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13 Fabulous Freebies

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

freebies cheap 2013

Fabulous freebies for 2013. — iStock

Who said 13 is an unlucky number? Here are 13 free ways to save money in 2013. Sounds like a pretty lucky New Year to me!

1. Become a member of 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 need that someone else might want to jettison. And it's all free, including membership. Prepare to live The Cheap Life in 2013.

2. Looking for a free weekend activity or maybe some fun stops during a family vacation? Consider touring 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.

3. Get a library card if you don't already have one. If you 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!

4. 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 in some cases an entire meal or some pretty nifty swag. The Birthday Freebies website helps you find free loot in your area, as well as nationwide.

5. 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 free, and has 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.

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.

Next page: Tax-free shopping, free credit reports and more. »

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