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13 Fabulous Freebies

Before reaching for your wallet, see what things you can get or do without spending a dime

Score Free Samples

En español | For generations, manufacturers have mailed consumers samples of their products to attract new customers. Now, websites such as,,, and, make it easy to find stuff you want.


Find Missing Money

There are a lot of scams on the Internet and elsewhere promising to help you find money that may be due you or a family member … for a fee, of course. But this nonprofit website is legit and costs nothing. It’s helped countless people — including me! — find “unclaimed funds” they are eligible to collect, including forgotten bank accounts, security deposits, inheritances and a wide range of other assets.


Drop In on a 'Free Market'

So-called free stores and free markets are cropping up across the United States. The idea is to provide a gathering spot where people can drop off and “shop” for items that would otherwise likely be thrown away. The thing is, the shopping experience — and everything in the store/market — costs nothing, and some of these markets provide free repairs and other services, courtesy of skilled volunteers. Check out an online directory of free markets and stores around the country.


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Snag Some Birthday Swag

You say it’s your birthday? If you must turn another year older, at least you can take comfort in a wide range of birthday freebies offered by many national and local establishments — and not just a free slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream (although, who's complaining?) but sometimes an entire meal or some pretty nifty swag. The Birthday Freebies website helps you find free loot in your area and nationwide.


Take a Free Course

Did you know that you can attend online courses offered by many prominent colleges and universities for free? The only catch is that you don’t get credit toward a degree program. But if learning is your goal, the information and knowledge you’ll gain is all the same. Prestigious schools offering online courses gratis include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.


Explore a National Park

Most people know that America’s national parks are among this country’s crown jewels. But did you know that 268 of our 401 national parks never charge an entrance fee? And every year there are special “free entrance days” at the parks that normally do charge for admission. In 2015, free days include National Public Land Day (Sept. 26) and Veterans Day.


Tour a Factory

Looking for a no-cost weekend activity or maybe some fun stops during a family vacation? Consider checking out factories and other businesses that offer free tours of their facilities — everything from chocolate and candle factories to breweries and the Spam Museum. Best of all, many offer free samples of their products as part of the tour.


Get a Library Card

And if you already have one, vow to use it more often. America’s 17,000 public libraries offer free access not only to books (and, in many cases, e-books as well), but to DVDs, computers and the Internet, and a host of programs and other services. What’s more, spending time at your local library allows you to turn down your thermostat at home in the winter (and air conditioning in the summer) and save even more!


Join the Freecycle Network

 This nonprofit movement consists of more than 5,000 local groups — and some 9 million members — all around the world. It's all about keeping good stuff out of landfills by allowing members to give away items they no longer need, as well as search for things they can use that someone else might want to jettison. And it’s all free, including membership.


Volunteer at a Festival

Sometimes volunteering comes with some pretty nice perks attached, such as free admission to special events. Volunteering to be an usher at theaters or concert halls often gets you free admission to a show. Many film and music festivals — including the Sundance Film Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — rely on a corps of volunteers, who often get free admission and access to behind-the-scenes events. Check the relevant websites to see whether they use volunteers.


Hit the Stores on Tax-Free Days

You’ve heard the old saying, “Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.” Well, if you’re a smart consumer, you can at least sometimes avoid sales tax by taking advantage of occasional “tax-free shopping days” offered in some states. Find a list of participating states and details about their tax-free shopping days online.


Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — is required to provide you, upon request, with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. For instructions on how to order your truly free copy of your credit report from these three companies, check the Federal Trade Commission website.


Subscribe to The Cheap Life, Produced by AARP

The Cheap Life is a weekly Web show crammed full of money-saving tips, lots of laughs, and chances to win cash gift cards and other great cheapskate swag. It’s free and easy to subscribe to (just click on the “Subscribe” icon on the Cheap Life Channel page on YouTube so you'll be eligible to win prizes and be notified as soon as a new episode is released).

Eli Meir Kaplan

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Jeff Yeager is the author of four books, including How to Retire the Cheapskate Way and The Cheapskate Next Door. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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