Do a little memory exercise. List all the things you’ve spent money on in the past week. Start with today, and work your way backward, jotting down the trip to the grocery store, the bus fare for work, and the movie over the weekend. Include both just-for-fun purchases, such as a new outfit, and necessary expenses, like paying your cellphone bill.
Believe it or not, you could probably have gotten many of the things on your list for free. From necessities like food and clothing to fun stuff like travel and entertainment, an amazing number of things can be yours for nothing — at least under certain conditions. With a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of flexibility, you can use free stuff to slash many of the expenses in a typical budget down to zero.
How to Get Free Stuff
Not all these budget-slashing ideas will work for everyone. But if you can find a way to use just one or two of them, you can free up quite a nice chunk of cash each month.
1. Free Food
Food is one of the most significant expenses in most household budgets. According to the annual Consumer Expenditures Survey (CES) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2019, the average American household spent $8,169 on food. That’s nearly 10% of its total income and 13% of its total spending for the year.
Paring that yearly total down to nothing is probably impossible. But there are tips and tricks you can use to get food for free in some situations.
Extreme couponing is to regular couponing what a triple-shot espresso is to a cup of plain coffee. Instead of shaving a few cents off the price of a handful of essentials, it allows you to dramatically slash the price of every product by combining multiple discounts. True experts regularly get groceries for nothing or even get cash back to use on other purchases.
But there are drawbacks to extreme couponing. First, it’s a time-consuming hobby. You have to collect multiple copies of every coupon insert to ensure you have lots of coupons on hand when a good sale hits. You also have to spend time each week combing through sale flyers and matching coupons to sales to find the best possible deal.
Extreme couponing also limits your food choices. Some people who’ve tried it find it isn’t worth the effort because they don’t need so many things they can buy with coupons, such as unhealthy food and goods they already have in their pantry.
Still, even if you don’t become a full-time extreme couponer, it’s worthwhile to learn the technique. You don’t have to spend hours clipping coupons and trolling coupon matchup sites or use them every time you shop. But on those rare occasions when it’s possible to stack sales and coupons to get a free box of Cheerios, you’re able to spot the deal and take advantage of it.
Pro tip: You can download the Ibotta app to save money on your groceries without clipping a single coupon. Depending on the store, you will either link your store’s shopper savings card or take a photo of your grocery receipt through the app. Sign up for Ibotta, and you’ll receive a $20 bonus to start.
Contrary to popular belief, sometimes there actually is such a thing as a free lunch. If you know the right places and the right times to go, you can enjoy a meal, or at least a light snack, on the house.
- Community Cafes. At community cafes, the price of a meal is whatever you can afford — even if that’s nothing at all. Some cafes, such as JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey, ask you to work in the kitchen in exchange for your meal if you can’t pay. Others have a free dish of the day that’s available to anyone at no cost.
- Birthday Freebies. Many restaurants have a birthday club that gives you a free meal, drink, or snack on your birthday. You can go from breakfast at IHOP to lunch at Moe’s Southwest Grill to dinner at Chevy’s and coffee at Starbucks, all without spending a cent. You can find more birthday freebie offers at HeyItsFree.net.
- Free Sweets. Your birthday isn’t the only day to enjoy freebies. Many ice cream shops, such as Ben & Jerry’s, have special days when you can enjoy a scoop on the house. Many doughnut shops, such as Dunkin’, give away freebies on National Doughnut Day, the first Friday in June.
- Free Samples. Some warehouse stores, such as Costco, and grocery chains, such as H-Mart, have free sample stations scattered throughout the store on weekends. Noshing on free samples isn’t exactly a substitute for a meal, but it’s a risk-free way to try products you wouldn’t necessarily buy regularly.
- Foraging. You can often gather wild fruit and vegetables for free — even if you live in the city. Falling Fruit maps out places to find food plants on public or private land where foraging is legal.
According to Statista, Americans drank 15 billion gallons of bottled water in 2020 — over 45 gallons per person. At $1 per 16.9-ounce bottle, that works to about $340 per year for a drink you could get right out of a faucet for practically nothing.
Tap water isn’t completely free, but it’s pretty close. According to Statista, the average family of four in the United States pays $72.93 per month for 400 gallons, or about $0.006 per gallon. That means that the $340 worth of bottled water the average American drinks each year would cost just $0.27 if it came out of the tap.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 90% of Americans get their tap water from municipal systems subject to strict safety standards. If the tap water in your area just doesn’t taste good, a simple water filter pitcher can probably remove the off taste and provide fresh, clean-tasting water for a lot less than the $7.57 per gallon you pay for the bottled stuff.
2. Free Clothing
Clothing isn’t nearly as significant an expense for most Americans as food. Still, the average household spends more than $1,880 per year on it, according to the CES.
Yet at the same time, many of us have clothes in our closets we don’t even wear. Maybe they no longer fit or never fit well in the first place. Or perhaps we’re simply tired of them. By joining with friends for a clothing swap party, you can clear the unwanted apparel from your closet and go home with new-to-you clothes for free.
Clothing swaps can benefit everyone. They’re especially useful for families with kids who are constantly outgrowing clothes before they’ve worn out. By getting together with a group of other families whose kids are a bit older or a bit younger than yours, you can pass on outgrown children’s clothes and pick up new ones in sizes that fit.
If there’s anything left over at the end of the day, look for ways to donate the unwanted clothes to charity. Two simple options are giving to a thrift shop or a charitable clothing drive.
3. Free Transportation
Transportation eats up an even more substantial share of the average budget than food. The BLS reports that in 2019, the average American household spent more than $10,700 getting from place to place. More than half of that amount goes toward car-related expenses like gas, oil changes, and auto insurance.
But there are alternatives to driving, such as:
- Free Public Transportation. Many U.S. cities and some smaller towns have free buses or shuttle services. For instance, in New York City, the Staten Island Ferry is free. Dallas has a free vintage trolley known as the M-Line. And in Kansas City, Missouri, about 25% of all public transportation is free.
- Slugging. Some highways have high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for cars with multiple occupants. Some solo drivers offer free rides to passengers during the morning and evening rush hours to gain access to these faster-moving lanes. This practice, known as slugging or casual carpooling, is most widely practiced in Washington, D.C. Passengers in this area can find slugging locations through the Sluglines website and mobile app.
- Walking. Walking to work isn’t an option for everyone. But it has many benefits for those who can manage it. It’s completely free, provides healthy exercise, reduces your carbon footprint, and lets you avoid frustrating rush-hour traffic.
4. Free Housing
Housing is the single most significant expense in most people’s budgets. According to the BLS, the average American household spends more than $12,000 each year on shelter — more than one-fifth of its total spending. Eliminating this expense isn’t easy, but there are ways to do it, especially for single, childless people.
Living With Family
The best-known way of living rent-free is to move in with your parents or other relatives. Recent college graduates often move back home until they get established financially. Moving in with family can also be an option for people of any age who are going through a difficult period, such as a divorce or unexpected job loss.
People who plan to be away from home for an extended time, either for work or on vacation, often hire a house-sitter to look after the place while they’re gone. People with second homes that go unused for prolonged periods sometimes do the same.
A house-sitter’s job involves cleaning, doing yard work, and sometimes caring for pets. In exchange, they get a free place to stay for anywhere from a few weeks to a full year.
Although house-sitting is only a temporary arrangement, some people manage to do it year-round, moving from one house-sitting position to the next throughout the year. Websites like TrustedHousesitters.com and HouseCarers.com match homeowners with people looking for house-sitting opportunities.
A more permanent way to earn your rent by looking after a home is to manage an apartment building or complex. Many apartment complexes provide their managers with a free apartment as part of their pay.
This job requires basic home-repair skills and that you be on call 24/7 to take care of repairs whenever necessary. You can find apartment manager positions through the want ads in your local paper or online job-search sites.
Home-sharing programs match senior citizens who need help around the house with people who need a place to stay. The hosts provide a room, either free or at a reduced cost, and the people who live with them provide companionship and services like cooking, cleaning, and transportation.
Many home-sharers are students. Others are people in transition after a divorce or even other senior citizens with low income. The National Shared Housing Resource Center maintains a list of home-sharing programs in different states.
If you’re interested in gardening, you could get a free room, board, and training in exchange for your labor on an organic farm.
Volunteers with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) participate in the daily life of the farm. Their work can include planting, weeding, harvesting, feeding animals, milking cows, cutting wood, and making compost. This informal arrangement can last anywhere from a few days to six months.
5. Free Things for Your Home
The cost of maintaining a home doesn’t end with paying the rent or mortgage. It costs money to keep a house safe, in good condition, and looking nice both inside and out. Fortunately, there are programs to help you do a lot of these jobs for free.
Freebies for your home include:
- Free Smoke Alarms. Local fire departments in some areas, such as Baltimore and Fairfax County, Virginia, offer free smoke detectors. They even send someone to your house to install them. The Red Cross also offers free smoke detectors through its Sound the Alarm program. However, home installations have been paused due to COVID-19.
- Free Tools. If you need a tool for a home project, look for a tool lending library. These are groups of neighbors that band together to share their tool collections. Some are free to use, while others charge a membership fee. Look for one in your area at Local Tools.
- Free Efficiency Kits. Some public utilities provide free kits full of tools to help homeowners save energy and save water at home. For instance, Duke Energy offers customers a free kit every 36 months with two LED light bulbs, a water-saving showerhead, two faucet aerators, and outlet and switch insulators. Check your utility’s website for similar programs.
- Free Trees. Another way utilities help customers save energy is to give them free trees. Planting them in the right spot can cut energy use by protecting the house from sun and wind. Some local governments and conservation groups also give away tree seedlings for Earth Day (April 22) or Arbor Day (April 24).
- Free Mulch. Some city and county governments offer residents free mulch made from leaves, brush, and fallen trees gathered in the area. All you have to do is pick it up. Another way to get free mulch is to contact a tree service. After removing a tree, they’re often happy to drop the wood chips in a local resident’s yard rather than haul them away.
6. Free Cellphone Service
The average American household pays $1,218 per year for cellphone service, according to the BLS. That’s not so shocking when you realize the three major carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — charge $60 and up per month for an unlimited plan. But if you only need a basic cellphone for emergencies, there are a couple of ways to get one without paying a cent.
If your income is no more than 135% of the federal poverty level, you qualify for the government’s Lifeline program. It provides $9.25 per month for either landline or cellphone service. That’s not enough to pay for most cellphone plans, but a couple of providers work with this program to make cellphone service free to eligible users.
For instance, SafeLink Wireless offers a free plan with unlimited talk, text, and data. It also includes 10 or 15 gigabytes of hotspot data, depending on where you live. Another provider, TruConnect, offers a plan with unlimited talk and text plus 14 gigabytes of data. This plan comes with a free Android smartphone.
If your income doesn’t meet these guidelines, you can still get free cell service with some limits. For instance, you can make unlimited calls and texts over Wi-Fi for free with the Freemium plan from FreedomPop. This plan also includes 10 text messages and 25 megabytes of LTE data.
You can also use Skype or Viber to make free voice and video calls to other people who use the same services. For text messages, look into free texting apps like Text Free or WhatsApp.
7. Free Software and Apps
Computer software and smartphone apps can be pricey. For instance, Microsoft Office costs $150 for a single-computer copy. The deluxe version of TurboTax costs $60, plus $50 for each state return, and you have to upgrade it every year to keep up with changes in tax law.
However, for nearly any task you could ask a computer or smartphone to do, there’s a program out there to do it for free. Some examples include the following:
- Productivity. Open-source productivity software from LibreOffice can do everything Microsoft Office does on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Another alternative is Google’s productivity suite. Its various programs are available either as mobile apps or cloud-based software for your computer.
- Money Management. Mint is a web-based, all-in-one money-management program. Just like the popular budgeting program Quicken, it can track your spending and investments, monitor your credit, create a budget, and remind you about bills. And it does it all without Quicken’s $36 to $104 price tag.
- Taxes. Many tax programs, including TurboTax and TaxAct, offer free editions for filers with simple tax returns. Also, any taxpayer with a household income of $72,000 or less can use the IRS’s Free File program to e-file a federal tax return, though state returns may cost extra. For more info, check out the top free options for online tax preparation.
- Antivirus. If your computer runs Windows 7 or Vista, you can protect it from viruses, spyware, and other malware for free with Microsoft Defender. Users with other operating systems can choose free software from Avast, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, or Sophos, all of which get high marks from reviewers at PCMag and TechRadar.
That’s only a sample of all the free software and apps available. You can get free diet and fitness guidance from SparkPeople or MyFitnessPal, free maps and traffic info from Waze, and various free computer games on Steam.
For any other category, just search the Apple or Google app store. Just be aware that many free apps are supported by ads, which can be annoying.
8. Free Reading Material
Anyone who loves to read knows public libraries are wonderful places to find books, magazines, and newspapers you can enjoy for nothing. But if you don’t have a library nearby, you have some other options:
- Project Gutenberg. More than 60,000 free e-books are available online at Project Gutenberg. They’re all works in the public domain, so you can’t find the latest bestsellers, but you can enjoy classic works of fiction and nonfiction from all over the world.
- Amazon. Kindle users can find over 50,000 free e-books on Amazon. Just search the Kindle store for “free Kindle books.”
- Electronic Libraries. For electronic versions of newer books, see if your local library participates in an e-library program (though some libraries allow nonresidents to access e-books for free). Through these virtual libraries, you use your library card to check out e-books to read on your home computer, tablet, or e-reader, free of charge.
- LibriVox. If you prefer audiobooks, check out LibriVox. This site offers a variety of public-domain audiobooks read aloud by volunteers from all over the world. Other sources of free audiobooks include Loyal Books, DigitalBook.io, and FreeClassicAudiobooks.com.
- Newspaper and Magazine Websites. Most newspapers and some magazines have a website where you can read at least some of their articles for free. Newspaper sites often require a subscription, and many allow you to read only a limited number of articles each month without paying.
9. Free Music and Video
Libraries aren’t just for books. Many of them also boast extensive collections of music CDs and DVDs. The movie rack at your local library likely includes selections you can’t find through most streaming services, including foreign and indie films, documentaries, and complete seasons of popular TV shows.
There are also numerous ways to stream free music and video online. For music, you can choose streaming radio stations like Pandora, LiveXLive, or Last.fm. Many music streaming services, such as Spotify and YouTube Music, also have free versions.
While you’re searching for audio entertainment, don’t overlook podcasts. Some streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, offer a wide selection, from financial podcasts to true crime, and most are free. You can also find podcasts by searching networks like Stitcher, NPR, and Gimlet.
For free movies and TV, one option is ad-supported Pluto TV. You can also stream many shows with commercial breaks through the websites of cable or network TV channels. And YouTube offers a wide selection of videos, many of which aren’t available on regular TV.
Finally, it’s still perfectly possible to watch TV the old-fashioned way: with an antenna. AntennaWeb can help you choose an indoor or outdoor antenna and figure out what broadcast channels you can pick up in your area.
10. Free Entertainment
As if books, music, and video weren’t enough, your local public library can also be a place to find live, in-person entertainment. Many libraries host events like concerts, film screenings, poetry readings, and lectures. For kids, there’s storytime for preschoolers and activities such as crafts.
Some public libraries also have membership deals with local museums, which let you use your library card as a free entrance pass. But even if your library doesn’t have this kind of arrangement, there are many other ways to get into museums for free. Some museums, such as the Smithsonian Museums and Zoo in Washington, D.C., charge no admission fee. Others request a donation of whatever amount you choose.
Other museums offer free admission at certain times, such as the first Monday or third Thursday of every month. Also, if you have a Bank of America credit card, you can use it one weekend per month for free admission to any of more than 200 museums nationwide.
Libraries and museums aren’t the only places to find free entertainment. If your town has a local community calendar, you can use it to find all kinds of free local events, from outdoor film screenings in the summer to holiday parties in December. Also, farmers markets occasionally have performances by local music and dance groups.
If you live near a college or university, you can check the campus calendar for events. Colleges often sponsor free movies, lectures, concerts, and art exhibits. Some of these events are just for students, but others are open to the public.
Other ways to enjoy free indoor and outdoor entertainment include:
- Seeing concerts and plays for free by volunteering as an usher at a local theater
- Finding free movie screenings in your area through Gofobo
- Using Stroll Buddy to find a guided tour of a nearby city
- Visiting a national park on one of the six days per year when admission is free
- Checking TakeMeFishing.org for days when you can go fishing in your state without a license
11. Free Travel
The most expensive type of entertainment of all is recreational travel. A 2019 study by the Allianz Global Conference found that the average American family spends over $2,000 on summertime vacations. At that price, it’s hardly surprising that about 3 in 10 respondents said they weren’t sure they could afford a vacation at all.
But you can enjoy a luxury like travel free of charge if you play your cards right. With a little ingenuity, it’s possible to get free flights, car rentals, and accommodations, leaving you with nothing to pay for on your vacation except your meals and entertainment.
The best-known way to fly for free is to cash in frequent-flyer miles. You can rack up these miles faster by always traveling with the same one or two airlines, using a travel rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and taking advantage of promotions that give you free miles.
If you don’t have a stash of frequent-flyer miles saved up, you can earn a free ticket by getting bumped from a flight. Airlines routinely overbook their flights, selling more seats than they have available because they expect some passengers to cancel. If that doesn’t happen, the airline often asks for volunteers willing to switch to a later flight.
By law, the airlines must compensate these passengers for the inconvenience. These payments can take the form of a check, travel vouchers, or free tickets for future flights.
These payments can be quite substantial. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, if your rebooking delays you by one to two hours, you’re entitled to at least twice what you paid for your one-way fare, up to a maximum of $775.
For a delay of over two hours, your award doubles again, up to a maximum of $1,550. So it’s possible to earn enough for two round-trip flights by getting bumped from just one.
Since most passengers would rather get where they’re going on time, being a willing volunteer puts you at an advantage for scoring free tickets. Keep your travel plans flexible so you can afford to take a delayed flight if you have to, and travel light to avoid having to worry about transferring checked bags to your new flight.
You can also maximize your chances of getting bumped by choosing flights that are most likely to be overbooked. According to The Vacationer, the airlines most likely to bump passengers are Envoy, PSA, Republic, Frontier, and American.
If you’d rather drive to your destination than fly, you can do that for free by volunteering with an auto driveaway service. These are companies people can hire when they need their cars moved from one location to another and don’t want to do the driving themselves.
Some companies pay professional drivers to transport the cars, but others, such as Auto Driveaway, simply match the vehicles to willing drivers. By signing up to be one of these drivers, you can get a free car to take you to your travel destination.
To drive for an auto driveaway service, you generally have to be over a minimum age, such as 23. Companies may also ask for references and check your motor vehicle report for past violations. In some cases, you also have to provide a cash deposit or credit card to cover the cost of damage to the car if you get into an accident.
Once the company approves you as a driver, you can start taking assignments. You get a certain number of days to transport the car to its destination, and the company often pays all or part of your fuel costs as well.
Being a car mover can be a great way to see the country, but it requires some flexibility. Each company has a limited number of cars to deliver at any given time, so you have to be flexible about when and where you travel. Also, when you get the vehicle to its final location, you must either fly home or wait for another driveaway heading in the opposite direction.
If you’re partial to an inexpensive RV road trip, some RV rental companies do the same thing. If you’re flexible about driving an RV versus a car, you can increase your chances of getting a free or cheap ride in both directions.
12. Free Accommodations
Once you get to your travel destination, you still need a place to stay. Fortunately, there are ways to get one without having to pay for it.
Homestays are just what they sound like: staying in someone’s home free of charge. Sites like Couchsurfing match travelers looking for a place to stay with hosts who want to meet new people and learn about other cultures. Couchsurfing has 14 million members from over 200,000 cities worldwide. To become one, set up a profile on the website as a host, guest, or both.
Another site that matches hosts and guests is Servas International. For more than 50 years, this international association has fostered peace and goodwill by creating connections between people of different cultures. It currently includes 15,000 households in over 100 countries.
To become a member, you must set up an account, go through an interview, and pay a membership fee ranging from $49 to $98 per year. That’s less than the cost of a one-night hotel stay in many cities, and it entitles you to as many visits with other members as you wish to make in a year.
It’s easier to find homestays if you’re a single person traveling alone since you can sleep on a couch if that’s what’s available. Servas International is aimed primarily toward young, single people, such as college students or volunteer peace workers.
But some Couchsurfing hosts can provide accommodations for a whole family. Bloggers who discuss the experience of couch surfing with kids say it gave them a chance to meet and bond with other families during their travels rather than just sightseeing.
House-swapping is a slightly different arrangement. Instead of being a guest in a family’s home, you stay in their home while they stay in yours.
You can swap houses simultaneously, or you can arrange to have the guests stay at your home at one time and you stay in theirs at another, with each of you staying somewhere else while your home is in use. The latter is easiest for people who have second homes or vacation homes.
House swapping can save you thousands of dollars in hotel bills, and it gives you a place to stay that truly has all the comforts of home. You can live the life of a native in your vacation city and save on food by having a kitchen to cook your own meals.
The downside of house-swapping is that it means letting strangers into your home. But you get to choose the people you swap homes with and vet them carefully in advance, much as you do when you meet people through an Internet dating service. It gives you a chance to get to know your guests and get comfortable with the idea of being in each other’s homes.
It’s easiest to find house-swapping opportunities if you live in a popular tourist area. But people travel for all kinds of reasons, so even if your city isn’t a popular destination, it’s worth trying.
The top site for house swappers is HomeExchange. This network includes 450,000 homes in 159 countries. There’s a $150 annual fee that covers unlimited swaps. HomeExchange also has a system that lets you lend your house to one person for points, then cash them in to stay in someone else’s home.
13. Free Education
These days, it’s possible to learn all kinds of things online for free. You can find tutorials on sites like YouTube for everything from home improvement to cooking.
For those who prefer hands-on education, many retailers offer free in-person workshops. For instance, you can learn cooking at Williams Sonoma, map and compass use at REI, home and garden maintenance at Home Depot, or jewelry making at Michaels.
But free education isn’t limited to quick, one-off lessons. With the right tools, you can pursue an entire course of study for nothing. Possible subjects include:
- Foreign Languages. There are several ways to learn a foreign language for free. You can find online courses in languages from ancient Greek to Mandarin at Open Culture. You can also use the free version of the Duolingo app to take classes in over 40 languages. And some public libraries offer free language classes to patrons.
- Music. Several sites offer free music lessons for different musical instruments. You can learn piano with a free subscription to Hoffman Academy or drums through Drum Ambition. For aspiring composers, MusicTheory.net teaches music theory and MuseScore offers free, open-source software for creating sheet music.
- Computer Skills. Public libraries often have classes in basic computing skills like spreadsheet use and image editing. For more complex skills like learning a new programming language, try Khan Academy, Codecademy, and Coursera. All these sites offer free courses, though there may be a fee for some advanced ones.
- Financial Skills. You can learn about investing online through sites like Morningstar, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, EverFi, and the Extension Foundation. Coursera has free classes in investing and other financial skills, such as personal and family financial planning. And Purdue University offers a free online course on retirement planning.
It’s even possible to go to college at no cost. Some colleges are tuition-free for those who qualify, and many more offer free classes for senior citizens. Additionally, the Society for Human Resources Management, commonly known as SHRM, reports that over half of U.S. employers provide some financial assistance for employees pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees.
14. Free Health Care
In the U.S., health care is notoriously expensive. However, there are ways to get access to certain types of health products and services for free. Some are only for people with low incomes, while others are available to anyone.
In a crisis, you can get free mental health assistance at no cost through hotlines like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line. You can also use the website and app 7 Cups to chat online with trained volunteer listeners at any time. For ongoing help, you can find a free support group through Mental Health America.
The two programs from EyeCare America provide free eye exams to qualifying patients. One program is for senior citizens, while the other is for people at increased risk of glaucoma. Both are open only to people who do not have insurance that covers eye care. Visit the website to see if you qualify.
Diet and Fitness
Some workplaces offer free wellness plans for employees. They can include free gym access, weight loss support groups, and smoking cessation. And many free apps, such as MyFitnessPal and Sworkit, offer meal plans, calorie counters, workout programs, and tools for tracking your progress.
There are also lots of free workouts online. Videos on YouTube can teach you exercises like yoga, Zumba, and Pilates. Another way to work out without a gym membership is to look for free fitness classes in local parks, libraries, and community centers. To find them, look for listings of local events in newspapers or on your town’s official website.
Some supermarket pharmacies offer certain prescription drugs at no cost. For instance, both Meijer and Publix dispense certain antibiotics for free to anyone with a prescription. Publix also offers common medications for treating high blood pressure.
Low-income people without prescription drug insurance have even more options for finding free medication. These include:
- Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). These are programs run by pharmaceutical companies to provide free meds to people who can’t afford them. You can find PAPs through RxAssist or PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool.
- State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs). In many states, Medicare recipients can get help with prescription costs through an SPAP. To see if your state has an SPAP, check the Medicare site.
- Community Charity Pharmacies (CCPs). Some licensed pharmacies receive donations of drugs from pharmaceutical companies and nonprofits. They dispense these drugs to uninsured low-income individuals at no cost. To find a CCP in your area, check the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFCC).
Other Medical Care
The NAFCC site can also help you find free and charitable clinics that provide all kinds of care at no cost to those who can’t afford to pay. Another place to look for free clinics in your area is the government’s Find a Health Center site.
15. Free Baby Gear
Taking care of a newborn baby can be incredibly expensive. Fortunately, there are lots of freebies available to help new parents deal with the cost. Places to look for free baby stuff include:
- Hand-Me-Downs. Lots of people hang on to their old baby gear long after their kids outgrow it. When you let friends and family know you’re expecting, many of them will happily give you their unused cribs, strollers, or baby clothes. Just check to ensure they still meet safety guidelines.
- Retailer Registries. Many retailers offer you a free baby gift when you sign up for a new-baby gift registry. Registering at Amazon, Target, or Walmart can get you a sample box packed with baby products like diapers and formula.
- Medical Facilities. Doctors’ offices and hospitals sometimes offer new parents free samples of products like diapers and baby formula.
- Manufacturers. You can request free samples of formula directly from the manufacturers, such as Enfamil and Similac. Makers of other baby products sometimes offer freebies too, so check their websites.
- Insurers. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers must cover the cost of breast pumps for new moms. Contact your insurer to find out what kinds of pumps they cover and how to get one.
- Diaper Banks. Parents who have trouble affording diapers can seek assistance from a local diaper bank. Food banks, shelters, churches, and other community organizations may offer diaper assistance as well. And if you’re on WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), you can ask the staff to help you find local sources of free or low-cost diapers.
16. Miscellaneous Freebies
Believe it or not, this list only scratches the surface of all the things it’s possible to find for free. Other sources of free stuff include:
- Birthday Freebies. The free goodies you can get on your birthday aren’t limited to restaurant meals. The list of birthday offers at Hey, It’s Free also includes coupons from various retail stores and free gifts from the high-end beauty products stores Sephora and Ulta. You can also get a free DVD rental through Redbox Perks.
- Free Samples. Companies offer a never-ending stream of free products to sample. Examples include coupons, travel-size toiletries, food, and pet products. To find them, sign up with one of the many freebie-finding sites online, such as TheFreeSite.com, Hey, It’s Free, SweetFreeStuff.com, and Hunt4Freebies.
- Freecycle Groups. The Freecycle Network is a website people use to give away unwanted goods to people in their area who can use them. On my local Freecycle group, I’ve seen offers for books, toys, sporting goods, clothing, furniture, computers, and appliances in every condition, from brand new to completely broken.
- Other Secondhand Sites. Freecycle isn’t the only place to find unwanted items people are giving away. In many areas, you can join a Buy Nothing group to give away things you don’t need and get free things from others. Also, many local Craigslist sites have a free section.
If you can’t find what you’re interested in for free through any of these sites, search online for the name of the item you want plus the word “free,” such as “free games.” To find a physical object, such as a couch, try adding your location — for example, “free couch Cleveland” — and see what pops up. No matter what you’re searching for, you’re practically certain to get at least a few hits.
Naturally, almost no one can get everything for free. You’d have to be unbelievably lucky to find a house-sitting job that covers all your housing expenses, is close enough to your work to allow you to walk, and is in a town with an excellent public library and a community cafe.
Moreover, free stuff often comes with a cost. For instance, it’s not worth becoming a full-time apartment manager to get free housing if it means giving up a job you love. And it makes no sense to spend your limited vacation time going somewhere you have no interest in seeing just because you can drive there and stay there for free.
But there are also some freebies nearly anyone can take advantage of. For example, to use freebie sites, all you need is a mobile device or computer with an Internet connection. To practice extreme couponing, you don’t even need that since you can use the coupon inserts from your weekly paper.
No matter who you are or what your situation is, you can almost certainly find a way to get something for nothing and take a little bit of the pressure off your personal budget.