At Kiplinger, we believe you can have the best of both worlds: that you can live frugally and live well.
To prove that point, we're back with our fifth annual list of fabulous freebies. We found 31 categories of quality goods and services -- from free financial services to free entertainment, no useless junk allowed! -- that you would happily pay money for, except you don't have to.
Welcome to the land of the freebies, the home of the savers.
Want to learn something new in your spare time? Many local retailers offer free workshops. For instance, you can improve your culinary skills at Williams-Sonoma's free technique classes. At REI, take advantage of free clinics on bike maintenance, backpacking, camp cooking and more (offerings vary by location). Lululemon Athletica stores host free yoga sessions. Apple, Home Depot, Lowe's and Michaels stores offer free classes for adults and kids.
Check your local library, too. We've seen free hands-on workshops for computers, chess, knitting and more. You can learn a new language at FSI-language-courses.org, learn to draw at Drawspace.com, or improve your golf game at Golf.com, just to name a few resources.
Your favorite snack shop or fast food restaurant may have an annual freebie day. Mark your calendar for free IHOP pancakes and Rita's Italian ice in March; free Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Pretzelmaker pretzels, Cinnabon treats and Starbucks coffee in April; free Haagen-Dazs ice cream in May; a free Krispy Kreme doughnut and TCBY frozen yogurt in June; and a free Chick-Fil-A meal in July -- to name a few.
You can also sign up to score free food on your birthday from Famous Dave's BBQ, Cold Stone Creamery, Denny's and other eateries. Search the Web for "birthday freebies," or call your local restaurants to ask whether they offer such a deal.
Free Investing Apps
Some of our favorites: Bloomberg for up-to-the-minute stock quotes and breaking news, Morningstar for mutual fund research at your fingertips, and Yahoo Finance for the latest financial headlines, stock news and videos.
If you own a Kindle, iPad or other electronic reader, you can populate your e-library without breaking the bank. E-books commonly sell for $9.99 -- less than hardcovers but about as much as paperbacks. But at Gutenberg.org or the University of Pennsylvania's online books page, you won't pay a cent to legally download thousands of books whose copyrights have expired, including War and Peace, Moby Dick and Little Women.
You can also search for free e-books at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, iTunes.com and Kobo.com. Or check your public library, where you can get newer titles for free too.
If you love to shop online but hate to pay for shipping, go to FreeShipping.org. The site can direct you to retailers -- such as BlueNile.com, Linens 'n Things, LLBean.com and Zappos.com -- who still offer free shipping on every order, big or small. The site also gives you coupon codes to snag free shipping at other retailers.
Free Diet & Fitness Help
Need help sticking to a diet and exercise plan? At Fatsecret.com, MyFitnessPal.com and SparkPeople.com, you can craft meal plans and count calories, put together a fitness plan and track your progress, and get support and advice from other users.
Some employers offer free diet and fitness help to their employees. After all, it's in their best interest that you stay healthy and show up for work. These programs may include free gym access, weight-loss support groups and smoking cessation programs. Some will even pay you for your progress. Ask if your workplace has a wellness plan in place.
Free Kids' Meals
How much do you hate buying a $12 entrée for a picky 6-year-old? If the answer is "a lot," visit KidsMealDeals.com. The site points you to restaurants in your area where kids eat free (usually at certain times or on certain days). It includes independent eateries as well as national chains.
Also, call your local eateries and ask if they offer kids' deals. Some do but they don't advertise them, so it's worth asking.
You can entertain friends, family or even a date for free -- without looking cheap. Many top-notch museums, galleries and zoos offer free admission year-round, including the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Others, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, let you in for free on certain days of the week or month. And many college campuses host free concerts and student art exhibits.
Every October, select theaters nationwide give free performances. Go to FreeNightofTheater.net to learn more. And public parks, beaches and forests are ideal settings for walking, biking, hiking, sledding, wildlife-watching, picnicking, kite flying, stargazing ... the sky's the limit.
Free Books, Music, Movies & More
No list of freebies would be complete without our perennial favorite: your public library. Most offer books, magazines, audiobooks, e-books, video games, CDs and DVDs for free (as long as you return them on time, of course).
Your library may also host free activities, such as book clubs, lectures, film screenings, children's story hours and craft activities.
Free Tax Help
Understanding the U.S. tax code can be, well, taxing. But Kiplinger.com is here to help. During tax season, we publish a tip a day to make sure you get every dime you're due. Also check out the discussion board at HRBlock.com, which is monitored by tax professionals during tax season.
The IRS wants to help, too. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Call 1-800-829-1040 to get answers from the people who enforce the rules. You may also qualify for free face-to-face help from a tax pro volunteer. See the IRS's list of free tax return preparation resources for details.