10 free things people often pay for
Life's tough enough without paying for things you could be getting free. Here are some examples.
Your mom always told you that money doesn't grow on trees. She's right, so why waste it. There are plenty of free things you can pluck from the Web as well as from libraries, parks, banks and other businesses.
Here's a look at 10 potential freebies. First, take a look at this recent news story from Stacy Johnson. Then I'll provide more details below.
Here's another look at those ideas, along with a few more.
- Free checking. Last week we wrote an article about how free checking will soon become fee checking at many banks. But plenty of banks still offer free checking accounts. SunTrust, for example, offers a free plan with no minimum balance required. And you get free online and ATM service too. Wachovia and U.S. Bank still have their own version of free accounts. Chase offers $100 for opening such an account. Indeed, a host of banks and savings and loans offer free checking. So far. When you're looking for lower fees, including free checking, also look at smaller local banks and credit unions.
- Free credit reports. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com for a free look at your credit reports once a year. If the financial reform bill passes, you might also one day get a free look at your credit score. Read about other changes ahead here.
- Free access to cash. If you can't find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back from your account with no fee when you use your debit/ATM card to make even a small purchase. You can buy a candy bar or a Diet Coke and get up to $100 in cash at Wal-Mart. Target will give you back up to $40 if you use your card for a purchase. Grocery stores also offer cash back. And then there are iPhone and other apps that will help you locate ATMs. Here's one.
- Free information calls. Google 411 will get you information numbers free, so don't get ripped off by your cell phone provider. When you need directory assistance, dial (800) GOOG-411.
- Free scholarship search. Plenty of websites, such as Fastweb, offer free searches for scholarships. There's even a company called Free Scholarship Searches that offers links to 40 websites that provide free scholarship searches. And check out our recent story, "6 tips to pay less for a college degree."
- Free baggage. Sure, most airlines charge to check bags, but at least one doesn't: Southwest. Some airlines offer free baggage checking if you're a member of their elite club, and at least one -- Delta -- is offering one free bag for using its credit card. And remember, carrying on bags is still free, except at Spirit Airlines.
- Free entertainment. Your local library and parks offer lots of free fun, from books to movies to concerts. Join their e-mail lists to see what's up. And of course, there's the Internet, offering free games as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Just go to the website of your favorite periodical.
- Free water. While technically not free, tap water is about as close as you can get. If you're concerned about water quality, buy a filter. But don't ever pay for water at a convenience store.
- Free TV. Thanks to sites like Hulu, you can now watch many popular television shows online for free. If your favorite shows are free on the Web, why pay for cable or satellite?
- Free telephone calls. Services like Skype and AIM let you communicate with other users for free. Always calling a loved one long distance? If you both get copies of something like Skype, you can talk all you want without paying a dime. And with a service like Google Voice, you can get all of your cell phone calls free, too.
That's a few quick ideas, but we know there are dozens more. Share your favorite and let's make this list longer.
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