It's been said that the best things in life are free. And we
couldn't agree more. That's why we're back with our fourth annual
list of our favorite freebies.
We looked for primo goods and services -- no useless junk
allowed. And, boy, we found them, from financial tools to
entertainment to cold, hard cash.
We've laid out our list in text format below for easy printing
and e-mailing. Or, you can view it in our
. And be sure to tell us about your favorite freebies in the
reader-comment box below.
1. FREE CAR-REPAIR HELP
It won't fix your car free (darn), but
will help you find out whether your mechanic is quoting a fair
Enter your car's make, model and year, plus your zip code. Then
choose among dozens of fixes to get a price range for the job at
dealerships and independent shops in your area.
2. FREE TECH SUPPORT
If you're a member of
, you can get free tech support -- even if you didn't buy the
device at their store.
Or, for PC problems, anyone can head to
for free help. You can search the forums for your computer's
particular ailment or post a question to receive a timely response
from the sites' groups of geek volunteers. And don't forget to try
manufacturer's Web site
. Many post user manuals and FAQs to help you solve your
3. FREE TREATS
Your favorite snack shop or fast-food restaurant may have an annual
freebie day. Mark your calendar for free
pancakes in February; free
Ben & Jerry's
Italian ice, and a
pastry in March; free
pretzels and a
treat in April; free
ice cream in May; a free
root-beer float and
frozen yogurt in June; and a free
meal in July -- to name a few.
You can also sign up to score
free food on your birthday
from Famous Dave's BBQ, Cold Stone Creamery, Denny's and other
eateries. Search the Web for "birthday freebies," or call your
local restaurants to ask whether they offer such a deal.
4. FREE FINANCIAL APPS
Among our favorites are apps from
to track your spending and investments,
to find surcharge-free ATMs nearby,
for coupons on the go and
to easily calculate a tip or divide a restaurant check.
5. FREE BOOKS, MUSIC, MOVIES AND MORE
You'll find the mother lode of freebies at your
All the books, magazines, audio books, video games and CDs you
can carry won't cost a cent. Many libraries also have free Wi-Fi,
DVDs and e-books. You may be able to go online to place your
order for materials and a librarian will have them waiting for
you when you arrive.
And that's not all. Your library may host free book clubs,
lectures, film screenings, children's story times, craft
activities and other community events.
6. FREE DIAMOND-RING INSPECTION
One loose prong can weaken the setting on your diamond ring,
risking the loss of your sparkler -- and thousands of dollars
with it. Most jewelers will
inspect your ring
free of charge, especially if you purchased your jewelry from
their shop. Many will even throw in a
It's a good idea to take advantage of this freebie at least
once a year.
7. FREE COMPUTER PROTECTION
Is your computer vulnerable? You can download malware-protection
services available free online.
's Editor's Choice:
Panda Cloud Antivirus
. Or try
Microsoft's Security Essentials
, which PCWorld.com says renders subscription antivirus services
8. FREE WORKOUTS
Forget the costly gym membership. It doesn't cost a penny to put
on a pair of sneakers and
go for a walk or jog in your neighborhood
. Or check out a
from your local library.
You may also find free instructional workouts in your area.
For instance, Lululemon Athletica stores offer
classes weekly. We also searched the Web and found
free tai chi
sessions from a variety of organizations in several cities,
including San Francisco, Omaha and New York.
9. FREE PORTFOLIO CHECKUP
Is your portfolio as diversified as you think it is? You needn't
pay a financial planner to evaluate your holdings. Simply use
tool to check for balance among stock sectors, investment styles,
geographic regions and more.
Then, check out our
25 favorite funds
22 model portfolios
Mutual Fund Finder
to establish the mix of investments that's right for you.
10. FREE RX DRUGS
Bring in your prescription, and you can get
at some pharmacies, including those at Giant, Meijer, Publix,
Stop & Shop and Wegmans. You can also get
free prenatal vitamins
at Meijer and Schnucks.
11. FREE REWARDS
You've got to buy gas and groceries anyway, so why not charge
them on your
rewards credit card
to get free money, airline miles or more? (See our picks for the
best rewards cards
And if you have to make a purchase online, start at
to earn another cool freebie: You click on an affiliated online
retailer (there are hundreds) to do your shopping as usual, and a
percentage of your purchase is given back to you in your
BondRewards account. You then redeem your rewards for U.S.
savings bonds or cash.
12. FREE PHONE ASSISTANT
Streamline your personal phone system with
, a free service that allows people to dial one phone number to
ring all your phones simultaneously. It converts voice-mail
messages to text that you can go back to and search by keyword
(no more Post-It collages on the wall). You can set up different
voice-mail greetings for different callers, plus you can easily
screen or block calls -- all without paying for a personal
Bonus: Even if your cell-phone plan charges you per text
message, you can send
from your Google number.
13. FREE EDUCATION
Many colleges and universities, such as Johns Hopkins, University
of Notre Dame and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, post
course material and lectures
on their Web sites. You won't get credit toward a degree, but you
can pursue an interest, sharpen your skills or even learn a
You can also go to Apple's
to access more than 250,000 free lectures, videos and other
materials from 600 universities, including Oxford, Stanford and
14. FREE PASSPORT PHOTOS
You'll pay about $15 at the post office to get your picture taken
for your passport. Instead, take your photo with your own digital
camera then upload it to
, which will help you size it properly before printing it on your
The best part: You can redo your picture as many times as you
like to get it right. After all, who wants to get stuck with a
bad photo for the next ten years?
15. FREE CREDIT REPORT AND CREDIT SCORE
One of our all-time favorite freebies is
, which gives you a free copy of your credit report from each of
the three credit bureaus.
But your credit score has usually been costlier to come by.
Now you can get a free score from
. The sites give you a real credit score. While it's not the FICO
score that most lenders use, you'll still get a good idea of
where you stand.
16. FREE WI-FI
Rejoice! About 6,800
nationwide recently began offering free Wi-Fi.
You can also go to
to find places to surf free when you're away from home. The
database includes airports, restaurants, hotels and more.
17. FREE E-BOOKS
If you own a Kindle, iPad or other electronic reader, you can
populate your e-library without breaking the bank. E-books
commonly sell for $9.99 -- less than hard covers but about as
much as paperbacks. But at
, you won't pay a cent to download about 33,000 classics whose
copyrights have expired, including
War and Peace, Moby Dick
You can also search for free e-books at
18. FREE BUSINESS ADVICE
Run your own business and you're bound to have questions. Go to
to get free, confidential small-business advice. The nonprofit
has 12,400 volunteer counselors, who are working and retired
executives and business owners. Drop in to one of SCORE's 364
offices nationwide for a face-to-face consultation, or chat with
an expert online.
Another great resource is the
Small Business Administration
. It often hosts free local workshops, and its Web site (SBA.gov)
has an extensive list of tools and resources for
19. FREE FOREIGN-LANGUAGE LESSONS
Want to learn another language? Put away your wallet, and hit the
, you can access courses developed by the U.S. Foreign Service
Institute in 41 languages.
, you'll find a list of several free language lessons that you
can download to your MP3 player. Or go to
to see whether your public library grants you free access to its
courses in 22 foreign languages and 14 courses in English as a
20. FREE NATURAL BEAUTY
boast some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Did you
know that some of them don't charge entrance fees, including the
Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway?
Plus, on several days throughout the year, you can
get in free to all national parks
, including those that usually charge for admission, such as
Yellowstone, Yosemite, Everglades and Grand Canyon.
for the free-admission schedule from the National Park
21. FREE STORAGE SPACE
With free online backup storage, you can protect important files
and photos from computer crashes, theft and natural disaster.
Windows Live SkyDrive
, for instance, gives you 25 gigabytes of free, secure digital
storage space -- far more than other free options, such as
Dropbox.com (2GB free) and Google Docs (1GB free).
22. FREE CREDIT-CARD PERKS
By simply carrying a credit card, you're entitled to some pretty
cool freebies. For example, most credit cards come with free
, and some will cover the cost of your
if you have to cancel your trip. Some cards will even cover the
cost of an item
you bought that gets lost, stolen or destroyed, or will allow you
return an item
to them that the store won't take back (like those shoes you
bought on clearance). You might also score a free
on your purchase.
Call your card issuer to ask for a list of your benefits.
23. AIRLINE FREEBIES
Airlines continue to scale back their perks -- and those that
haven't been eliminated will probably cost you. But some airlines
still offer up freebies for fliers. One of our favorites:
Southwest still lets you
check two bags free
. JetBlue lets you
check one bag free
, plus gives you access to free
TV, satellite radio
. (Some JetBlue flights even have free Wi-Fi.)
And don't forget about the free flights you can score by
signing up for an airline's frequent-flier program (enrollment is
also free). See the Program Guide at
for the lowdown on each airline's rules.
24. FREE AUDIO BOOKS
Love to read but don't have the time? Download free audio books
. You can listen on your computer or MP3 player while you sit in
traffic, fold laundry, exercise or simply relax.
The sites offer up classic books whose copyrights have
expired, including works from Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G.
Wells, Mark Twain, Charlotte Bront� and more. And for
bedtime-story help, they also have decent children's collections.
(To get newer titles free, check your public library.)
25. FREE SHIPPING
Some online retailers still offer free shipping on every order,
(shoes) and many of the booksellers at
Many stores also offer free shipping if you'll pick up your
purchase at your local store, including
. And before you buy anything online, check to see whether the
retailer offers a free shipping coupon. See
26. FREE CASH
Don't let your short-term savings stagnate. Stash it in a
high-yield online savings
account such as ING Direct or HSBC Direct. They're FDIC-insured
and were recently paying 1.1%. (For every $1,000 in your account,
that's $11 free every year.)
Online interest-bearing checking
accounts from ING Direct and Everbank are also a good deal. They
pay from 0.25% to 1.46%.
Another source of free cash: Some employers will
match your contributions
to your workplace 401(k) plan. For instance, if you contribute
$100 per month, they may toss in another $50. You've got to save
for retirement anyway, so take the free cash if it's offered.
27. FREE FOR THE KIDS
The cost of raising a child keeps climbing. Luckily, there are
plenty of freebies available to lower your expenses. Some our
free kids' meals
craft project ideas
. And don't forget the
for all the free books and educational movies their little arms
can carry. Our Web search even turned up a few
free summer camps
, such as the summer theater program at Wingspan Art in New York
City, and the music, art and cooking courses at the Hudson Opera
House near Albany.
When traveling, you can find
that allow kids to stay free, as well as deals for kids to
free. Kids under age 2 can
any airline or ride Amtrak free of charge when they sit on a
paying adult's lap.
28. FREE BILL PAY
If you're still shelling out for a bill-paying service, it's time
to quit. (At $10 per month, you're throwing away $120 per year.)
Same goes for those of you still paying for stamps and
snail-mailing your payments. (If you mail five bills per month,
you're spending more than $26 per year on postage, simply for the
of paying your bills!)
Many banks offer free bill paying with their
online checking accounts
. Even if yours doesn't, you can usually pay everything from
phone bills to property taxes by electronic check through
the biller's Web site
at no extra charge. You may even sign up for free automatic
payments or e-mail reminders to ensure you never get slapped with
a late fee.
29. FREE VIDEO EDITING SOFTWARE
Windows Live Movie Maker
are good free choices for basic video editing. (Apple's
software that comes on your Mac will also do the job.) They each
let you assemble clips, add transitions, titles, music and more
with ease. You can then post your video to social networking
sites, download it to your computer or burn it onto a DVD.
You might also consider
. This simple online-based editor lets you invite friends and
family to collaborate on your project, and allows you to save up
to 10GB of video free of charge.
30. FREE TAX SOFTWARE AND FILING
Some tax professionals and tax-prep software charge you extra to
your return -- which seems downright silly. After all, you
already paid them for their service, not to mention you already
paid your taxes.
Check out the
IRS's Free File program
. If you make less than a certain amount (for 2009 returns filed
this past spring, the limit was $57,000 of adjusted gross
income), you qualify for free tax-prep software and filing. Make
more than that, and you can still file for free, but you don't
get the free software.
31. FREE MOVIES
Find free movies to watch online at
. You can also get free Redbox DVD rentals with coupon codes from
Keep your eyes open for free movie screenings in your
neighborhood, particularly in the summer. Communities from San
Diego to Pittsburgh show
free outdoor movies
. Plus, you and your kids can catch
free family films
at Regal, Marquee, Clearview and Great Escape theaters throughout
the summer. Each has its own schedule for the free screenings;
check with your local theater for details.
32. FREE PUZZLES
Keep your mind active with
free brain games
The New York Times
also offer an impressive array of free games, crossword and
Sudoku puzzles on their Web sites.
33. FREE FINANCIAL ADVICE
Kiplinger.com is a treasure trove of free financial advice, if we
do say so ourselves. Our
will help you get on the right financial track.
Our expert columnists answer your personal-finance questions
on everything from general queries to family finances to ethical
matters. Plus, we have loads of informative
stock and mutual fund analysis
, and an active reader's
MORE WAYS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MONEY:
Fabulous Freebies 2009
Shop Smart for Bargains & Deals
Save Money on Practically Everything
Best Times to Buy
5 Things You Can Haggle For
20 Ways to Waste Your Money