When my wife and I recently stayed at the Hyatt in Daytona Beach, we walked in the surf, spent an hour in the hot tub and pool, and watched the moon rise over the ocean from our balcony. In the morning, we enjoyed six sandwiches, three cups of orange juice and two cups of coffee between us. The breakfast buffet is free for guests, and the room was free thanks to the points on our Hyatt Visa card. We love getting free things!
What else can you get without paying a cent? We’ve previously reported on how to get free dental care and free activities for summer. Now it’s time to look at 11 of the more surprising things you can get for free.
1. Free Nights at Hotels
If hotel stay I described above sounds good to you, consider keeping an eye out for credit-card promotions that offer free nights at partner hotels.
For example, as I write this post, Chase Bank is offering two free nights in a Hyatt if you’re approved for their Hyatt Credit Card and use it to make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. There’s no fee for the first year, and you can always cancel before the next year starts. (For more on whether sign-up bonuses like these are worthwhile, check out my previous post.)
2. Free Food Samples
Visit a Whole Foods store at the right time, and you can sometimes find a dozen different food samples for free. Trader Joe’s always has samples of coffee and often has free wine (usually on Saturday afternoons) along with samples of various foods.
You can also find free food samples online. For example, Walmart has a free samples page, and they’ll even send some of the items directly to your home. The page only shows a few freebies at a time, but if you refresh your browser, new selections will show up.
3. Free RV and Tent Camping
My wife and I once spent a week in our van at a campground overlooking a beautiful lake in northern Florida. It had a boat launch, picnic tables, trails and hot showers — and it was free.
A surprising number of places don’t charge you to camp in your RV, van or tent, and some of them have showers and other amenities. On FreeCampgrounds.com you can click on a state to get a list of places under $10, and then look through them to find the ones that are completely free.
Check the comments left by other users of the site for the latest updates — our secret spot just started charging this year, according to one commenter.
4. International Text Messaging
Want to stay in touch with your friends in other countries without burning up your minutes or paying texting charges? As long as your phone can connect to the Internet, you can find an app that uses cross-platform messaging to text your international friends at no cost.
WhatsApp may be the best-known, and you can get it for your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia or Windows phone. Find other cross-platform messaging apps on AppCrawlr.com. Click “Free” (and any other criteria you want) to see what’s available and how they rank. If you and your friends all have iPhones, you don’t need to bother — just use iMessage to stay in touch over wifi.
5. Free Ice Cream
Okay, this one comes with a big catch: Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day only happens once per year. But with over 58,000 locations, you should be able to find one near you when that day arrives. It’s usually the second Tuesday in April, so mark your calendar and plan to arrive early!
6. Free Graph Paper
What do you do when you need just one sheet of graph paper to prepare a chart or presentation? You could go to the office supply store, but you’ll have to buy a whole package. Instead why not go to PrintFreeGraphPaper.com and print out a sheet for free? You have many options to choose from, including hexagonal, Cartesian, and logarithmic graph paper.
Covering a whole page with graph lines takes a lot of ink, so set your printer to “fast draft quality” to use less.
7. Free Ebooks
Thousands of authors offer free Kindle books on Amazon, but what if you want one of the titles that you normally have to pay for? Borrow it for free! Amazon says there are over 11,000 public libraries in the U.S. that lend Kindle books. With your library card number, you can usually download them directly online.
If you’re looking for more options, click the “Top 100 Free” tab on Amazon’s Best Sellers page to find some of the best Kindle freebies. No Kindle device? Download Kindle for your laptop, tablet or phone — also for free!
Another great option is Project Gutenberg. They have over 46,000 titles to choose from, many of which are not available elsewhere as ebooks. They say, “All our ebooks were previously published by bona fide publishers.” Thousands of volunteers have helped to digitize and proofread them.
8. Free Business Training and Advice
The U.S. Small Business Administration, through its SBA Learning Center, offers free classes online. Here are just a few of the dozens of classes to choose from:
- Buying a Business
- Selling Your Business
- How to Write a Business Plan
- Government Contracting 101
- Introduction to Accounting
You can also get a free consultation from a SCORE mentor near you, whether you need help with your existing business or are just hoping to start one. This organization’s volunteers are have extensive business experience, and they’ll meet you in person or offer advice by email. Bonus: meeting with a mentor is a great networking opportunity.
9. Free Legal Advice
Not sure how to evict that bad tenant or whether you can fight that speeding ticket? Then get free legal advice online from FreeAdvice.com. There are thousands of articles that might be useful, but you can also click the “Ask a Lawyer” tab to get personalized advice for your specific situation. The participating attorneys will advise you in the areas of criminal law, child custody, immigration law, business law and dozens of others.
Typically, these volunteers offer only a free initial consultation, but that might be enough to help you make a decision about what to do. Carefully prepare and prioritize your questions to get the most out of your free consultation.
10. Free Home Improvement Workshops
You can attend free workshops at Home Depot to learn a variety of skills. The classes are usually on Saturdays and Sundays. Here are the most recent workshops:
- Interior Paint & Drywall Repair
- Insulating Your Home
- Fire Safety
You could also use these free classes as training for a new side job. I once hired a house painter for $35 per hour and discovered that she had learned to paint at Home Depot!
11. Free Furniture
If you are struggling to pay the bills and can’t afford to buy a table for the kitchen or beds for the kids, go to a “furniture bank” for help. They offer free furniture to those who need it. You can find a list of locations on the website of the Furniture Bank Association.
Another option is to check Craigslist. Go to the “for sale” category and click the link that says “free” to find all the ads for freebies near you. People often give away decent furniture on Craigslist when they don’t want to bother with the hassle of selling it. Check the listings often and call right away. The best free stuff goes quickly on Craigslist!
If you want to do more than just save money, see our post on selling Craigslist freebies.
Your Turn: Do you know of some good freebies to add to the list?