There’s only one thing better than getting a good price on something, and that’s getting it for free.
Our annual list of freebies is packed with more something-for-nothing deals than ever. We don’t allow any useless junk on our list, only quality goods and services that you would happily pay good money for (or perhaps you already are). From free financial services to free technology and entertainment, there’s something here for everyone.
Go ahead. Put away your wallet. We insist!
You can actually get a free college education at a handful of schools.
For example, Berea College in Berea, Ky., covers the full $20,900 tuition for all students, out of a combination of grants, scholarships and work-study.
Cooper Union in New York City grants a full-tuition scholarship -- valued at $150,000 over the course of four years -- to all students.
And College of the Ozarks in Missouri requires students to participate in a work program rather than pay tuition.
(See more: What you should NEVER pay full price for)
Free Food at Restaurants
Your favorite snack shop or fast-food restaurant may have an annual freebie day.-- A free Rita’s Italian Ice in March
-- A free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Pretzelmaker pretzel, Cinnabon treat and Starbucks coffee in April
-- A free Haagen-Dazs ice cream in May
-- A free Krispy Kreme doughnut and TCBY frozen yogurt in June
-- A free 7-Eleven slurpee on 7/11 and a Chick Fil-A meal in July
Check with your favorite establishment to see if it offers any freebies throughout the year.
Free Computer Security
You don’t have to pay $70 a year for security software.
Avast Antivirus and Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows get good reviews from tech experts and offer basic defenses, including malware protection.
Free Digital Storage Space
With free online backup storage, you can share files and protect them from computer crashes, theft and natural disaster. Windows Live SkyDrive gives you 7 gigabytes of free, secure digital storage space.
You can also use Amazon Cloud Drive (5 GB free) or Dropbox (2 GB free).
Save money on your cell phone plan by using a free texting service such as textPlus. It assigns you a free phone number through which you can send and receive texts as much as you want on your Android devices, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Free Tech Support
If you have a problem with your computer, head to TechGuy.org or 5starsupport.com for free help. You can search the forums for your machine’s particular ailment or post a question to receive a timely response from the sites’ squad of geek volunteers.
And if these sites can’t help you, visit your device’s manufacturer’s own site for more free resources. Many post user manuals and FAQs to help you solve your dilemma.
Free Flight Perks
Domestic airlines are stingy with giveaways. But some airlines still offer a few freebies for fliers. One of our favorites: Southwest lets you check two bags for free -- which can save you up to $120 on a round-trip flight. JetBlue lets you check one bag free, plus gives you access to free TV, satellite radio and all-you-can-eat snacks.
Free Passport Photos
You’ll pay about $15 at the post office to get your picture taken for your passport. Instead, take your photo with your own digital camera, then upload it to ePassportPhoto.com, which will help you size it properly before printing on your home printer. The best part: You can redo your picture as many times as you like. After all, who wants to get stuck with a bad photo for the next ten years?
Free Language Lessons
Prepare for your international getaway with the free foreign language lessons online at FSI-language-courses.org. Or go to Openculture.com for a list of lessons around the Web that you can download to your MP3 player. Your public library may also offer courses or software to help you prepare for your travels.
Free Diet and 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. 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.
(See more: 25 Ways to Waste Your Money)
Free Rx Drugs
Bring in your prescription, and you can get free antibiotics at some pharmacies, including those at Giant Eagle, Meijer, Publix, Schnucks, ShopRite and Wegmans. You can also get free prenatal vitamins at Meijer and Schnucks. Publix, Price Chopper and ShopRite stores give out free diabetes medications and supplies.
If you love to shop online but hate to pay for shipping, go to FreeShipping.org. The site can direct you to retailers who offer free shipping on every order, big or small. The site also gives you coupon codes to snag free shipping at other retailers.
Don’t you hate buying a $12 entrée for a picky 6-year-old? Visit KidsMealDeals.com to find restaurants where kids eat free. Better yet, call your local eateries or connect with them on Facebook to find out if they offer kids’ deals. Some do but don’t advertise them, so it’s worth asking.
(Note: Johnny Rockets - ³Kids Eat Free² promotion is good only at participating restaurants.)
Free Sales Tax
Back to school season brings tax-free shopping days in several states. That means residents may be able to avoid paying sales tax on clothing, shoes and other school and office supplies.Some states have tax-free shopping days at other times of the year. For example, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have sales tax holidays for energy-efficient appliances. Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia have tax-free days set aside for buying generators and other storm-preparedness supplies. And on the first weekend of September, Louisiana residents won’t pay sales tax on firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies. Get more information.
(See more: QUIZ: Outlet Mall…Deal or No Deal?)
Free Grocery-Shopping Assistance
ZipList lets you organize your shopping lists, recipes and grocery deals in one place. You can create your shopping list online and access on any phone (not just a smart phone) while you're shopping. If you do have a smart phone, you can use the ZipList app to scan items you have at home that you need to purchase, and they'll automatically be added to your list.
You can share the list with family members, and they can add to it. Plus, the site has thousands of recipes, provides recipe recommendations based on ones you've already chosen and will add the ingredients you need to buy for recipes you select to your shopping list. It also shows which items on your list are on sale at local grocers, so you’ll know where to shop to get the best prices.
Free Credit Report
Your credit report can impact your interest and insurance rates as well as your ability to land a job or apartment, so it pays to make sure it’s accurate.
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, no strings attached.
Free Financial Apps
There’s a slew of free apps for your mobile phone that can simplify your financial tasks. Among our favorites are apps from Mint.com to track your spending and investments, Allpoint and Moneypass to find surcharge-free ATMs nearby, Expensify to automatically compile receipts for your business expense report, and Venmo or Paypal to instantly pay your friend back for dinner before you even leave the table. Most banks also have free mobile banking apps that allow you to check your balance, transfer funds and make deposits on the fly.
Free Legal Advice
Nolo.com has been Kiplinger's go-to source for legal information for a long time, and it's still the best. The Web site is packed with free advice on a wide range of legal issues, such as estate planning, buying or selling real estate, managing a business and more.
Nolo is authoritative, yet clearly explains when your situation calls for hiring a lawyer.
Free Tax Software and Guidance
Preparing your income taxes doesn’t have to cost a lot. Check out the IRS’s Free File program. If your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less, you qualify for free tax-prep software and filing. If you make more money than that, you can still file for free, but you don’t get the free software.
Have a tax question? Call the free IRS help line at 800-829-1040. Many communities also offer free face-to-face help during tax-filing season, with volunteers at public libraries and community centers. See the IRS’s list of free tax return preparation resources for details.
Grab your pole and hang a "Gone Fishin’" sign on the door. Most states have free fishing days when you can fish without a license, saving you about $7 to $30, depending on your location. You’ll find a list of states and dates at TakeMeFishing.org, or check with your local fish and wildlife agency for details.
Many locales let kids fish for free year-round. The age cutoff varies by state but is usually in the teens.
Free Museums and Parks
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.
Bank of America cardholders can gain free admission to more than 150 museums on the first full weekend of every month.
Our national parks boast some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and some don’t charge entrance fees, including the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway. Plus, on several days throughout the year, you can get in free to all national parks that usually charge admission. Here’s the free-admission schedule.
At Gutenberg.org or the University of Pennsylvania 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.
For newer titles, check out your public library. Or join a free online lending community such as ebookfling or ebookexchange. You list your Kindle and Nook ebooks on the site (the publisher has to have chosen to enabled the title for lending), then you swap ebooks with other members. Borrowers have 14 days to read the book.
Tired of trying to teach your kid the difference between sine and cosine? Ask your school or local library whether it provides free tutoring services, or access to free online tutoring such as Tutor.com and SkillsTutor.com. These sites off tutors in a range of subjects and let students and tutors communicate online.
Free Education Apps
Like it or not, kids and technology are drawn to each other. So why not use that magnetic power for good? For elementary-age kids, check out the iTooch app for math, science and language arts activities, the MeeGenius app for reading, and the free PBS Kids apps for educational games and videos. For middle schoolers, try the Blanks app for vocabulary, and Khan Academy app for math and science videos. And for high schoolers, Brightstorm ACT Prep or Kaplan’s SAT Flash Cubes apps can help your teen prepare for college-entry exams.
Free Résumé Help
Whether you’re applying for an internship, searching for your first job out of college or polishing a seasoned résumé, you can get free help with your job hunt. Stop by a One Stop Career Center (a service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor) in your area. Trained staff can help you with resume writing, interviewing skills and online job searching techniques. The centers also offer job training programs, or they can arrange on-the-job training and apprenticeships with local employers.
You can also watch for workshops at your local library, community center or college.
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- Technology & Electronics
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