In this day and digital age, so much is available for free that it’s amazing people still pay for certain products and services. Sometimes it’s just a matter of habit; sometimes they really don’t realize there are cheaper alternatives.
1. TV service. With sites like Hulu and other Sidereel, you can watch full episodes of hundreds of shows (past and present) without shelling out for subscription satellite or cable TV service. And if some of your favorite shows aren’t available online, you can always wait for the boxed season to come out and rent it from your local rental store. A handful of quid can get you a whole season (and a marathon weekend activity!) Not technically free, but a heck of a lot cheaper.
2. Phone service. Granted, most of us don’t know how we’d ever live without our mobiles. And there is something to be said for the safety of having one on you in event of emergencies. (Whether they be real emergencies like a broken-down car or “convenience” emergencies like needing to let your friends know you’re stuck in traffic and will be late for your dinner date.)
But landlines? No need. With services like Skype and Google Voice, you can communicate with anyone across the globe free of charge. They’re especially great for international friends and business calls that would normally rack up big fees if you had a traditional phone plan.
3. Checking accounts. If your bank still charges you a monthly fee or requires you to maintain a minimum balance, take your business elsewhere. There are enough banks, both online and offline, that offer free checking that there’s no reason you should ever have to pay just to have an account.
4. Computer software. A brilliant software suite called Open Office lets you read, create, and save documents in common Microsoft formats like Word, Excel and PowerPoint—all without actually having to buy the pricey Microsoft software.
5. Books. This isn’t a new one. We haven’t had to pay for books since the advent of a miraculous place called the local library.
But what if you’re a bibliophile who just loves the feel of books and wants to build up a personal library? Ask for books (or gift cards to bookstores) for holidays and birthdays. Or ask friends if they have any unwanted books they’d be willing to give to you rather than throw away.
6. The Newspaper. Similarly, unless you use it for coupon circulars or to fill in the daily crossword, you can find nearly any publication you read—including many small local papers—online.
7. Bottled Water. With the plethora of filtration systems you can get now—faucet mounts, pitchers, even individual reusable bottles with filters—there is absolutely no need to shell out the money for bottled water (which then goes on to pollute our landfills).
8. Exercise. Unless you’re a real slacker who absolutely needs the structure of a class schedule or a trainer to keep you on track (in which case, enlist your family to pester you into getting a move on!), there’s no need to pay to exercise. You can run, rollerblade, take your dogs for a walk, bike, even do simple exercises at the office to keep yourself in shape.
If you do need something that provides you with a little more instruction, and you’ve got gaming system with a camera accessory, there are plenty of great Zumba, yoga, and other fitness games you can buy just once and enjoy for months to come, rather than paying that pricey monthly gym membership again and again.
9. Moving boxes/packing supplies. If you ever order anything online, you’ve got free shipping materials already on hand! Simply remove any shipping labels and cover up any stamps, and you can re-use boxes to send presents, mail out items you’ve sold on auction sites, or send your child a care package at university. Make sure to keep the packing material like foam peanuts and bubble wrap as well.
For the larger boxes needed for moving, make friend with your local grocer and pharmacy. Chances are they have dozens of boxes coming in each week with product shipments that are just going to be struck down and thrown in the bin. Ask them if you can have any boxes they don’t plan on keeping, and come back weekly if necessary until you have as many as you need.
10. Music. Be careful to do this legally, of course, but there are plenty of ways you can stock up your music library without having to pay a cent. If you don’t mind a little randomness in play order, Pandora Radio is a great way to discover artists similar to the ones you already like—and you can “like” or “dislike” songs so that your favorites will play again. Spotify is also a great way to collect your favorite songs and save them to playlists, all without having to pay a cent.
What other things have you managed to get for free (or nearly free)?