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12 ways to get free stuff

Key takeaways

  • There is such a thing as a free lunch—or at least free food samples.
  • Online searches can turn up sites that list new free samples daily from many different kinds of brands.
  • Don’t overlook tried-and-true sources of freebies, such as libraries and coupon mailers.

Sometimes it feels like you can’t walk out of your house without money flying out of your pocket. If your bank account is feeling the squeeze from price hikes, it might be time to seek out some freebies. If you know where to look, it’s not hard to find something you’ll enjoy for free. Here are some simple ways to get free goods, services, and even straight-up cash.

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How to get free stuff

1. Get rewarded for brand loyalty

Every business wants your email address so they can contact you and get you to spend more. While the constant communication might be tiring, sharing your contact info is a great way to get notified about freebies.

On your birthday

Many chain restaurants, stores, and big brands offer freebies to celebrate. If you’re a fan of a particular store, find out if signing up for their loyalty program or newsletter will get you a birthday surprise. You could score free food, coffee, makeup, or points or cash toward any purchase.

In your inbox

If your email is clogged with a bunch of unread promotional emails, simply type “free” in your email search bar. The results list will automatically highlight any messages that mention freebies. Check every couple of weeks.

2. Scour social media groups

Search social media platforms for groups such as Freecycle and Buy Nothing in your area to find out what your neighbors are giving away. Or use a neighborhood app and go to the "free finds" page. Also, regularly search for “curb alert” in local groups to find out what your neighbors are leaving outside for the taking. You could turn up furniture, toys, and more.

3. Love your library card

Obviously, a library card entitles you to borrow books, magazines, movies, and video games for free. But many libraries partner with programs that grant free access to language learning, research portals, and streaming entertainment. Your library card might also get you into local museums, gardens, and other sites. Check with your library to find out what else your card could give you.

4. Take a freebie-filled trip

Vacations are expensive, so it makes sense to seek out whatever you can get for free.

With activities

Tourism is big business, so states and cities want you to visit. Check tourism websites for free guides that get mailed to your home with coupons for freebies at your destination. And remember to use local resources, such as social media groups and libraries, to get the inside scoop on free events during your stay.

With your flight

Overbooked flights could pave the way for instant freebies if you volunteer to go with the flow. When you arrive at your gate for a packed flight, tell airline staffers that you’re willing to take a different flight if they can give you cash or other perks. Your amenable outlook could get you bumped up to a better seat on your next flight.

At the airport

Look up your credit card rewards. Yours might come with a benefit to check baggage for free. Some cards also offer access to certain airport lounges with free food and drinks. Being a frequent flier on certain airlines might also grant you entry into a lounge. One more way to get in: traveling with a friend who has access. They usually can bring a guest or 2 with them.

On a boat

Some cities and even resort areas offer ferry service between destinations for no charge. Did you know? The Staten Island Ferry in New York City is free, and a ride comes with views of the Statue of Liberty. Taking it back and forth could make for a refreshing activity.

5. Find food for less

Food tastes better when you don’t have to pay for it. Try these tricks for a free taste.

At restaurants

Some eateries offer incentives to get customers in the door during the early-week lull. Ask about deals that are available then. You might find 2-for-1 entrees, free kids’ meals, or steep discounts on certain menu items.

In the office

There’s no shame in dining on leftovers from catered meetings. Walk the halls just past lunchtime to see if there are any lingering sandwich trays for the masses.

6. Educate yourself

Maybe spending 4 years at an Ivy League university wasn’t in the budget during your collegiate years, but you can audit classes from these top schools—as well as hundreds of other accredited colleges and universities—from the comfort of your own home. Even better? You get to do it for free with no core requirements. Just search online for free courses + the university you want to learn from or the subject you’re interested in, and you can get class video recordings and other course material.

7. Take home medications

Need an expensive prescription? It’s worth asking your doctor if they have any free samples at your next visit. Drug companies often give these to health care providers to share with patients.

8. Stream movies and TV

In a sea of paid subscription services, an online search can pop up multiple free ones that offer on-demand shows and films.

9. Get a lift for less

Watch for ride-share company promotions, such as ordering rides from social media messaging apps, referring your friends to sign up as new users, and scheduling rides as a New Year’s Eve partygoer. One ride-share company even offers free rides to job trainings and interviews if you’re unemployed.

10. Try out new cosmetics

Perhaps more than any other, the beauty industry relies on giving out freebies to entice customers to buy new products. Beauty retailers and department store makeup counters are a major source of free samples. All you have to do is ask. You can even order samples to be sent to your home straight from some major beauty retailers’ websites.

11. Search free sample sites

Lots of websites are updated daily with links to freebies available from food, drink, beauty, sporting good, and pet supply brands. Some might ask you to fill out a questionnaire. Others might connect you with freebies, no questions asked. Just search online for “free samples.” And you could enable “Send Me a Sample” on certain smart home devices, and then ask what’s available.

12. Use coupons

An oldie but a goodie: the coupon. In the age of digital everything, you’ll still see coupons on printed receipts from grocery and drug stores and in mailers that fill your mailbox. Resist the urge to immediately recycle those. If you take the time to look, you might find a deal you actually want.

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