There are few things more thrilling for a deal shopper than getting something for free. In fact, freebie deals are often the most popular offers on our site. From smartphones to restaurant food, there are certain categories that are regularly flush with free-of-charge promotions.
But while we see some of these items regularly for free, the obvious caveat is that they might not be exactly what you want, when you want them. However, deal hunting becomes sublime (yes, we said sublime!) when you encounter a glorious freebie exactly when you need it. And if you get free stuff along the way, who are we to complain?
And so, without further ado, here are the top 15 categories where you can almost always find free stuff available, in some shape or form.
If you're a fan of phones with Google's operating system, then you're in luck; so many new Android smartphones are released these days that the market has become saturated — and as a result, most models quickly fall to $0 (with new 2-year contracts) after a few months. Even trendy models with lots of media hype do eventually follow the same deal path; in fact, based on patterns we've seen thus far, we're predicting that the Samsung Galaxy S5 could become free with a contract as soon as this summer.
We regularly see both Newegg and Fry's Electronics offer free anti-virus software, to the extent that you could get away without ever paying for it. The caveat is that you must buy it, and then redeem a rebate to make it free. But paperwork is a small price to pay in the pursuit of a good deal. If you're adverse to rebates, there are also always-free options like Avast.
Getting a full album for free can be difficult, but with the number of music credit freebies we see bundled with Amazon deals, you should be able to amass a stockpile of credits to purchase a number of MP3 downloads that tempt you. Moreover, Amazon currently has more than 50,000 free songsavailable for download. Plus, iTunes, Starbucks, and other vendors tend to distribute free songs on a weekly basis. Check out our complete guide for places to find free music downloads for a full set of options.
Free apps are everywhere. In fact, we round them up every day! And while some are more enticing than others, at some point even the typically expensive titles see a temporary price drop. If you're particular, set up an email alert and wait patiently for the app of your choosing to fall in price.
Companies want to know more about you so they can market to you. If you're willing to give up some information about yourself — like your career title or location — you can get a free year's subscription to a variety of magazines. In recent months alone, we've seen popular titles like W Magazine, Wired, Wine Spectator, Maxim, Lucky, and more, all for free.
Besides going to the library — which is an obvious first place to start for free books — there are lots of ways to get free digital books. You can find such material in various ways, including browsing through Project Gutenberg, which has more than 39,000 free eBooks, or downloading the Free Books app for the iPad. And of course, we list free eBooks on a regular basis here on DealNews.
If you've got book cases full of physical books that you'd like to swap out, sites such as PaperBack Swap and Bookmooch allow you to mail your books to members who request them, and then you can request books from others that you'd like to read. The more books you give, the more you can receive. These sites are free to join, but the sender does pay postage.
Movies and TV
While cutting the cable cord entirely isn't as easy as you might think, there are definitely ways to consume movies and TV without paying a cent. Naturally there are free streaming sites like Hulu, and if you have an Amazon Prime subscription already — all the more likely now that it's bundled with the Fire Phone — there's a wealth of content at your fingertips.
Moreover, keep an eye out for free movie screenings in your area; large studios will frequently try to give a film early buzz by showing it for free to audiences, and the screenings aren't limited to only big urban areas. Additionally, Fandango frequently offers BOGO ticket deals for certain cardholders; and now that it's summertime, many parks nationwide have regular movie nights scheduled.
If you want to take a drive across the country but haven't got any wheels and don't want to rent a car, there are websites like Auto Driveaway that will help you find a car to drive for someone who is moving and doesn't want to drive their own car. For the return trip, either wait for a car to drive back or book a cheap flight home. It's a great way to see the country if you have the time.
While they might not always come in the exact dimensions you'd like, you can pretty regularly find some sort of freebie photo print deal from the likes of Snapfish, Walgreens, and CVS. Shutterfly also offers regular freebies, but shipping will tack on a small fee.
Dining out with kids
Many restaurants offer free meals for kids if they're accompanied by a paying adult. However, some do so only on certain nights, so it's worth checking MyKidsEatFree.com to find restaurants in your area that offer free kids' meals. (This site could also be handy for diners without kids who want to make sure they don't visit on such nights when a throng of children is likely to be there.)
Food for everyone else
Did you know that August 3 is Free National Watermelon Day? Or that June 6 was National Donut Day? Almost every day of the year is some type of national food day, and restaurants are always looking for opportunities to run promotions. Check your local restaurants, or do a Google search for your city and the free food you're looking for. While you might not be able to score freebies regularly enough to avoid ever paying for food, you can certain get at least monthly free food, drinks, and the like.
It's a given that your friends should buy your drinks on your birthday, but before you get to the bar, keep in mind that there are plenty of businesses that offer free things on your special day as well. The trick is to plan ahead and hit as many of them as you can. Check out our birthday freebies master list to find what's free near you.
Travel-sized toiletries and grooming products
Many health and beauty companies offer free samples, and like free magazines, you'll have to offer up some personal information to get the goods. Keep an eye out for free samples from Target and Walmart, as we often see complimentary toiletries and the like from these merchants. Individual brands also offer free samples of new products they're trying to promote, but if you want to skip the customary six to eight weeks for delivery, you can instead scout out free samples at drugstore counters and Sephora.
While you can't always wait around for free shipping when a special promotion is on the table, everyday orders that aren't time sensitive can benefit from waiting for a shipping discount. We frequently see a variety of popular vendors offer some sort of shipping deal, which makes it hard to justify spending your cash on the service for an average order.
As a society, we often dispose of perfectly good items in the pursuit of finding something newer or better, so before you make any large purchases, because sure to check Craigslist and Freecycle for free goods. Often, people just don't want to make the effort to move or properly trash them, so you can sometimes get something substantial — like a wardrobe or shelving unit — without paying. It goes without saying though that you should make sure any and all items are in working order and in good shape — you don't want to be hauling away another person's junk, even if it is free.
Saving money is a great thing. Saving money and acquiring goods and services you might want or need for free is even better. Let this list of 15 things you shouldn't be paying for ring in your head the next time you go to the store (or jump online) to buy, well, just about anything. Your wallet will thank you.
Lindsay Sakraida is the features director for DealNews, where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/12-Things-You-Pay-for-That-You-Should-Be-Getting-for-Free/590519.html