6 Things You Should Never Pay For
Did you know that you can get computer software, batteries, printer paper, and a bunch of other essentials for free? That's right, gratis! Guest author Sean Chambers explains how.
Whoever said there was no such thing as a free lunch didn't try very hard to find one. Okay, so maybe the only time you can get an actual free lunch is on your birthday, but there are plenty of items and services out there that you simply shouldn't part with your hard-earned dollars to get.
In some cases, you may need to track your savings and rewards to get an item for free, but if a little sweat equity can get you something for nothing, isn't it worth the effort? Take advantage of the following tips and your checking account is going to be very thankful.
Tip #1: Computer Software
Two websites to investigate for free computer software are CNET and FreewareFiles. Both offer a variety of titles related to file management and backup, music streaming, audio and video conversion, and more. To save on word processing costs, download Apache OpenOffice which is a mirror image of Microsoft Word, but free. And keep your money in your pocket for antivirus software, as well. Both Avast and AVG offer free versions which essentially provide the same protection as paid antivirus products.
Tip #2: Batteries
Sign up for the customer loyalty program at your preferred office supply retailer and keep an eye on weekly circulars - and be sure to opt for email updates as well. Several times throughout the year batteries are offered for free after a 100% cash-back rebate. Just pay full price for them at the counter or online and you receive a rewards certificate for that amount, minus tax, the following quarter. Stocking up on batteries throughout the year definitely comes in handy around the holidays, and this program is good for plenty of other miscellaneous office supplies, as well. Just be sure to track your rewards and save your receipts, just in case.
Tip #3: Printer Paper
Printer paper is also available for free through the same program as batteries, but this one can get a little tricky. You can usually find paper available at a significant discount, but not for free. Hold off until you see that freebie. Many times this offer is only good for one ream of paper, but every once in a while you can get an entire case. Wait until that promotion comes around, buy an entire case for free, and you're going to have enough paper to last a very long time.
Tip #4: Your Credit Report
As Money Girl mentions time and time again, never pay for your credit report. Those credit protection businesses offering access to your report and other services all cost money, which you simply don't need to spend. Three times per year, go to the website AnnualCreditReport.com and download a copy once from each of the three major credit reporting agencies - TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. And don't spend a penny.
Tip #5: News
Stop buying newspapers and magazines from the convenience store and get your information fix online instead. This may seem like a minor cost, but when you're trying to manage your finances effectively, every dollar counts.
Tip #6: Personal Care Supplies
Deodorant, shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other personal care items are all available for free from time to time at your local drug store. Sign up in-store for the Walgreens Balance Rewards Program, for example, and receive your loyalty card, then check the weekly Walgreens ads for discount items available to cardholders. You can then look for any coupons that cover the remainder of the discounted price, whether in the Sunday paper or the Walgreens in-store coupon booklet. CVS has a similar program in which select items are free.
Once you start getting these items for free, why not extend your money-saving strategy to living on a personal budget? Write out your income on one side of a sheet of paper and your expenses on another, or use an online tool like Mint or PearBudget. Get your spending beneath your income and you're set up for long-term success. Add this to your strategy of getting everything you can for free and you're on the path to finally controlling your finances, instead of being controlled by them.
What other things can you think of that you shouldn't spend money on? Post your ideas in Comments below.
Sean Chambers is a writer based in New York City who focuses on providing tips related to saving money, investing for the future, and living simply.