16 Fantastic Freebies That Will Take the Strain Off Your Budget
In the wild world of capitalism, companies battle for your hard-earned money. Some will even offer you freebies in hopes of separating you from more cash later.
If you are selective and can avoid the corporate marketing tactics that may follow your free goodies, you can enhance your lifestyle with food, gym memberships, national park visits and even family vacations, without busting your budget.
Below are 16 easy-to-score freebies.
Chocolate is a wonder food that warms the soul. The only way it can get any better is to be completely free. If you sign up for the Godiva Rewards Club, you not only get early access to chocolate sales and free standard shipping, but you also get free chocolate on your birthday. Godiva also gives its members free sneak previews of its latest chocolates, so you are always in the sweetness loop.
Traveling across the country or around the world is a dream of many people, but some simply cannot afford it. Fortunately, credit card companies that are hungry for new users often offer tons of free points to get you to sign up. Plus, you can build upon these points by simply using your credit card to pay for daily expenses and paying off the card at each billing cycle.
Chase, for example, offers 60,000 in bonus points just for signing up, which is worth up to $750 in travel. That should be more than enough for a short vacation for the family or a trip across the country if you’re single. Sure, there is a $95 annual fee, but you still end up with $655 in free travel.
Museums are great for fun and learning, but with admission fees often running $15-$20 per person, these visits can put a big hole in your budget. Fortunately, museums realize the importance of the information they hold, so they often offer free admission.
The Smithsonian, for example, holds yearly Museum Days when entry into any of its hundreds of museums nationwide for free. In 2019, Museum Day falls on Sept. 19.
Many other local museums not associated with the Smithsonian also offer free days. Keep an eye on your local newspaper or newscast to find out what museums are free.
National Park Visits
There are more than 400 national parks across the nation that offer amazing views and the opportunity to learn all about the nature surrounding us. Some national parks are fee-free all year, but many of the more popular ones charge a fee. Several times a year, though, even the most popular parks, including Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park, are free.
In 2019, these fee-free days are Jan. 21, April 20, Aug. 25, Sept. 28 and Nov. 11. Free days vary by year, so keep an eye on the National Park Service site to see what days you can get your nature on without a fee.
Despite some volatility in recent years, the stock market remains a great option for saving toward retirement. Today, the stock market has become easier to navigate than ever thanks to micro-investing apps that open it to the common person with only small amounts to invest.
These apps are hungry for your investment dollars, and some will even give you free investments just for signing up. Robin Hood, a relative newcomer to this space, offers a free share of stock just for signing up. I signed up and scored free Ford stock valued at $6.
Pizza is always a great dinner option, and it is even better when it’s free. Chuck E. Cheese offers its Chuck E-Club that allows you to earn points toward future rewards and special birthday gifts. It also offers a free one-topping personal pizza just for signing up. The hardest part about signing up for the Chuck E-Club and getting your free pizza is choosing what topping you want.
Nothing beats curling up in your warmest blanket with a bowl of steamy, buttery popcorn and watching your favorite movie. The issue is buying and renting DVDs can get expensive, and signing up for a streaming service may not be in your budget. Fortunately, popular rental kiosk company Redbox is here to help with its Redbox Perks club.
Sign up for Redbox Perks online and get one free DVD rental immediately and one on your birthday. On top of these freebies, Redbox Perks also periodically sends you codes for free rentals.
In between free-rental codes from Redbox Perks, you can also head to your local library and choose from its collection of DVDs for free. Sure, it may not have the latest "Avengers" flick, but there is nothing wrong with picking up a classic for a date night freebie.
Notice a common theme here? It’s food. And IHOP cannot resist giving away free pancakes whenever it can. Just sign up for IHOP’s frequent pancaker club, MyHop, and score a free stack of pancakes just for joining. You also get free pancakes on your birthday and the anniversary of you signing up.
On top of the freebies, MyHop also gives you access to various offers and updates at your local IHOP restaurants.
Had your fill of free food yet? Didn’t think so. Arby’s not only “has the meats,” but it also has the freebies. Sign up for its email club and get a free signature sandwich. We’re not talking about your standard roast beef sandwich here. You can choose from premium sandwiches like a Loaded Italian or a Reuben all for free.
There is one caveat to this freebie: You must purchase a soft drink to get the free sandwich.
In the scam era we live in today, mystery shopping has seemingly become a unicorn surrounded by countless cash-sucking scams. But if you want to legitimately get free groceries just for evaluating a store’s customer service and other factors, Trend Source is one of the legitimate ways to get it done.
You simply sign up and choose grocery stores to mystery shop in your area. Trend Source will not only pay you a fee of $4 to $6 per shop, but it will also reimburse you for up to $9 in groceries. The surveys generally take an hour and require nothing but basic evaluation skills to complete.
My wife and I did this on a monthly basis and would set up small mystery shop loops that allowed us to hit a handful of stores in one trip to maximize our freebies.
Looking for a fun place for your kids to cool off, but water parks are too expensive and the hose is getting old? Many communities have begun offering small water parks so the kids can spend some energy and cool off. These parks, which are often called splash pads, offer automatic soaking buckets and more water sprayers than you can think of. Some of these parks go so far as offering small- and medium-size water slides for older kids (and you).
A quick internet search for “splash pads” will reveal some of the free water parks near you.
Ice Cream, With Download
If a free trip to a splash pad isn’t enough to cool off, how about free ice cream?
Download the Slab Happy Reward App from Marble Slab Creamery and earn a $5 reward just for signing up. That’s enough to pick yourself up a scoop of Marble Slab’s tasty ice cream for free. What’s more, this app is a gift that keeps giving, as you earn a point for every dollar you spend at Marble Slab, and 50 points get you another $5 reward.
Ice Cream, Sans Download
We’ve all seen Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in stores, but the company also has scoop shops across the country serving up its unique flavors one cone at a time. Every year, Ben & Jerry’s gives back to its fans with a free cone day. On this special day, anyone can waltz into a Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop and get a full-size cone of their favorite ice cream 100 percent free.
The catch? None, but you often have to wait in line to get your freebie.
Credit Report Access
One of the most important financial aspects of your life is your credit. Sure, if you damage it, you can rebuild it over time, but there are tons of tools you can use to avoid damaging it in the first place. One way to avoid bad credit is to check it regularly. There is no shortage of companies willing to charge you to check and monitor your credit, but there are also plenty offering similar services for free.
Credit Karma and Credit Sesame both offer you free access to your credit report and an estimated score. They also give you near-immediate updates when there is a change to your report, like a new inquiry or a new account, so you can catch fraud before it becomes an issue.
Also, as the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion must provide a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months.
Don’t blow your cash on one of the many tax filing services if you don’t need to. There are countless free tax-filing software options for lower-income individuals with simple taxes. If you have a more complex situation, like contract work or a business, or your income is too high for one of the free ones, head over to Credit Karma for 100 percent free filing.
For most tax situations, including business owners, high earners and those who receive 1099 statements, Credit Karma’s tax-filing software offers free, in-depth analysis of your taxes and filing with the IRS and state. What’s more, it also offers audit protection for free.
Gyms across the nation are vying for your cash to get healthy and are willing to give you a free trial to get into the swing of things. Just a few of the free sample memberships include the Anytime Fitness seven-day trial, L.A. Fitness five-day trial, and the Crunch Fitness one-day trial. The only downside to these trials is they eventually end, are you can rarely get more than one free trial per club.
If you finish out your trial and still want to work out for free, you can find free outdoor gyms at local parks. Some of them are surprisingly robust, especially if you live in an area with year-round warm weather.