samples, George cautions. Otherwise, you could end up on a fraudulent site that might ask you to divulge personal information that could be used to steal your identity or tap your financial accounts.
Sign up for manufacturers’ newsletters. Several manufacturers regularly offer a limited number of samples and full-sized products on a first come, first served basis. To be among the first to know about these offers, you can sign up for their e-mail newsletters. Check companies’ and retailers’ online sample pages. For example, you can get exclusive access to samples (as well as coupons and other offers) from Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Procter & Gamble by signing up for their newsletters. Steigerwald recommends creating an e-mail account specifically for these newsletters and any other freebie e-mails you sign up to receive so they don’t get lost among your work and personal e-mails.
Check the sample pages on Target's and Walmart’s sites. These two major retailers both have pages on their sites dedicated to free samples and products. However, they tend to go fast, so you check regularly to nab freebies while supplies last, Scott says. Walmart lists offers on its Free Samples and Savings page. You can find freebies at Target’s Sample Spot, but you have to answer a few survey questions to get them and you’re limited to one sample per household.
Contact companies directly. Steigerwald says that some of the best free samples and products that she has received have been the result of letters she’s written to companies. She writes to praise products she likes or express interest in trying new products companies are offering. Letters get a much better response than e-mails or phone calls, she says. Simply find a company’s contact information on its site, get out a paper and pen, and compose your request.
Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.
Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.