When I first met Ray Sola a few years ago, I immediately knew we were going to hit it off. He showed up for our meeting in a T-shirt that read: "If It Wasn't FREE, You Paid Too Much!" Definitely my kind of guy.
See also: Freebies just a click away.
Ray is the founder of the website www.Volition.com, which he describes as the oldest "free stuff site" on the Web (launched in 1995). If Al Gore invented the internet, Ray Sola invented free stuff on the internet. OK, neither claim is really accurate, but at least in Ray's case it's pretty close.
I turned to Ray — and the freebie fanatics who post tips for finding free stuff in the Volition forum titled "Stuff I Found" — in pulling together this encore edition of my previous article "A Web of Free Stuff." Check out what we came up with this time around:
Free e-books: If you have an e-reader, you probably know that the websites for Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook) include tons of ebooks you can download for free to their respective e-readers. But to access over 36,000 high quality ebooks for free, also check out the Gutenberg Project. This nonprofit organization has converted books that are no longer copyrighted into ebooks, including most of the literary classics.
Free sewing, quilting, and knitting patterns: I'm not much of a seamstress (or would that be a "seamster"?), but my dear wife is, and here are some of her favorite sites for downloading free patterns: www.freeneedle.com, www.freequiltpatterns.info, www.knittingpatterncentral.com.
Free business cards: I'm so cheap that my "business card" consists of a self-inking rubber stamp containing my contact info — when we exchange cards, I'll ask for two of yours, stamp my info on the back of one and hand it back to you (seriously). But Vista Print provides free business cards (you pay shipping and they say "Free from Vista" on the back) that you design yourself online.
Free online hearing and vision tests: Online hearing and vision test sites like www.freehearingtest.com and www.freevisiontest.com are not intended to replace the need for standardized tests conducted by qualified healthcare professionals. They are simply self-administered reference tests to help educate users about hearing and vision acuity.
Free annual credit reports: Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are guaranteed access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — every 12 months. There are many companies online that promise you a free copy of your credit report, but most of them are scams. There is only one website — www.AnnualCreditReport.com — that is authorized to provide the free annual credit report that you are entitled to receive by law.
Free online jigsaw puzzles: I love putting together jigsaw puzzles, but once I've finished a puzzle, I rarely go back and do it again. Into the closet it goes. Here's a cool website where you can put together hundreds of puzzles online — for free — and save both money and space in your closets. Plus, you'll never lose any pieces.
Free online college courses: Okay, so maybe you won't earn actual college credit for attending the free online courses offered by prestigious schools like MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Tufts or UC Berkeley, but you'll learn a lot, and you can't beat the price of tuition.
Free vegetable and flower seeds and trees: Planting a vegetable garden can save on my grocery bills, and attractive landscaping and gardens can increase the value of our home. These nonprofit organizations provide free seeds for the sowing: www.dinnergarden.org and www.freeseeds.us. And you can get 10 free tree seedlings when you join the Arbor Day Foundation for as little as $10.
Free factory tours: Growing up in a family of cheapskates, our summer vacations inevitably included stops along our travel route to take in as many free factory tours as possible. Not only was it free entertainment — and educational to boot — but a lot of times we came away with free samples. I still can't pass up a free factory tour when I travel. This website lists free tours of factories and other commercial facilities all across the country.
Free shipping day: Thinking ahead to the yearend holidays, mark Friday, Dec. 16t on your calendar this year, because that's officially "Free Shipping Day" on the Internet. On that day, more than 2,000 online merchants will offer free delivery (promised by Christmas Eve) within the continental U.S. Go to this website to find a listing of participating merchants:
Free online translation: No habla usted Español? OK, maybe you don't speak Spanish. But with free online translators like these, you can translate your words into just about any language or translate foreign language text back into English: www.freetranslation.com, www.worldlingo.com, www.Translate.google.com.
Dove posso trovarlo per libero? (That's Italian for "Where can I find it for free?")
Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.