There are few things more thrilling for a deal shopper than getting something for free. In fact, freebie deals are often the most popular offers on our site. From smartphones to restaurant food, there are certain categories that are regularly flush with gratis promotions. So next time your whip out your wallet, consider first if that purchase should come at no cost to you.
Android SmartphonesIf you're a fan of phones with a Google OS, then you're in luck; so many new Android smartphones are released these days that the market is saturated, and as a result, most quickly fall to $0 (with new 2-year contracts) after a few months. For example, the HTC One S 4G Android Phone for T-Mobile was released at the end of April this year, and by the first week of June, we saw a deal that included a $100 rebate that made the phone free. Even trendy models with lots of media hype do eventually follow the same deal path.
Car TripsIf you want to take a drive across the country but haven't got any wheels and don't want to rent a car, there are websites like Auto Driveaway that will help you find a car to drive for someone who is moving and doesn’t want to drive their own car. For the return trip, either wait for a car to drive back or book a cheap flight home. It’s a great way to see the country if you have the time.
Dining Out with KidsMany restaurants offer free meals for kids if they’re accompanied by a paying adult. However, some do so only on certain nights, so it's worth checking MyKidsEatFree.com to find restaurants in your area that offer free kids' meals. Search for your state and city, and up pops a list of restaurants and the nights they offer free meals for kids, along with any restrictions such as available times. This site could also be handy for diners without kids who want to make sure they don't visit on such nights when a throng of children is likely to be there.
Food for Everyone ElseDid you know that August 3 is Free National Watermelon Day? Or that May 28 was National Hamburger Day? Almost every day of the year is some type of national food day, and restaurants are always looking for opportunities to run promotions. (We’re especially looking forward to National Spumoni Day on August 21.) Check your local restaurants, or do a Google search for your city and the free food you're looking for. While you might not be able to score freebies regularly enough to avoid ever paying for food, you can certain get at least monthly free food, drinks, and the like.
Birthday TreatsIt's a given that your friends should buy your drinks on your birthday, but before you get to the bar, keep in mind that there are plenty of businesses that offer free things on your special day as well. The trick is to plan ahead and hit as many of them as you can. Start at Birthdayfreebies.com or just Google “birthday freebies” to find what’s free near you. You should at least be able to find a few free meals and a piece of cake.
Magazine SubscriptionsCompanies want to know about you so they can market to you. If you're willing to give up some information about yourself (like your career title or location) you can get a free year's subscription to a variety of magazines. In recent months alone, we've seen popular titles like Maxim, Popular Science, AFAR, Forbes, Shape, Food & Wine, Newsweek, Esquire, and more, all for free.
Phone CallsSkype, Google Voice, and other services let you make calls for free over the Internet, though be careful if they try to get you to upgrade to a paid plan. You can drop your landline and your cell phone plans for a few months and see if they meet your calling needs.
Music MP3sGetting a full album for free can be difficult, but with the number of MP3 credit freebies we see bundled with Amazon deals, you should be able to amass a stockpile of credits to purchase a number of single MP3s that tempt you. Moreover, Amazon currently has more than 14,000 free songs available for download, and Starbucks gives out a free downloadable song each week.
AppsFree apps are everywhere. In fact, we round them up every day! And while some are more enticing than others, at some point, even the typically expensive titles see a temporary price drop. If you're particular, set up a deal alert and wait patiently for the app of your choosing to fall in price.
ShippingWhile you can't always wait around for free shipping when a special promotion is on the table, every day orders that aren't time sensitive can benefit from waiting for a shipping promotion. We frequently see a variety of popular vendors offer some sort of shipping discount, which makes it hard to justify spending your cash on the service for an average order.
BooksBesides going to the library — which is an obvious first place to start for free books — there are lots of ways to get free digital books that can be read on a computer, tablet, or eBook reader. You can find such material in various ways, including browsing through Project Gutenberg, which has more than 39,000 free eBooks; downloading the Free Books app for the iPad, which offers 23,469 classics; and searching for "0.00” on the Barnes & Noble Nook will lead you to thousands of free reads.
If you've got book cases full of physical books that you'd like to swap out, sites such as PaperBack Swap and Bookmooch allow you to mail your books to members who request them, and then you can request books from others that you'd like to read. The more books you give, the more you can receive. These sites are free to join, but the sender does pay postage.
EntertainmentYour cable TV bill can be a thing of the past after a few startup expenses. Look into buying a Roku and you'll be able to stream TV and movies via the Crackle app. If the limited selection doesn't appeal to you, Amazon Prime members (which includes numerous dealnews readers) can access Amazon Instant Video via their Roku. Also consider buying a cable to connect your computer to the TV to watch free shows on Hulu, FX, or other stations that stream free TV shows online.
Travel-Sized Toiletries and Grooming ProductsMany cosmetic companies and others that sell toiletries also offer free samples. Like free magazines, you'll have to offer up some personal information. Keep an eye out for free samples from Target and Walmart, as we often see complimentary toiletries and the like from these merchants. You can also scout out free samples at drugstore counters and not have to wait six to eight weeks for delivery.
Everything ElseCraigslist and Freecycle are worth checking out before you make any large purchase. You'll likely find used goods on these sites, and it thereby goes almost without saying that you should make sure any and all items are in working order and in good shape — you don't want to be hauling away another person's junk for free.
Saving money is a great thing. Saving money and acquiring goods and services for free is even better. Let this list of 12 things you shouldn't be paying for ring in your head the next time you head to the store (or jump online) to buy, well, just about anything. Your wallet will thank you.
Front page photo credit: Garage Give
Photo credits top to bottom: Engadget, Better Business Bureau,
Denver Bargains, Profile Engine, The Frugal Girls,
Top Magazines, Free Calls, Net Media Blog, Lifehacker, USA Sharp,
Eric Doeringer, Viva Boo, and Disaster Preparedness Checklist