En español | You know what the best price is for something? Nothing. Free. No charge. And there are a surprising number of things that will cost you nothing more than the air you breathe. Here's a list of 14 great freebies you can check out right now.
1. Free entry to national parks
The National Park Service (NPS) manages 423 parks, from Acadia in Maine to Zion in Utah. Of those parks, more than 100 charge entrance fees. The rest are free. However, the NPS waives entrance fees at all parks five days a year. Here are the free dates for 2022:
- Jan. 17: MLK Day
- April 16: Start of National Park Week
- Aug. 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- Sept. 24: National Public Lands Day
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day
Speaking of veterans, members of the military, as well as military veterans and Gold Star Family members, can all get a pass for free entry to national parks.
For others, it's not free, but it can be a bargain: People 62 and older can purchase a lifetime senior pass to national parks for just $80 (plus a $10 processing fee). Anybody in the car with a person holding a lifetime senior pass also gets in for free.
Also, don’t overlook state parks, many of which are free to enter. State parks in Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are all free.
2. Free fishing
If you want to go fishing, you’ll often have to reel in a fishing license. But many states have days when you don’t need no stinkin’ license to fish. In Montana, for example, you can fish for free on Father’s Day weekend and Mother’s Day weekend too. California lets you fish for free on July 2 and Sept. 3. TakeMeFishing.org has the rundown on free finny fun for all 50 states.
3. Free fireworks displays
Nearly every major town has free legal fireworks on the Fourth of July. But if you want the most bang for no bucks, consider Addison, Texas, whose Kaboom Town offers 1,500 pounds of fireworks, live entertainment and air shows. Or head north to Boston, which offers the Boston Pops Orchestra, complete with the 1812 Overture and cannons, of course. Lake Tahoe normally has two shows — one on the Fourth of July and one on Labor Day — but the traditional fireworks will be replaced by drones this year to minimize fire risk.
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4. Free dental care
If you have a low income and a dental problem, you may be able to get free dental care in your state via Dental Lifeline. Typically, you need to lack adequate income for a dental visit and have a permanent disability, be 65 or older, or qualify as medically fragile.
5. Free education
Many state colleges offer tuition-free classes for people 60 and older. Ohio residents may attend class at any state college for free; the same is true for people 60 and older in South Carolina. Some states require you to pay lab fees and other associated fees.
6. Free tax preparation
Sure, you may be soaking up the sun on the beach right now, but in six months you’ll feel the chilly winds of winter — and the cold hand of the taxman, too. Tax-Aide, from AARP Foundation, provides in-person and virtual tax assistance to anyone, free of charge, but it focuses on those 50 and older. The program is closed for the 2022 tax filing season but will reopen next winter for the 2023 season. And, if your adjusted gross income is less than $73,000, you can use the Internal Revenue Service’s Free File. You’ll be able to fill out and file your return for the 2022 tax year for free.
7. Free trees
You can nearly always find free trees in the spring, when you'll notice tiny seedlings growing in your lawn. If you want to plant bigger trees, however, organize a tree giveaway event and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) will reimburse you for native trees. You'll need to have a plan for caring for the trees once you get them. Request your trees (and a free tree-planting event tool) during the spring at the NWF website. The 2022 season is past, but visit the website for the 2023 planting season.
You can also get free trees from some state and local governments, which often work in partnership with local tree-planting groups to encourage cultivation of native trees. Tree giveaways are especially common around Arbor Day and Earth Day, both in April. Some electric utilities also give away free trees since shade on a house can reduce energy consumption. On a web browser, search the name of your utility company plus “free trees” to see if a tree program is available locally.
8. Free bluebirds
OK, you can't order free bluebirds online — that would just be wrong — but you can build a home for them. Don't know how to build a bluebird house? The North American Bluebird Society has got your back. You can get free plans for a bluebird house on their website, as well as handy tips on how to attract them. Not sure if you have a bluebird in your area? Download Merlin, the free bird identity app from allaboutbirds.org.
9. Free books
Your local library is, of course, your go-to location for free books, and they often provide free e-books, audiobooks and video as well. If you don't have a library card (and why don't you?), find a Little Free Library near you with this handy locator tool.
You'll also get free plans to build your own Little Free Library, a weather-proof box — it typically resembles a large, freestanding mailbox — where friends and strangers alike can borrow and leave books day or night.
And if you’d rather build than read, check out Tool Libraries, which allow you to borrow a tool for a project rather than buy one.
10. Free coffee
If you need a java fix, but you’d prefer not to pay for it, you have options. You could join the Peet’s Coffee Rewards — called Peetnik’s — and get 125 points after your first purchase. That’s enough for a free beverage. Join the Starbucks rewards program and you’ll get a free coffee on your birthday as well as free refills on your brewed coffee or tea. There is no charge to sign up for either rewards program.
11. Free movies
If you don't want to pay for sites like Hulu or Netflix, you have plenty of others where you can watch movies for free — and many of the available movies are quite good. Crackle.com, and TubiTV are good places to start. You'll have to watch a few ads in exchange for getting to see the movies — but, hey, they are free of charge.
12. Free birthday stuff
Everyone likes to celebrate a birthday, and you can celebrate yours — typically, by joining a rewards program. Chili’s rewards will give you free dessert on your birthday. In fact, just about every restaurant chain has a birthday gift for people who join. And Denny’s will get you a free grand slam birthday breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon or sausage).
But it’s not only restaurants that give out birthday gifts. Sephora promises a free birthday makeup or skin care gift for members of its Beauty Insiders club. The Body Shop will give you a $10 coupon on your birthday if you join the Love Your Body Club. DSW will give you a $5 coupon on your birthday month, provided you join DSW VIP.
13. Free samples
Got allergies? Sanofi will send you a free sample of Xyzal, its allergy relief medicine. Keeping the neighborhood away with your snoring? Get a free sample of Breathe Right Strips. You can also get free samples of Mane ‘N Tail products just by asking.
You can also get free food samples by mail. Truvia, the artificial sweetener, will send you a sample plus a $1 coupon. Love Corn will give you a free pack of its Love Corn snacks if you register at its website.
14. Free music
Did you see the Tedeschi Trucks Band concert on Oct. 3, 2010 at the Bourbon Street Ballroom? You can listen to it again at the Internet Archive, along with hundreds of other shows by the band. The site has hundreds of free streaming concerts online. It also has free books, video and software.
Another site, Sugarmegs Audio, has — not surprisingly — hundreds of Grateful Dead concerts. But it also has shows by The Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, The Who, Steely Dan, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, the Wallflowers and more.
John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and USA Today and has written books on investing and the 2008 financial crisis. Waggoner's USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.