Nothing in life is free.
Or so they say. BUT, there are times when you CAN get free things. As a matter of fact, there are some things you should NEVER pay for.
I am not talking about bootlegging movies or music, or stealing satellite TV. (Never break the law, ever. What would your momma say if she knew you were using bittorrent?) I am just talking about things in life that you can get for free, or almost free, with a little effort and initiative.
Here’s a list in no particular order of things you can get for free (or almost). These won’t apply to all of ya, and may vary by your location.
1. Packing supplies. Yep. All you eBayer’s out there, for the most part, could be getting your packing supplies for free. One way is to ask; ask at businesses that get inventory in boxes the sizes you need. Or, just by-pass the asking part and go dumpster diving. Boxes of all sizes, packing paper, packing peanuts, and envelopes are all readily available for FREE in businesses’ “recycle only” dumpsters. We haven’t paid for shipping supplies (except tape) in years thanks to this idea. We’ve also found other sorts of neat stuff in dumpsters, like dozens of greeting cards with envelopes, magazines, books, computers and computer parts, a car stereo, a dehumidifier, fish tanks, picture frames, and more. I have even heard of people who claim that safe food can be found in dumpsters, like pizza behind a pizza restaurant or groceries from a grocery store. (But we’re not dirty hippies so we don’t eat food outta dumpsters.)
2. Moving Boxes. These are also freely available in dumpsters or on craigslist. It almost seems stupid to think of paying $4 per box at one of the moving places. OK – it is stupid. Never pay for boxes.
3. Baby stuff. Parents spend WAY too much on baby stuff. And while there are a lot of things you do need to get (like from a store) when a little one comes along, lots of things can be acquired for free. Again, craigslist has a “free” section and you’d be surprised at how often baby paraphernalia is given away after couples decide they aren’t going to add another number to the world’s population. I personally have gotten years supplies of boy clothes, two baby swings, carseats, blankets, sheets, bottles, and even diapers through craigslist. All in good condition, and some even in NEW condition. Babies don’t put wear and tear on stuff like swings – so I’d rather get a free one than to pay $70 for a new one that will get 6 months of use. I have also given away baby stuff, including baby formula, diaper bags, and toys. Also, most hospitals have generic but usable diaper bags they give to newborns. And some community centers give away car seats and baby slings, depending on where you live.
4. Doula services. If you have ever had a baby (or watched as you wife was in labor), you know how extra support throughout the entire pregnancy would be a godsend. And that’s what a doula does. But their services can be quite expensive. Unless they aren’t certified/licensed yet; then they provide their services for free or on a donation basis as they need the experience to become fully certified. Do some on-line searching and find a doula-in-training. I had a wonderful doula-in-training who helped me treat an agonizing and mysterious condition naturally that even my doctor hadn’t been able to help with.
5. Real estate commission. I am a very strong believer in doing it FSBO. Television commercials for realtor services make selling a home appear scary and overwhelming and hard. But it’s not. Why give away 6% (which might equal $12,000 or $40,000 or who knows how much money) of your own equity to an agent when you can do it all yourself? It does take work- mostly in the form of prepping your house (which you would have to do anyway) and in the form of research so you can price your home correctly and know what to do legally. It does take time. But 6% is a lot of money when you’re talking about the price of a freaking HOUSE. And today there are many options if you want to sell your home yourself: FSBO websites with all the tips, home value websites, real estate books and classes, etc. However, I also understand that there might be situations in which you can’t avoid using a realtor, such as when you have already moved (maybe out of state), or if your time is worth more than what you will end up paying an agent.
6. Legal forms. Many forms, such as real estate forms, are freely available on-line. Do some on-line searching and you’ll probably find the forms you need.
7. Groceries. (No I already told you we don’t eat from a dumpsters!) We lived in Texas for a bit during what is sometimes called the grocery-store wars. Pricing was very competitive and stores ran loss-leaders like crazy. One store in particular (Tom Thumb) had a triple coupon day once a week; they would triple coupons up to $0.75. That adds up to $2.25 off what ever product, and that also meant most of those products ended up being free, or a few pennies, when the same products were on sale. I always felt elated going there and coming out with bags and bags of groceries that were free or a few pennies! It was entirely possible (with a bit of planning and strategic buying) to get over a hundred dollars of groceries for just a few bucks after all the coupons were tripled and deducted. Where we currently live the stores don’t triple coupons – but maybe where you live they do. If so, think of this as a grocery store hack.
8. Shipping and handling. When you are going to buy something from an on-line store, it pays to do some searching for codes that give you free s&h or a percentage off. For example, I recently bought a slipcover on sale for $49.00 (originally $119.00) from www.lnt.com. Before checking out, I googled “code, linens and things” and found a few sites listing coupon codes that I could use for saving money. LNT.com already had free shipping on clearance items, and I saved an additional 20% using a coupon code I found on-line. I was really happy to have a quality product for the price of a cheap imitation. I do this for EVERYTHING I buy online. I register a lot of domain names as well, and before buying a domain I always look for offers, discount codes, promo codes, etc. and I always find something.
9. Clothes. If you don’t mind wearing used clothing there is always eBay. For adults and especially kids, are given away all the time on craigslist and freecycle. Many times the clothes are name brand. This isn’t my personal choice but it’s an option.
10. Household/furniture. You’re a college student? You’re a young couple just starting out? Well before you break the bank by furnishing your house or apartment with all new stuff – hold on to your cash and take a look around. People move all the time, or redecorate, or kick out their lying, cheating significant other and all their belongings. So you can find all sorts of household items and furniture on craiglist, freecycle, or next to the street in rich neighborhoods. Some of that stuff is awesome.
I think 10 is a nice round number to stop at for a list. But here’s an interesting note for business owners. It has been our experience that having a business license gets you lots of freebies. We got free memberships to a warehouse club store (Costco), free office supplies from Staples, dozens of free batteries, and free pens (of course), among other things.
I know some readers are bound to turn their nose up and scoff at trying to get freebies. But there are other out there, like me, who love the challenge of getting things for free or really cheap. Maybe you didn’t hear: frugal is the new black. And if you have your own little ways of getting free stuff, the rest of us would love for you to share your secrets.