There’s no doubt that the holiday time will leave most of us with a noticeable hole in our wallets. Accordingly, as we start the New Year and the economy continues to remain sluggish, many of us will be searching out the best bargains we can find.
Have no fear! It’s possible to get more than just a good bargain. There are even some products and services – including entertainment, financial advice, health care, technology and more – that you can get for free, particularly if you look hard enough online.
According to Julia Scott who runs the popular blog, BargainBabe.com, “Facebook is a great source of freebies right now, as so many brands try to attract fans and establish themselves.”
The only caveat is that consumers must be aware there are still a lot of scam artists out there. If you’re at all suspicious about a deal, make sure the corresponding offer provides a customer service phone number, an e-mail, perhaps customer reviews, and a promised delivery date.
With that said, here are some freebies that you may not have ever imagined:
Budgeting and Planning – Personal Capital offers consumers help with creating a budget, tracking spending and meeting financial goals with their online software. Personal Capital is also a great tool to track your investments. An online account is necessary, but Personal Capital offers bank-level encryption and security.
Tax Preparation – Although not widely known, the Internal Revenue Service offers free tax advice and preparation services through its volunteers. These services are available to the elderly, military personnel and their families, and households making below $49,000 a year.
Also, Turbo Tax, the tax preparation software, will answer tax questions for free if they are emailed before January 31, 2011. You only get one question, so make it a good one!
Calculators – Bankrate.com offers scads of financial advice through its blogs and articles, but its calculators are its most powerful freebie. Use a calculator to crunch numbers on mortgages, car loans, retirement, taxes, insurance, debt management and more.
Travel and Lodging – The most expensive aspect of travel, accommodations, might just be a thing of the past. Thanks to the website CouchSurfing.com, people can find a place to “crash” on a couch for the night anywhere around the world. Check out the website, and provide your destination. Then you can choose from many different hosts, and read their profiles as well as reviews from people who’ve stayed with them before. Then, get in touch.
Books – If you own a Kindle, you are in luck! If you don’t, this might be the ideal time to buy one. Project Gutenberg offers consumers the ability to download over 33,000 free e-books previously published by bona fide publishers and digitized with the help of thousands of volunteers. Most titles were published before 1923 for copyright reasons; this is a great time to start reading some classics, including Poe, Shakespeare, Austen and the like.
Television – You cannot be a true viewer of online television without having watched Hulu. It’s been rumored that Hulu will eventually charge to watch its vast library of shows and movies, but the service is still free and will likely remain that way for non-premium content.The Office anyone?
Crackle also provides a large selection of Sony movies you can watch for free. A third option is the network’s websites which also offer consumers the option of watching several shows.
Wi-Fi Access – If you carry a smartphone, you’re in luck, as a growing number of retailers – including Starbucks, Borders, and other book store and coffee chains – now offer free wireless access over wi-fi networks. For a map of wi-fi hot spots in your neighborhood, check out Wi-Fi-FreeSpot.
Ringtones – For those of us who pride ourselves on our ringtones, Myxer offers a wide range of cellphone ringtone downloads, many of which are free and are from top artists such as Taylor Swift, Lil’ Wayne and The Temptations.
College Courses – Downloading lectures from some of the country’s best universities including M.I.T., UC Berkeley and Stanford is now possible. Although you will not be able to obtain credit, you will be a heck of a lot more intelligent for your efforts.
Discount Sites – Have you heard about Groupon? It’s fast become a revolution in group-discount websites. Although Groupons are not free, their prices are greatly reduced from face value. If you miss a deal the first time it is offered on Groupon, CoupRecoup.com provides a second-chance marketplace.
Scoutmob.com offers deals via daily e-mails or texts. Unlike Groupon, Scoutmob offers half-off coupons for free. In addition, there is now Yipit.com which collects deals from Groupon and its competitors and makes recommendations based on preferences you set.
There are a lot of freebies to be had on the Internet, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look!
Published or updated April 4, 2013.