Friday, August 26, 2011

How to get everything free: a useful guide (pt. 1)

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know that I post up a list of freebies each week. These are usually mail-in samples of random things - everything from shampoo to peanut butter - and, while they absolutely come in handy and can save you money, they're still small samples, take a while to come in the mail, and you don't get much of a choice about what's available. Luckily, there are a myriad of ways to get free stuff outside of mail-in samples. The following is a useful guide about ways to get a large amount of things for free (legally). Enjoy!

In part 1, you'll learn how to get the following things for free (legally):

Movies and TV
Food
Magazines

First, there are a few sites it would be helpful for you to join before I begin, because I'll be referencing those sites frequently as sources of free stuff. First, you'll need to find your local Freecycle chapter. Freecycling, also known as Free Recycling, is the act of giving away usable unwanted items to others instead of disposing of them in landfills. The Freecycle network connects people locally so that they may give away unwanted items to each other, for free. To find your local Freecycle chapter, you can search the Freecycle site itself, or just google "Freecycle [my location]." You can use Freecycle to ask for absolutely ANYTHING that you want, and there's usually a pretty good chance someone will have some they are willing to give away. Think of it like the last resort for all of the categories below.

The other sites to be familiar with that I will frequently reference are:
1. Craiglist's Free section (find it in For Sale)
2. Recyclebank, where you can earn points for learning about being environmentally friendly and then redeem them for free prizes
3. Swagbucks where you can earn points and redeem them for Amazon gift cards - I get at LEAST $25 in gift cards per MONTH from this site.
4. HauteLook because if you can refer a few people who make a purchase, it's a great place to get high-quality stuff for free using referral credits.

All signed up? Now, let's begin.

How To Get Free Movies and TV
Who needs to pay for satellite TV when you have the internet? There are tons of free resources for watching movies and TV online. Here are the top ways to watch what you want without having to pay for it.
1. Amazon's Instant Streaming Videos. In case you missed the post, Amazon Prime is FREE for students for one year! So just sign up with your .edu email address, and you'll have access to thousands of TV shows, movies and more - all completely FREE during your Prime trial membership.

2. Netflix - although it's a paid site, your first month is FREE. Now, don't just go to the site to sign up. Have you joined Swagbucks yet? Once you have, go to earn and select "Special Offers." Most likely, there will be a big advertisement banner telling you to sign up for Netflix and receive 1000 points. If not, search around until you find an offer for Netflix - most offer categories will have one. 1000 points is enough for 2 $5 Amazon gift cards, with some left over! Not bad, eh? Now, you'll need to enter your credit card information when you sign up for Netflix, but it won't be charged unless you don't cancel after that first month is up. So set an alarm on your phone for the day you need to cancel so you don't forget. Or, think of it this way - $7 a month for free streaming TV shows and videos? If you have a roommate you can split that account with, that's only $3.50 a month. If you have a couple of roommates, it gets pretty darn cheap. So consider buying a Netflix account for your house or apartment, and splitting the cost. No matter what, it's still cheaper than satellite or even cable TV!

3. Still can't find anything good to watch? Try searching on Hulu, SurfTheChannel and OVGuide. And if none of those found what you were looking for, try BlinkX. And remember, downloading is illegal - but streaming from a site in another country? That's completely legal! (Also, if your school is anything like mine, they WILL punish you if they find you illegally downloading anything, so DO NOT DO IT.)

How To Get Free Food
There are numerous ways to get free food, ranging from a lot of free food to a little. Here are my favorites:
1. Take advantage of free coupons, deals and offers. Most of these offers will be for signing up for an "e-club", during which time you'll enter your birthday and then receive birthday coupons. I try to only eat out when I've got a free coupon for something - like the from Recyclebank. For a list of places that give you freebies on your birthday, read this entry.

2. If don't mind waiting, sending emails to companies in the hopes that they will send you coupons for free is a great way to get a lot of free groceries. You can read more about that here. From personal experience, I can tell you that you will catch more flies with honey - more literally, you'll get better coupons if you compliment the company rather than complain. A good place to start is White Castle, who typically sends free burger coupons.

3. If you're really in desperate need for food, there should be a free food pantry in your area. Often, the food pantries are no-questions-asked places to get food and groceries completely for free - though some may ask for proof of need. Food pantries are often run by charities or churches, and get their food from local stores. The food might be past it's sell-by date, which DOESN'T mean it's expired, but DOES mean the stores can't legally sell it. Rather than dump it into the trash, they give it to food pantries for free. NOTE: Food pantries are a resource for the entire community, including the homeless, the disabled and families with small children - so please only take advantage of a food pantry if you truly NEED free food, not because you WANT some free food. To find your local food pantry, just google "food pantry [my city]" or "food bank [my city]." Indiana University Students: the local food pantry in Bloomington is Mother Hubbard's Cupboard.

4. Another option for getting free food without a food pantry is going straight to the source - grocery stores, health food stores, bakeries etc. Small, local companies are best. You'll need a bit of moxie for this one, but you'll basically just go inside or call and ask what they do with their goods that are past the sell-by date. For example, bakeries and bagel companies must throw away all remaining goods at the end of each work day - and in my experience, they are typically happy to give these goods to those in need rather than dumping them in the trash. The same applies for smaller, local health food and grocery stores. Larger chains typically have a corporate policy, but there is always a chance they wouldn't mind giving you some of their discarded food - it doesn't hurt to ask! You can always call anonymously. IU Students: Bloomington Bagel Company throws out its bagels at the end of the day, but the non-downtown locations are happy to give them away to students. Just try to show up as they are closing. Also try Bloomingfoods.

5. As a final option, relying on the kindness of individuals can be very helpful. Make a post at your local Freecycle or on the Craigslist Free board (or your campus classifieds) asking for any and all food donations. You might need to go and pick them up, but most people do have food that they just don't want or need sitting in their pantry and they are often happy to give this to someone in need. Again, don't take more than you truly need- this is a pay-it-forward sort of honor system that should not be abused. When you are able, do try to give something back! Always pay it forward.


How To Get Free Magazines
Everyone loves magazines. But who wants to pay $4.00 a pop for something that's only fun to read once? Not me. Here's how to get them for free:
1. Recyclebank offers several free 1-year magazine subscriptions, starting at 115 points. You can earn 115 points in less than an hour on the site, so it's a great way to get free magazines for the next year! Go to "Get Rewards" and choose "Music, Books & Magazines" to see what's available.

2. Magazines will often run Free Subscription promotions themselves, because in order to sell ads they need a minimum number of guaranteed readers - and if they're not meeting their numbers, it makes more sense to give away subscriptions, since ads generate more revenue. I do post every time there's a free subscription available, but you can find some yourself by googling "free magazine subscriptions" and seeing what's available. One site I found is All Free Magazines. Now, most of the free magazine subscriptions available are trade magazines, but I HAVE managed to get free subscriptions to Elle, Glamour and Martha Stewart Living this year. You just have to make sure you sign up whenever they are offered! So keep checking back here to find those.

3. When most people are done with their magazines, they either donate them to the gym (which CAN be a good source of free magazines!) or recycle them. At least, I hope they do, because magazines are completely reycleable. Anyway, If you live in an area where you have access to the recycling center - like a self-sorting dropoff location, or even a local paper recycling bin - it might be worth it to look inside the bin for any good magazines. No, it's not gross. It's just a bin full of paper waiting to be recycled. But you can find a lot of good stuff! When I lived near a sort-your-own recycling center, I collected quite a number of free magazines from the paper bin - which I gave away on Freecycle when I was done with them! So if you're still needing free magazines, try asking on Freecycle or Craigslist. Lots of people have too many magazines that they want to get rid of.

Whew! That's a lot of free stuff. Coming up in parts 2 and 3, you'll learn how to get the following for free:
Clothing
Makeup and Beauty Products
Furniture
School Supplies (bags, pens, etc)
Entrance to Disney World

Do you have a request? Post it in the comments! If it's POSSIBLE to get it for free, I'll write about it!

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