July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013
12 Fabulous Freebies

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Tuesday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Everyone loves getting something for nothing. But is anything really free? People living with HIV (or other chronic illnesses) are often on a very tight budget. So here are 12 free ways to save money in 2013.

1. Become a member of the Freecycle Network. This nonprofit movement consists of more than 5,000 local groups — and some 9 million members — all around the world. It's all about keeping good stuff out of landfills by allowing members to give away items they no longer need as well as search for things they need that someone else might want to jettison. And it's all free, including membership. Prepare to live The Cheap Life in 2013.

2. Looking for a free weekend activity or maybe some fun stops during a family vacation? Consider touring factories and other businesses that offer free tours of their facilities — everything from chocolate and candle factories to breweries and the Spam Museum. Best of all, many offer free samples of their products as part of the tour.

3. Get a library card if you don't already have one. If you have one, vow to use it more often. America's 17,000 public libraries offer free access not only to books (and in many cases e-books as well), but to DVDs, computers and the Internet, and a host of programs and other services. What's more, spending time at your local library allows you to turn down your thermostat at home in the winter — and air conditioning in the summer — and save even more!

4. You say it's your birthday? If you must turn another year older, at least you can take comfort in a wide range of birthday freebies offered by many national and local establishments —and not just a free slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream (although who's complaining?), but in some cases an entire meal or some pretty nifty swag. The Birthday Freebies website helps you find free loot in your area, as well as nationwide.

5. There are a lot of scams on the Internet and elsewhere promising to help you find money that may be due you or a family member … for a fee, of course. But this nonprofit website is legit and free, and has helped countless people — including me! — find "unclaimed funds" they are eligible to collect, including forgotten bank accounts, security deposits, inheritances and a wide range of other assets.

6. We've all heard about the skyrocketing cost of college education, but did you know that you can attend online courses offered by many prominent colleges and universities for free? The only catch is that you don't get credit toward a degree program. But if learning is your goal, the information and knowledge you'll gain is all the same. Prestigious schools offering free online courses include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Tufts and the University of California at Berkeley.

7. Volunteering is its own reward, but sometimes volunteering comes with some pretty nice perks attached, such as free admission to special events. Volunteering to be an usher at theaters or concert halls often gets you free admission to a show. Many film and music festivals — including some of the most famous (and expensive) ones, such as the Sundance Film Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — rely on a corps of volunteers, who often get free admission and access to behind-the-scenes events. Be sure to check the relevant websites to see whether they use volunteers.

8. For generations, many manufacturers have mailed consumers free samples of their products to attract new customers and build brand loyalty. Now, with the Internet, free samples are more abundant and easier to score than ever before. Some of the most popular websites to help consumers find free samples are freesamples.org, mrfreestuff.com, sweetfreestuff.com, startsampling.com and getitfree.us.

9. Most people know that America's national parks are among this country's crown jewels. But did you know that 265 of our 398 national parks never charge an entrance fee? And every year there are special "free entrance days" at the parks that normally charge. In 2013, those free days are Jan. 21, April 22-26, Aug. 25, Sept. 28 and Nov. 9-11.

10. So-called free stores and free markets are cropping up across the United States. The idea is to provide a gathering spot where people can drop off and "shop" for items that would otherwise likely be thrown away. The thing is, the "shopping" — and everything in the store/market — is free, sometimes including free repairs and other services provided by skilled volunteers. Check out an online directory of free markets and stores around the country.

11. You've heard the old saying, "Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes." Well, if you're a smart consumer, you can at least sometimes avoid sales tax by taking advantage of occasional "tax-free shopping days" offered in some states. The tax holidays are usually centered on back-to-school shopping periods and disaster preparedness or relief events, or to encourage people to buy specific items, such as Energy Star products. Find a list of participating states and the details of their tax-free shopping days online.

12. Beware of companies offering you a "free" copy of your credit report, only to hit you later with some hidden fee or processing charge. The fact is, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months if you request a copy. For instructions on how to order your truly free copies of your credit report from these three companies, check the website of the Federal Trade Commission.

Now get out there and do something for free. Hope you have a beary safe and great Tuesday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab