23 Brilliant Ways to Get Everything You Need for Free
Do you think you could make it through a day without spending any money?
What about a week? Or a month?
Eventually your food and necessities start to run low, and rent comes due. But we’ve found some pretty cool ways to get even those for free.
If you’re creative, you can get everything from clothes to furniture to groceries to WiFi -- without spending money.
Some take more work than others, and a few things in this list will require payment upfront. But when you balance your budget at the end of the month, you could get away with zero expenses!
Are you up to the challenge?
Whether you want to live your life entirely without money or you just like to get a good deal, here are 23 smart ways to get your everyday items for free.
1. Swap Clothes to Get Outfits for Free
Instead of paying for new or even used clothes, try swapping outfits with friends to keep your wardrobe fresh.
Swishing.org shows you how to organize your own clothing swap party with friends. If you’re in the U.K., you can also join a Swishing event to connect with others in the community.
But you aren’t limited to swapping with your friends. Register at the new Swapstyle site to trade in your designer clothes for others, instead of buying new ones.
2. Get Free Beauty and Feminine Product Samples
Hair, makeup, lotions and other beauty care products can be pricy. But brands are constantly sending free samples to get you hooked!
If you’re flexible about which products you use, you can maintain a pretty decent stock of beauty supplies by signing up for free samples.
The same goes for tampons and other feminine care products. Go here to get three free boxes of o.b. Tampons, and keep an eye on these sites for more daily freebies:
3. Get Netflix for Free With This Credit Card Hack
If your ex’s sister’s boyfriend has changed his password and locked you out of your free ride to Netflix and chill, try this hack to cover the expense.
Here’s how it works:
Sign up for a Bank of America checking account and the Bank of America Better Balance Rewards credit card. The card rewards you with $25 per quarter when you pay more than the minimum each month.
You can get an additional $5 per quarter by automatically depositing that cash reward into a Bank of America checking or savings account. That’s $30 every three months in rewards.
Netflix costs $9.99 per month, so your quarterly rewards are just enough to cover it!
Build up a quarter of rewards before signing up for Netflix, and you won’t even have to dish out your own money upfront.
4. Trade Your Old Books to Get New Ones for Free
Swapping books with friends, family and colleagues is a pretty old-fashioned frugal life hack.
But of course, we’ve found ways to add some hipster and hacker flair and, by all means, avoid unwanted human contact.
BookMooch is a website that lets users trade books they’ve already read for something new.
To make it even simpler (and human contact-free), look for Little Free Libraries around your neighborhood. These are literally boxes on posts that people fill with books you can take for free.
Find your nearest Little Free Library on the map here, drop off old titles and pick up your next great read for free.
5. Use This Hack to Make Your Parking Space Virtually Free
This tip requires you pay money upfront, but you can earn it all back if you’re smart.
If you rent an apartment downtown, chances are you pay extra for a parking space near the building. If you drive your car to work during the day, that pricy spot is vacant the whole time.
Earn that money back with JustPark, and consider your space free.
JustPark is an app that connects people who have empty driveways during the day with commuters looking for a cheap parking spot. Use it to rent your vacant space to someone who commutes to your area every day.
6. Never Pay for Furniture
Sure, you can get a classy new living room set to furnish your apartment. Or you can be thrifty and buy it secondhand.
Or you can do even better than that.
I prefer to curb-shop for my furniture -- there’s even a holiday for it in my old college town, where tenants are kind enough to leave a note when their discarded furniture has bed bugs.
If you don’t trust your neighbors’ garbage as much as I do, browse Craigslist for freebies.
People often list big items, like old furniture and TVs, that they can’t or don’t want to transport. If you’re willing to pick it up, you can have it for free.
Also check out online swapping communities for people looking to give away or trade their old stuff. Freecyle.org is a good resource, and you can probably find a “buy/sell/trade” group for your city or town on Facebook.
7. Borrow Someone’s Dog Instead of Spending Money on Your Own
Pets are expensive. Their food, treats, vet care and weird accessories are costly icing on the cake. And the fee your landlord charges just to allow a pet to live with you is the cherry on top of this broken metaphor.
Skip the expense. Just borrow someone else’s pet!
The app Bark’N’Borrow connects dog owners with “dog-loving borrowers” for free. Take someone’s pooch off their hands for a few hours, and get your Fido fix without spending a dime.
8. Get Free Food Pretty Much Anywhere if You Have an Email Address
Most chains and a lot of local restaurants offer something for free if you subscribe to their newsletters or download their apps.
Some freebies are even enough to cover a full meal, like a free bagel and schmear from Einstein Bagels or free tacos from Taco John’s, Del Taco, Rubio’s and Taco Cabana.
Check out our full list of more than 95 companies that give you free stuff in exchange for your email address.
9. Eat Free Food if You Don’t Mind Sharing…
Are you willing to eat a stranger’s food scraps to save money? Download LeftoverSwap on your smartphone to find strangers with food to spare!
The app will connect you to people with leftovers they don’t want, but don’t want to waste. Browse offers in your area to finish someone’s pizza, eat the last of Chinese takeout or even enjoy what they can’t eat of a home-cooked meal.
Pay it forward when you have leftovers of your own. Snap a photo and share it with other freegans around you.
10. Eat Free Fruit by Finding Fruit Trees in Your City
Depending on where you live, fresh fruits and vegetables can be prohibitively expensive much of the year. Skip the middle man, and harvest them yourself.
You don’t even have to raise a tree yourself to eat fresh, local fruit. Look at FallingFruit.org to find public fruit trees in your city, and stop by for a snack next time you take a walk.
11. A Grant Could Help Cover Your Rent When Money’s Tight
If unexpected circumstances put an extra strain on your budget, Modest Needs could help you cover your monthly expenses.
This nonprofit organization provides small grants to deserving, self-sufficient individuals who can usually cover basic expenses.
When a medical or dental emergency, death in the family, job loss or other unexpected cost makes it tough to pay rent or other bills, you can apply for one of these grants to catch up.
12. Healthcare.gov Can Help You Find Free Health Care in the U.S.
If your employer doesn’t cover health insurance for you or your family, check the marketplace at Heatlthcare.gov to find out if you qualify for assistance.
Healthcare.gov will let you know if you qualify for free health insurance through your state’s Medicaid or other public programs. Even if you don’t, you may be able to find discounts or tax credits to help cover the costs of health care.
Free dental insurance is harder to come by, but we found nine ways you can save money on dental and orthodontic care, including lots of ways to get free check-ups and braces for kids.
13. Get Free Baby Stuff When You Create Your Registry
Yes, creating a baby shower registry is a great way to get free stuff, because your friends will buy gifts for you. But you’ll get free stuff from the store just for signing up!
You can also use your health insurance to cover the cost of a breast pump, and connect with local moms to swap baby clothes, toys and other supplies.
Plus, check out our list of nine ways to get free diapers.
14. Online Fitness Classes Can Help You Work Out for Free
If there’s a Lululemon store near you, check out its events, which often include free in-person yoga and other fitness classes.
If your health and wellness goals include meditation, you can find free meditation classes and other resources through Shambhala.org.
15. Skip Car Ownership, and Use This Hack for Free Car Rental
Instead of spending money on a car payment, insurance and maintenance to own a vehicle, only pay for it when you need it. You can drive a Zipcar by the hour or with a membership for as low as $7 per month.
Like our Netflix trick, use a cash-back rewards credit card to earn back the cost of your membership, so your car use is effectively free.
16. Take Free Family Vacations to National Parks and Museums
The best vacations don’t have to cost a lot of money. Even with the whole family in tow, you can get through a fun trip on a budget.
If you’re going far from home and don’t feel like camping, save money on accommodations by trying a housing exchange.
For a smaller group or a pair, try Couchsurfing.
Or just reach out to your network on Facebook. You’ll be surprised by how many of your friends might know someone who’s willing to host you in a new city!
17. Celebrate Your Birthday With Tons of Free Treats
The last thing you want to do on your birthday is spend a bunch of your own money. So we put together a huge list of places that will help you celebrate for free.
Check out these 100 birthday freebies to plan your next celebration.
18. Surf the Web on Free WiFi
Could you live without home internet service? It’s probably easier to survive than you think.
You can find free WiFi outside your home at local libraries, museums, hotels and coffee shops in any city. Even retail stores like Target and restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Perkins advertise their free WiFi for customers.
19. Get Free Texts, Calling and a Phone Number With TextFree
As long as you’re getting free WiFi, why not ditch your phone plan? Plenty of services let you talk and text over WiFi for free.
You can use Facebook Messenger to message or call anyone who has a Facebook account. Similar but less common options include Google Hangouts, Snapchat or WhatsApp.
To get a real phone number for free calls and texts, use TextFree with an internet connection.
The service lets you send and receive unlimited texts to anyone, whether they have the app or not. Textfree-to-Textfree calls and any incoming calls are free. Outgoing calls to someone without TextFree will cost you.
If you want more freedom, sign up for (no pun intended…) a free cell service plan with FreedomPop.
20. Get a Free Cell Phone and Monthly Plan
What’s that? You need a phone on which to use all this free internet, texting and calling? We’ve got that covered, too!
You can get a steeply discounted phone, plus free service, through FreedomPop.
If you can’t afford that, you could qualify for a free phone and free cell or internet service through the government Lifeline program.
21. Get a Free Education Through Online Courses or These Colleges
A college degree might be an increasingly pricy commodity, but an education doesn’t have to be.
Or you can actually earn your degree for free if you’re accepted to one of these nine colleges that pay or waive tuition for every student.
22. Use Free Software and Websites for Your Home or Office
Think you can’t work, study, create or connect with the world from home without paying the price? Don’t worry -- we’ve found free apps for that, too!
If you’re not a Windows fan but don’t want to shell out the cost of a Mac computer, an open source operating system might meet your needs.
You can download and install Chromium OS (similar to Google’s Chrome OS) for free. The operating system is best for users who mostly want to browse the internet.
Regardless of your operating system, you can meet most of your computing needs with free software, apps or websites.
Check these out:
- For free word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and drawing, try Google Docs online or download the OpenOffice suite.
- On your smartphone, use Over, Spark or Legend to create cool graphics for social media, and Line to edit photos.
23. Borrow Tools in Your Town Instead of Paying to Own Them
A proper set of tools can seriously improve your life… or be a huge burden. If you rent and move a lot, storing and transporting a heavy toolbox can be more of a pain than it’s worth.
Instead, try borrowing tools only when you need them. Plenty of national auto-parts retailers, like AutoZone and Advanced Auto Parts, let you borrow specialty tools for a refundable deposit to repair your car.
Your city might also have a tool lending library, where you can borrow everything from hammers to plumbing tools to circular saws for your home improvement projects.
More Free Stuff!
Want even more? Check out our giant list of 101 freebies for more ways to earn rewards and life-hack your way to free stuff.
And here are 30 of the best internet freebies we’ve ever found.
Your Turn: What everyday items do you never pay for? Share your tricks in the comments!
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).