21 things you should never pay for
If you want to find extra money in your budget, stop paying for things you could get for nothing.
This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.
One of the best ways to spend less? Stop paying for things you could get free.
Here's a list of 21:
1. Free cars for long-distance trips
Many people want their cars moved from place to place but don't want to do the driving. Sometimes these cars are delivered by truck, but often they're driven -- by people like you. If you have a clean driving record, a car delivery company like AutoDriveaway might hook you up.
I did car delivery a few times when I was in college and found it a great way to get where you're going. It's best if you're flexible about when you leave, return and perhaps even where you go. You still have to pay for gas, and the trip home can be problematic. I used to hitchhike, but smarter choices today would be bus, plane, train or waiting at the other end for another drive-away car.
2. Free lodging
Why stay in a hotel when nonprofit Couchsurfing.org offers tourists a chance to stay at homes for free? Make friends with sponsoring families throughout the U.S. and countries ranging from Croatia to France. You have to set up a profile on the CouchSurfing website, which provides tips on how to find families willing to open their homes to you. Obviously, the digs won't be fancy, but they'll be free.
Another way to get free lodging is to home swap.
3. Free audiobooks
Now you can find out for free the fate of Pip in "Great Expectations" or Elizabeth in "Pride and Prejudice" as you drive or jog. Download free audiobooks from nonprofit LibriVox.org, which has volunteers recording classics in the public domain. You can also volunteer to help by reading. LibriVox will even provide you with free recording software.
4. Free food
There's at least one day every year when you shouldn't think of paying for a meal. Frugal Living has a list of hundreds of businesses that offer birthday freebies, most of which are food. For a free libation at your favorite pub, do what I do: Loudly proclaim it's your birthday. Often people within earshot will pick up your next round.
5. Free food for kids
Don't go to another restaurant that doesn't feed your kids for free. MyKidsEatFree.com offers a roadmap of where you can save on kids' meals. You'll pay, but your kids won't at more than 5,000 restaurants across the country.
6. Free samples
Before you go to the drugstore and shell out silly sums for travel sizes of your favorite toiletries, go to Volition.com or one of many other websites that offer free samples. In addition to soap, shampoo, etc., you might find all manner of interesting things. For example, we've spotted circus tickets, a free diet analysis and free advance movie screenings. Other free megasites include TheFreeSite.com and Freechannel.net.
7. Free TV
While more than 100 million Americans shell out an average of $75 every month for satellite or cable TV, local channels are still free. And thanks to digital signals, reception is better than ever. You can also find free TV shows and movies online.
8. Free software
You can get free software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and other uses by going to OpenOffice.org. And that's the tip of the iceberg. No matter what kind of software you want, you can probably find it for free.
9. Free anti-virus
This one could go under "free software," but it's important enough to warrant its own spot on the list. We provided a solution on MoneyTalksNews.
10. Free speech
Make your voice heard around the world with your own blog. Many companies will help you set up your own site at no charge, such as WordPress and Blogger. They'll even give you free, easy instructions and a choice of blog templates.
11. Free foreign language lessons
The BBC is on the other side of the pond, but it offers free 12-week classes to learn French, Spanish, Italian or German -- gratis. You'll even get a certificate at the completion of the course. The BBC also offers other audio and video courses in the four languages, as well as help with learning other languages.
12. Free checking
According to The Wall Street Journal, the average minimum checking account balance required to avoid a monthly fee at U.S. banks is $723, and the average monthly fee is $5.48. But banks aren't the only game in town. While not all credit unions offer free checking, the prospect of lower fees is one of the reasons you should join one.
Another option is online-only banks. Without the overhead that brick-and-mortar branches have, the terms are often much better. Consumerism Commentary ranks the best online checking accounts.
Too much hassle to leave your bank? Threaten to and see if you can have fees reduced or eliminated.
13. Free credit reports and scores
Don't pay for a copy of your credit report. Instead, go to AnnualCreditReport.com for a free look at each of your three major credit reports once a year.
As for free credit scores, you can turn to websites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, although they won't give you the most widely used score, the FICO score. For that, you could try enrolling in a FICO product that comes with a free score, then canceling within the cancellation period.
14. Free cash
Tired of paying a $2.50 "convenience fee" for using an ATM that's not in your bank's network? Use an app like ATM Hunter to find a branch ATM. If you can't find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back with no fee when you make a purchase with your debit card.
15. Free information
Use the search feature on your smartphone, or text a business name to Google, and you'll get the number texted back. You can also dial Free 411 at (800) Free411. The results are sponsored by companies (you'll have to listen to a 10-second ad), but it's free.
16. Free scholarship search
Plenty of websites, such as Fastweb, offer free searches for scholarships. A company called Free Scholarship Searches offers links to 40 websites that offer free scholarship searches.
17. Free baggage
My wife and I went to Europe for 10 days with just one carry-on each. If we can do it, so can you. But if you insist on checking a bag, try to fly with the only two airlines that allow a free checked bag: Southwest and JetBlue. And avoid the two that slap consumers in the face by charging for carry-ons: Spirit and Allegiant.
Need to check a bag and fly an airline that charges? Delta, United and American all offer credit cards that include checked-bag-fee waivers for cardholders and, in some cases, their companions.
18. Free entertainment
Your local library, parks and universities offer lots of free fun, from books and DVDs to plays and concerts. Join email lists to see what's up. And of course, there's the Internet, offering free games as well as articles. Just go to the website of your favorite news source.
Volunteering doesn't cost a dime and can pay off for both you and your community. Local animal shelters, homebuilding groups, shelters and food banks are always looking for volunteers. And check out volunteer opportunities at local festivals and events. By volunteering, you get to go to the event free.
19. 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.
20. Free telephone calls
Always calling a loved one long distance? If you both get 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 cellphone calls free too.
21. Free everything else
You have something you don't want but it's too valuable to throw away? You might donate it to charity, but you also might give it away at sites like Craigslist or Freecycle, a nonprofit set up to help you find free stuff and keep it out of landfills. From used furniture to sports equipment, you'll be amazed at what people give away.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
- How to drive across the country free
- Best price for a hotel room? $0
- 15 super-frugal savings tips
- America's 10 worst hotel chains
22.Your own healthcare
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Thomson Reuters (click for restrictions). Real-time quotes provided by BATS Exchange. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Interactive Data Real-Time Services. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by SIX Financial Information.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Your No. 1 priority needs to be keeping safe. But after that, you can save yourself some grief by making careful records -- and keeping all your receipts.