6. We've all heard about the skyrocketing cost of college education, but 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 free online courses include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Tufts and the University of California at Berkeley.
7. Volunteering is its own reward, but 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 some of the most famous (and expensive) ones, such as 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. Be sure to check the relevant websites to see whether they use volunteers.
8. For generations, many manufacturers have mailed consumers free samples of their products to attract new customers and build brand loyalty. Now, with the Internet, free samples are more abundant and easier to score than ever before. Some of the most popular websites to help consumers find free samples are freesamples.org, mrfreestuff.com, sweetfreestuff.com, startsampling.com and getitfree.us.
9. Most people know that America's national parks are among this country's crown jewels. But did you know that 265 of our 398 national parks never charge an entrance fee? And every year there are special "free entrance days" at the parks that normally charge. In 2013, those free days are Jan. 21, April 22-26, Aug. 25, Sept. 28 and Nov. 9-11.
10. 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" — and everything in the store/market — is free, sometimes including free repairs and other services provided by skilled volunteers. Check out an online directory of free markets and stores around the country.