Who doesn’t like freebies, right? My wife and I recently visited a builder’s model home and got bags of free goodies, including insulated can holders, magnets, and pens. And I’m working my way through the list of free product samples that was recently posted here on Frugal For Less.
But that’s all small stuff.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with getting those small items. If you’re into frugality you know you can save money chasing those little freebies, and it’s fun.
But “free” just means no monetary cost — you always pay in time and effort. So wouldn’t it be nice, once in awhile, to get more savings-per-hour for your frugal efforts?
How? By going after high-value freebies. Here are some examples of free products and services that are worth anywhere from $20 to $100,000.
1. Free Camping
Want a free place to camp in your RV? Try a Walmart parking lot. Yes, it is allowed, at least at most Walmart stores.
My wife and I did this when we were traveling across the country in our van. It can save you $30 or more per night versus staying in an RV park. That can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars in savings, and cheap food is always nearby.
Most people just park their RV away from the other cars and say nothing, but here’s the official Walmart camping policy: “Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”
There are many other places to camp for free, and you can locate them using websites like FreeCampsites.net and FreeCampgrounds.com. My wife and I have stayed at free places that have great campsites and even hot showers.
2. Free College Education
Berea College, in Kentucky, makes it very clear on their website: “No student pays for tuition.” That’s right, every student receives their “Tuition Promise Scholarship,” which covers 100% of tuition. They say the value “amounts to nearly $100,000 over four years.”
Here are some other colleges that offer free tuition:
- Webb Institute (Engineering; New York)
- Alice Lloyd College (For residents of 108 counties in Central Appalachia)
- Deep Springs College (California)
- Curtis Institute of Music (Pennsylvania)
- US Service Academies (Various locations; Minimum 5-year military commitment)
What if you’re not looking for a degree, but just want to take some high-quality college courses for free? Yale Open Courses program offers “free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University.”
The only catch is that you do not get college credit. Here are some other places offering free college courses:
- UC BerkeleyX – Entirely free courses unless you want a “verified certificate for a small fee.”
- MIT OpenCourseWare – “Free lecture notes, exams, and videos… no registration required.”
- Coursera – Free courses from universities around the world.
3. Free Furniture
If your home has been damaged by a natural disaster, or you’re moving into a home after some time on the streets, or you’re simply in financial trouble, you might qualify for free furniture from a local “furniture bank.” Check the website of the Furniture Bank Association to see if there’s one near you.
4. Free Legal Help
Suppose you have a legal problem with a contractor, or you were fired without cause, or someone used your copyrighted material. What can you do if you can’t afford a lawyer? Get some free legal advice on FreeAdvice.com.
You can start with the free articles, but for more specific help click “Ask a Lawyer.” The attorneys who volunteer provide anything from a simple answer to a short consultation. That helps you decide how to proceed before you spend big bucks going to court. Here are some of the many areas of law covered:
- Auto Accidents
- Bankruptcy Law
- Business Law
- Child Custody
- Criminal Law
- Immigration Law
- Landlord Tenant
- Real Estate Law
Another option, if you have a limited income, is to get free legal representation from a local attorney. The US Justice Department maintains a list of pro bono legal services providers. Click on the link for your state to see what help is available.
Finally, many attorneys, even expensive ones, provide a free initial consultation. You can locate one by Googling “free consultation” + “lawyer” + the name of your town. Be very prepared and have a list of questions so you can get the maximum value from your consultation.
5. Free DIY Workshops
Instead of paying professionals for your home repairs and renovations, why not do them yourself and save a fortune? You can learn the necessary skills at one or more of many free Home Depot workshops. For example, at the Home Depot store closest to us here in Tucson, the workshops offered in the next few weeks include:
- Installing Wall Tile
- Installing Tile Flooring
- Spring Lawn Prep
- Deck & Patio Staining
- Learn to Build a Vertical Succulent Garden
Not only can you save money with your new skills, but these workshops can train you for a new business too. I know a woman who makes $35 per hour doing interior painting after learning how to paint at a Home Depot workshop.
6. Free Hotel Night
Most of the hotel credit cards that offer “free” nights have an annual fee, and often it’s worth paying it. But if you want a truly free night try the Wyndham Rewards Visa.
After one purchase with the card you get 15,000 points. That’s enough for a night at any hotel in the many chains that are part of the Wyndham family (which includes Ramada, Super 8, Hawthorne, Howard Johnson, and many more).
Yes, you might have to buy a 50-cent candy bar with the card to get your points, but that’s about as close to a free hotel night as you can get.
7. Free Museums
My wife and I recently went to a local museum for free, thanks to Bank of America’s “Museums on Us” program. All we had to do was show our Bank of America credit cards at the door.
We’ve done this in Florida, Colorado, and Arizona. Hundreds of museums around the country participate in the program. We’ve saved as much as $36 versus paying the normal entry fee. Free admission is offered on the first full weekend of each month.
Many museums offer free admission on certain days of the year, so call your favorites to see when and if that happens.
Some are free all of the time, like the ones on National Geographic’s list of 20 free museums.
8. Free Dental Care
Need a wisdom tooth pulled, a good cleaning, or a filling, but you can’t afford to pay? Check the Dentistry From the Heart schedule. At their day-long dental care events volunteer dentists and dental hygienists offer their services for free, with no questions asked.
Another option, previously reported in my post on ways to save money on dental care, is the Dental Lifeline Network. Their program is specifically for people who are elderly, disabled, or “medically fragile.”
9. Free Business Education
The government’s SBA Learning Center, offers dozens of free business classes on their website. Current offerings include:
- Taking Your High-Tech Product to Market
- Understanding Your Customer
- Buying a Business
- Contracting Opportunities for Veteran Entrepreneurs
- Cybersecurity for Small Businesses
- Financing Options for Small Businesses
- How to Prepare a Loan Package
- How to Write a Business Plan
10. Free Business Mentoring and Advice
After you get your free education and you’re ready to start your business, you might need a little one-on-one mentoring or advice. You can get these for free from the non-profit organization SCORE, which has branches in most U.S. cities.
At zero-cost you can consult with retired executives and others who have real-life business experience. In my experience they offer valuable knowledge, but also connections that can help you.
11. Free Entry to National Parks
Many national parks charge $20 to get in, but there are also free entrance days for all national parks scattered throughout the year. For example, we went to Saguaro National Park for free on President’s Day this year, and we might do the Grand Canyon on of the free days in the fall.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is always free.
12. Free Everything
You never know what you’re going to find in the free section of Craigslist. To get there, look in the “for sale” category on the front page, and click the link that says “free.” Here are some of the freebies advertised right now on my local Craigslist:
- Landscaping stones (hundreds of pounds)
- A pontoon boat (“fully functional but needs some work”)
- An ironing board
- Dishwashers (working condition)
- Mobile homes (they had to be moved)
- A large framed map of Houston, Texas
If you see something you want, call quickly or go get it right away — the best freebies on Craigslist go fast.
What’s the most valuable product or service you’ve received for free? Tell us about it below, and happy frugaling!