Some of life's little luxuries haven't gotten any more necessary -- but they have become cheaper. From learning a new language to finding a great read, these six things no longer require a line item in your personal budget. Go ahead, indulge for less.
Never Pay for These 6 Things Again
While copyright law has varied over the past century, many classic works of literature are now available in the public domain. Project Gutenberg , iTunes' iBook, Amazon.com and Google Reader all have great works ranging from Dante to Bronte to Thoreau to Homer that can be downloaded as free e-books. Click around for a bit and you'll also find promotional excerpts from upcoming novels, popular books, and short stories from well-known modern authors. And many libraries now offer borrowing privileges via digital downloads to round out even the most budget-conscious online bookshelf.
Packing lighter, shedding heavy travel guides by going digital, and choosing the right airline can eliminate costly airfare add-ons. Most airlines charge a fee for either a second checked bag or even a first that falls over a certain weight. Some airlines even charge for the privilege of a carry-on! But budget airlines JetBlue (JBLU) and Southwest (LUV) allow both a carry-on and a checked bag free of charge. Check luggage policies on airline or travel-booking sites. A quick Web search will help you to laugh in the face of luggage fees.
Ever take a friend's recommendation on a new album and discover you're not a fan? Minimize the risk by exploring the music free before you (legally) download it. Like books, free music is everywhere if you know where to look. Create playlists on Pandora and YouTube, explore new bands on Bandcamp.com, and take advantage of promotional downloads from companies like Starbucks and Amazon.com to discover new artists and genres without an upfront investment for an entire album. Like what you hear and want more? Many local libraries offer digital downloads with a library card. However, avoid the temptation to download illegally, which has a very real financial impact on musicians.
Have you forgotten the French you took in high school? Are you planning a business trip to China? Or a family vacation to Rome? The days of having to invest in language tapes and books to learn to order coffee and get directions are over. For introductory phrases and an etiquette overview, look to free podcasts, apps, and online translation tools. Want to dig in deeper? Many cultural alliances offer free or discounted resources, including language lessons. For a full immersion, host a foreign exchange student or couch-surfer, or conduct a language exchange with a native speaker online or at a local coffee shop.
Remember the days when the most difficult choice when opening a checking account was choosing between the free toaster or the rolling cooler? Now, freebies aren't so easy to find, and hidden fees are more the norm even in so-called "free" checking accounts. Reading the fine print before you settle on a bank can save you money no matter what your needs -- whether you're looking for online-only service or occasional face time with a teller, whether you have regular income and can direct-deposit or have the fluctuating paychecks of the freelancer.
Consider banking an a la carte endeavor and find an account that allows choosing the features you'll need and aren't willing to pay for. Where and how often you use your ATM card (including abroad), whether you pay your bills online (or from your phone), and whether you have direct deposit are all things to consider when looking for a new account, as fees for these services vary dramatically by bank.
Across the street or around the globe, paying for WiFi is a thing of the past. While some less-than-innovative cafes, restaurants, and business lounges still charge a fee to jump on their network, more and more, free or free-with-purchase WiFi is the new norm. Use an app like WiFi Finder to locate open networks, and hover near a coffee shop to catch a few minutes' worth of free access.
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Molly McCluskey owns shares of Pandora, Starbucks, and Amazon.com. Follow her travel and finance tweets on Twitter @MollyEMcCluskey. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Starbucks, and Google, and writing covered calls on Starbucks.