ScoreCard Research Ian Chandler - The Penny Hoarder

We’ve all been there: You finally find an item you’ve been looking for online, and it’s on sale for $5!

You add it to your cart, go to check out -- and realize you have to pay $8 for shipping. It’s not such a good deal anymore.

Here’s another common scenario: You add everything you need to your cart, and the total comes to $25. The site offers free shipping -- but only on orders over $50.

Shipping costs often double or even triple the price you pay for small orders -- eliminating the savings of shopping online. But if you know where to look, you can get thousands of items shipped for free.

These 17 companies offer free shipping with no minimum purchase. Some of them ship worldwide for free, while others only ship free within the continental U.S. Some also offer free shipping to your local store.

1. Nordstrom

Nordstrom is known for its high-end products, but it offers free U.S. shipping to soften the blow -- including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

If that’s not enough, it also offers free returns!

2. Dell

If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you can get free U.S. shipping to any of the 48 contiguous states. Your order will arrive within three to five days, and you won’t spend a penny extra.

Dell also offers a price match guarantee to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

3. AT&T

AT&T offers free express shipping on all orders, which normally costs $14.95. Accessory-only orders get free priority shipping, and AT&T will even pay for the return shipping if you choose to send an item back.

4. Verizon

If you prefer Verizon for your mobile needs, you’re in luck! It offers free 2-day shipping in the U.S., though only to the contiguous states. If your order contains only accessories, you can get free ground shipping.

If you prefer, Verizon also offers free shipping to your local store, even in Hawaii (sorry, Alaskans; you’re still out of luck here).

5. Target

If you have a Target REDcard, you’re in for a treat!

In addition to saving 5% off your order, you qualify for free U.S. shipping. Alaska and Hawaii are included, and Target also ships to APO/FPO addresses.

6. Crate & Barrel

Longing for a new addition to your kitchen? Crate & Barrel boasts a wide range of products that all ship free.

As long as you’re in the contiguous U.S., you can snag this deal. Make sure your cart only contains eligible items, or else you’ll have to fork over the shipping cost.

7. Ray-Ban

What’s cooler than a pair of slick shades? Free U.S. shipping from Ray-Ban!

Alaska and Hawaii are included, and orders usually arrive within two to three days. If you want to send an item back, you can return it for free.

8. Baublebar

When is a $10 necklace not a $10 necklace? You guessed it: when you have to pay shipping.

Enter Baublebar. This jewelry hub offers sitewide free U.S. shipping. With every package, it includes a prepaid USPS label for easy returns.

9. Zappos

From shoes to handbags, Zappos has a wonderful selection of clothing and accessories, and everything ships free. This includes Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories.

Zappos uses USPS Priority Mail to make sure your order gets to your doorstep in four to five days.

10. JanSport

Returning to school shortly and need a new backpack? JanSport has free U.S. shipping for a limited time.

Until 11:59 p.m. PT on November 5, you’ll get free standard shipping and free returns on every order. That’s plenty of time to grab some new gear for school.

11. Sweetwater

If you’re a musician who regularly buys gear, consider buying from Sweetwater. The highly reputable site offers free U.S. shipping on thousands of items.

While APO and FPO addresses qualify, Alaska and Hawaii don’t. Most of the company’s orders ship the same day, so you’ll get your new equipment at lightning speed.

12. Amoeba Music

Need another reason to buy that record you’ve been eyeballing? Free U.S. shipping from Amoeba should do the trick. It offers cost-free USPS media mail shipping for all music and movie formats.

While orders can take 5 to 21 days to arrive, the wait is worth it.

13. Molton Brown

Molton Brown’s wide selection of cruelty-free bath and body products is even cooler because of the free U.S shipping. If you’re in the contiguous states, you’ll receive your order within three to seven days.

Bonus: You’ll get a free 1-ounce sample with every order and a complimentary gift box if you’re buying for someone else.

14. AbeBooks

AbeBooks has a humongous selection of books at unbelievably low prices, and thousands of them qualify for free shipping.

The best part? You can search for books that will ship for free specifically to your corner of the world. The site allows you to search for free shipping to the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, and they even have a worldwide option.

15. Staples

Staples has a great in-store selection, but its online selection is even better. If you see something you like, you can have it shipped to your local store at no extra cost. However, oversized items like furniture may not qualify.

16. Ace Hardware

Ace offers a wonderful ship-to-store option for tons of items. Your order will arrive at your local store in one to seven days, and you’ll receive an email confirmation when it’s ready.

Ace will even ship to Alaska and Hawaii, though it will take a little longer. Your local store will hold your orders for five days, so there’s no rush to pick them up.

17. Guitar Center

If you have a Guitar Center store nearby, you can buy online and have your order shipped there for free. It also offers free in-store returns with immediate credit. Certain orders like clearance items and oversized products don’t apply.

Your Turn: Did we miss any of your favorite free shipping options? Share them in the comments so other readers can benefit!

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Ian Chandler is a freelance writer based in Ohio, currently studying English at Kent State University.

Building a formidable music library doesn’t have to drain your savings account. Artists from all over the world share their music for free! These musicians want their fans to listen to their jukes legally, so they give away a song or two (and sometimes an entire album).

While many people choose to illegally download songs, there’s no reason to. Why take the illegal path when there are plenty of completely legal options to choose from? Thousands upon thousands of free songs are out there, just waiting for you to listen to them.

We’ve compiled a list of the best places to find free music online. Whether you like established or unknown artists, your new jam is only a click away.

1. iTunes

iTunes is hands-down the most popular music marketplace, but most people don’t know it also has a wide selection of free music.

In the “Free on iTunes” section, iTunes promotes artists and gives away some of their songs for free. Check out the section to see the full collection of free songs, plus TV episodes and more.

If you frequent Starbucks, check out their iTunes Pick of the Week cards. (They’re usually near the counter or condiment bar.) You can grab exclusive freebies, including songs, apps and books.

2. Noisetrade

Noisetrade is “a music platform built on generosity.” It’s so generous that it has thousands of albums, all completely free.

Simply enter your email address and zip code to download any music you like. If you want, you can leave a tip for the artist, but there’s no obligation to.

Bonus: They also offer a large selection of free ebooks.

3. Bandcamp

Bandcamp has become one of the largest platforms for musicians to share their work. If the artist chooses to enable the “name your price” option, you can enter zero dollars and grab some free tunes!

With thousands of both emerging and established musicians, Bandcamp has more than enough music to fill your iPod. (Tip: Search the tags for “free music.”)

4. /r/Downloadcodes

Reddit’s becoming a hotspot for more than finding freelance writing jobs.

The /r/DownloadCodes subreddit is full of free download codes for all kinds of music. When Redditors purchase vinyl records that come with a digital download code, they post those codes on this sub for others to enjoy.

If you see a title you like, act fast! Many of the codes posted are only valid for one download, while others allow for up to 10.

Tip: Make sure to sign in and leave a comment to thank the poster if you use a code.

5. SoundCloud

SoundCloud features a worldwide community of users who share their music via the site’s simple interface. You can stream albums and interact with musicians, and you can also get free downloads of thousands of songs.

If the uploader has the download option activated, you’ll see a Download button below the music player. Search the tags for free music or check out this SoundCloud group for free downloads. You just might find your new favorite musician.

6. Amazon

Music is just one of the many freebies you can get from the online giant. They offer a sizable selection of singles and albums from popular and up-and-coming musicians. Check out the free album listings and the free MP3 singles listings. Both are regularly updated with new tunes.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get even more free music (not to mention other cool perks).

7. PureVolume

If your favorite bands hit their peaks a decade ago, there’s a chance they’re on PureVolume. While the site has become less popular recently, it was the talk of the web throughout the mid-2000s. Many bands, including well-known acts, have posted their songs for free download.

To simplify your search, PureVolume gives you a chart of the site’s top downloads, all for free! While a few of the downloads are no longer available for whatever reason, the majority of them are completely valid.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite place to legally download free music?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Ian Chandler is a freelance writer based in Ohio, currently studying English at Kent State University.

Most freelance writers religiously check job boards to see the newest opportunities. Sites like Problogger and Indeed can be wonderful resources, but one site is a surprising haven for freelance writing gigs: Reddit.

Since I joined the site about a month ago, I’ve made more than $600 solely from Reddit-sourced clients.

I landed a steady gig with one of those clients. Reddit helped me take advantage of opportunities I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Why? The communities, or “subreddits,” dedicated to job posting and writing gigs are consistently updated. Often, individuals post work requests, which allows you to communicate directly with your client instead of going through a middleman or a company recruiter.

Ready to find your next great freelance writing job on Reddit?

1. Sign Up for an Account

If you’re not familiar with the site, check out a beginner’s guide like this one.

While your username can be anything, it’s best to make it your name, or perhaps your name with a number attached. Keeping it professional will give potential clients their first glimpse of your quality.

2. Know Your Subreddits

Subreddits (or “subs”) are individual pages of Reddit about anything and everything.

The three main subs for freelance writers are /r/ForHire, /r/HireAWriter and /r/WritingOpportunities. I’ll be mainly talking about /r/ForHire and /r/HireAWriter.

/r/ForHire is a constantly updated compendium of companies and individuals who are hiring. It’s also a place for freelancers to advertise themselves.

/r/HireAWriter is exactly what it sounds like – writers post about their services, and companies post job openings for writers.

/r/WritingOpportunities lists publications that pay for writing and accept unsolicited submissions.

Before you look through or post to any of these subs, read the rules. Each sub has its own set of rules that governs their use. Some offenses can result in you being banned! Familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts before you set foot in one of these subs.

For example, /r/ForHire forbids users from creating threads more than once a week. This is a bannable offense, so be mindful of it! They also don’t like URL shorteners. As long as you say you’re for hire and post some examples, you shouldn’t run into any issues.

You’ll also want to read what’s known as the reddiquette. This is Reddit’s overarching set of rules that apply to every sub.

3. Narrow Your Search Results

To get the edge over your competition, you’ll have to narrow your search so you see only the kind of posts you’re looking for.

For instance, /r/ForHire presents a problem because it contains both posts from people who are hiring, which are tagged with [Hiring], and posts written by freelancers to promote themselves, tagged [For Hire] or [Hire Me]. You’re only concerned with the [Hiring] posts.

To see only [Hiring] posts, there’s an easy but effective trick. It’s over in the sidebar. Next to the header “Search all reddit jobs,” there’s a link that says “Hiring.” Clicking on this will show you only [Hiring] posts, and will also pull results from two other subs that act as job boards.

/r/HireAWriter doesn’t have these filters, but it does retain the [For Hire] and [Hiring] tags, so you’ll need to do a bit more detective work to find the gems.

4. Get the Gig

Once you’ve found a job you’re interested in, it’s time to land it.

Like other job boards, time plays a vital role, and it matters even more on Reddit than it does on other sites.

Because there can be any number of users on a sub at any given time, your chances of landing a job are always different.

You may be the first person to respond to a post, or you may be the 10th. Some postings have tons of responses within an hour, while others never get any. In the end, chance does play a big part.

If you’ve found a good posting, you’re ready to message the user. While you’re sending a message over a social media site, you should still take it seriously. This initial message is your cover letter. Just like any good job application, it should highlight your credentials,.

I keep the same format as a cover letter for messaging potential clients. I always use their name if I know it. My messages are short and to the point, which clients love. I link to my portfolio and give them my rates if they want that information.

Always send your contact information, preferably your email address. The sooner you can connect with a potential client via email, the better. By moving the conversation to email, you’re declaring your professionalism and establishing a deeper connection.

Your Turn: Have you ever gotten a job on Reddit? Share your tips in the comments!

Ian Chandler is a freelance writer based in Ohio, currently studying English at Kent State University.

After I couldn’t find traditional employment that balanced well with my commitments as a college student, I started freelance writing to use my skills, obtain real-world experience and make money.

Instead of having to juggle a job around full-time classes, freelancing can help you lighten your workload, get a much better paycheck and jump-start your career. It’s easy to set up, and you can complete assignments at times that work for you.

However, freelancing as a college student isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. I know first-hand that demanding classes plus demanding clients equals no fun for anyone. If you fall into that trap, it can be hard to get out, and both your academic and professional work will suffer. Before you know it, you could fail at work and school.

Worried about balancing a freelance career with classes? Here are five secrets that have helped me achieve a Zen-like harmony in my collegiate work life.

1. Prioritize Your Classes

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to put classes on the back burner. No matter what, your classes always come first. That five-page paper due in a few days is much more important than that blog post your client wants.

I’ve had a few assignments that took over my studies, and I felt both drained and discouraged. Once I politely said no to those clients, I could focus again and keep my grades up. If I had chosen to stay with those clients, my schoolwork would have hit rock bottom. Choosing to cut ties and prioritize school was the best decision for me.

As a rule, you should never work on a freelance assignment until all of your school assignments are done for that day. After you’ve done your homework, take a breather, and then work on freelancing material.

Of course, you should do your best to deliver to clients in a timely manner. But in the end, your classes are of the utmost importance.

2. Let Your Clients Know You’re a Student

The best way to prevent your work from taking over is to explicitly tell your clients where you stand. By declaring your intentions, you’re preventing potential future conflicts.

Mention that you’re a college student in your bios and on your website. You can also send a quick, friendly note to prospective clients. Try something like this:

Keep in mind that I’m a full-time college student, so while I value you and your time, my classes will take priority. If I’m ever late on delivering, I’ll be sure to make it right.

Most clients will understand, and if they don’t, you don’t need them. More often than not, clients will be more than happy to accommodate. In my experience, people understand I’m busy, respect that I’ve let them know up front, and are willing to work with me.

3. Choose Your Activities Wisely

If you’re a social butterfly, you might be a member of many clubs and organizations at your college. Joining the right groups can be a huge benefit for your academic and professional careers, but as a student freelancer, you’ve got to choose which ones will be best.

For instance, joining an entrepreneurship club can help you make connections you’ll use later on in life. However, joining an air hockey team might not be the best use of your time. When you’re already balancing school and work, you don’t want to add anything more than you have to.

I personally choose to not belong to any clubs or organizations because they require too much time. However, if you find a group that will help you achieve your goals, join it.

To make it easier, ask yourself this one question: Will joining this organization advance my career? If not, reconsider it. This will help you filter out which clubs and groups will help you and which ones will hinder you.

4. Don’t Overexert Yourself

Know your limits and respect them. If you’re overwhelmed, stop and take a break. Don’t make the mistake of trying to finish building a website for a client during finals week. Plan ahead to get the rest you need.

If you have an avalanche of schoolwork (like upcoming tests or large assignments) that causes you to put off your freelance work, tell your clients you’ll be unavailable until you’ve turned in everything to your professors. When the academic stakes are high, you can’t risk an overload.

Go back to point number two and let your clients know. If you’ve got too much on your plate, send your clients a polite message saying so. After all, you told them you’re a full-time college student. I’ve told several of my clients this, and they’ve all been gracious and patient. Be straightforward and honest with them, and it will work out.

5. Make Your Own Rules

As a freelancer, you are your own boss. One of the best parts about the job is getting to choose who you want to work with. You are the one who says yes or no, and you work on your own time.

From the get-go, make sure your clients know that they’re agreeing to your terms. By choosing to work with you, they’re accepting your conditions for work. They can’t complain if they agreed to work with your schedule.

Of course, you do run the risk of your client choosing another freelancer who can deliver more quickly. I’ve found that the best way to combat this is to set up a portfolio showcasing your best work. I’ve had many clients come to me because someone else they hired did a poor job. Once they saw the quality of my work, they were willing to work with me, even though I wasn’t the fastest. Quality trumps speed, so keep that in mind as you journey down the freelancing road.

Your Turn: Have you freelanced as a college student? Share your tips in the comments!

Ian Chandler is a freelance writer based in Ohio, currently studying English at Kent State University.

As a Penny Hoarder, you know tons of ways to earn extra money. You've probably made some cash from selling stuff that's lying around your house.

In addition to old coins and comic books, there's something else you might have that could help bring in some extra dough -- playing cards.

Got few old decks of cards from intense games of Go Fish or gin rummy? They're most likely Bicycle brand cards that have little angels riding bikes on the back. But maybe you have something different, and that could be good. And if they're sealed, that could be wonderful. For instance, these Tally-Ho brand cards are going for $10 a deck. If you think that's something, you’ll be blown away by these Stud cards, formerly sold at Walgreens and now priced at an eye-popping $160 per deck!

Why Some Playing Cards are Worth Hundreds of Dollars

To understand why some cards can be valuable, you'll need to know a little about playing card production. The United States Playing Card Company (USPCC) produces most of the playing cards you see on shelves. In 1867, they started a factory in Cincinnati, Ohio and remained there for decades until moving to Erlanger, Kentucky in 2009. The difference? For a while, production quality at the Erlanger location suffered greatly, producing cards with a less desirable finish and feel. For most, this didn't mean much, but for magicians and cardists, it was disconcerting.

Card magicians and cardists (who artistically manipulate playing cards) were at a major disadvantage, as the new cards didn’t handle as well and affected their art. Cards made in Ohio shot up in value, and many people still regard them as a better choice. These decks sell for well above the $2.50 you'll pay for a standard pack of cards at the drugstore.

Perhaps more importantly, the Ohio factory produced rare brands of cards that aren't being made today. Some of these are renowned for their unique design and smooth feel, making them a card handler's dream. Thousands of card aficionados look for these cards, and if you're the lucky owner of a rare deck, you could have some extra money on your hands.

So how do you know if your cards are valuable? Here are some tips to help figure out whether or not you've got a hidden gem:

1. Look for a Blue Seal

This is an easy way to tell where your cards were printed. The Cincinnati factory sealed their decks with a dark blue sticker, while Kentucky cards have a black sticker. "Blue-sealed" cards are becoming increasingly rare and are highly coveted.

If you do have blue-sealed cards, take a look at the brand next. Tally-Ho, Arrco and Aladdin are some of the more in-demand brands.

If your box says “Cincinnati, Ohio,” don’t get too excited. It could be a leftover box that made the move to Kentucky, so use the seal method to double check where your deck was produced.

2. Determine the Deck’s Age

If you have a visibly old deck, chances are it's worth something. This handy list covers everything you need about well-known playing card brands, starting from the late 19th century. It even gives you photos and dates so you can compare your deck.

The author, photographer Jim Knapp, also compiled a list of all Bicycle brand cards along with a ton of info on playing card history, in case you want to geek out for a while.

3. Check Whether Your Deck is From a Casino

Casino cards come in two types: cancelled and uncancelled. "Cancelled" cards have been used in actual casino play and their corners are trimmed as an anti-cheating measure. These decks are common and can be found at most dollar stores.

Uncancelled cards are untouched, and these are highly prized by magicians and cardists. The most famous deck is from the Jerry's Nugget casino. These cards were once sold in the casino gift store for $1, and bring in around $500! You’ll see tons of fakes on the market, so if you own a deck, check its authenticity. Other notable brands to look for: Golden Nuggets, Dunes and Wynns.

4. Celebrate If You See Shrink-Wrap

Obviously, unopened products are more valuable than opened ones, and playing cards are no exception. While shrink-wrapped cards will fetch the highest prices, you still have a shot selling opened cards if they're in good condition. The rarer the cards, the more salable opened cards are. For example, opened Jerry's Nuggets will definitely sell, but opened Bicycles may not do so well.

5. Ask the Card Community

You’ll find lots of online opportunities to talk directly to playing card experts. A quick Google search should bring up a few forums and message boards, but this Reddit is a good place to start.

So if you have some old cards, see if they're worth their weight in gold. You might be surprised at what you'll find! There's an ever-growing market for vintage cards, and with a little luck, you could benefit from it.

Good luck, Penny Hoarders!

Your Turn: Have you ever found an old deck of cards? Was it worth anything?

Ian Chandler is a freelance writer based in Ohio, currently studying English at Kent State University.