8 Simple, Fast Ways to Get Freebies

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By Trae Bodge

Why pay your hard-earned money for something that you could get for free? With minimal effort, you can nab all sorts of gratis goodies.

8 Simple, Fast Ways to Get Freebies
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8 Simple, Fast Ways to Get Freebies
Hoping you'll bring along a happy, hungry crowd of friends, some restaurants will treat you to a free meal on your birthday (no matter who, if anyone, you have in tow) just by flashing your waiter a valid ID. Denny's (DENN), for example, will hook you up with a Grand Slam breakfast. Au Bon Pain will give you a free sandwich. Other chains, like Applebee's (DIN), Red Robin (RRGB), Cold Stone Creamery, Dunkin Donuts (DNKN), Baskin Robbins and Starbucks (SBUX), will treat you to something special, too, but only you sign up for their clubs online first.
If you know you're going to stay at a certain hotel chain even just once, enroll online in the free guest programs first. At my favorite hotel chain, Kimpton, InTouch members automatically get free in-room Wi-Fi, plus a $10 to $15 coupon to raid the minibar with each stay. Members of Starwood's (HOT) Preferred Guest program get their fifth consecutive night comped, plus points redeemable for future stays. And Fairmont's President's Club members get free Wi-Fi, gym passes and even free shoe shines.
Kiehl's, Sephora and Aveda all offer free samples with online purchases, and you can often wrangle them in their stores as well. Ask nicely if you might be able to try any of their products at home before buying them. Usually, they'll be happy to hook you up.
Lots of companies offer free in-store workshops. Apple (AAPL), for example, offers hourlong group classes on iMovie, iPhoto and Garage Band. Home Depot (HD) offers free weekly 90-minute how-to workshops for adults (for example, how to stain a deck or build an herb garden) and children (how to build a flower planter). The kids even get a free apron, pin and certificate of achievement.  Lowe's (LOW) offers free clinics for kids, too.
Frequent shopper clubs, like those at DSW (DSW), Talbots, American Eagle and even Ace Hardware, offer discounts or even cash back on your next purchase once you spend a certain amount. And when you join the Ikea Family, you get discounts, plus a free (and, let's face it, totally necessary) coffee or tea every time you visit the store's restaurant.

How much time do you have? Because if you have a digital reader, you can download millions of e-books at no charge. Visit archive.orgopenlibrary.orgGutenberg.org and openculture.com. And of course, if you have a library card, you can borrow them for free, too.

If you travel often, remember to sign up for your favorite airline's frequent flier club and redeem your miles for free flights and hotel rooms. If you never travel but desperately hope to one day, consider using an airline-affiliated credit card to help you rack up a free trip. (The Chase (JPM) Sapphire Preferred card is a good one. If you spend $3,000 in the first three months, you'll earn a 40,000-point bonus, which you can trade in for 40,000 miles with participating airlines.) If you don't want to open a new card, you can also register your current credit or debit card with any of the major airlines' dining programs. Usually you'll get a sweet signing bonus of up to 2,000 miles, and then when you use a registered card to pay your bill, you'll earn up to 5 miles for every dollar spent. Don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself saying "My treat!" a little more often.
Need a free couch? Baby crib? TV? Box of bricks? Visit freecycle.org, where nearly 7.3 million members all over the world post all the wonderfully random things they want to get rid of but don't feel like going through the trouble of selling. You have to join the club to browse the posts, but it's free, of course. When you see something you want, just contact the person who's offering it and arrange a pick-up time. That's it! No strings attached. And even if there were, they'd be free, too!
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