Stretching your dollars to keep your budget in check is a challenge for everyone. However, pocketing the cost of items you currently pay for would go a long way in building up your savings. Check out this list of free products and services that could put a smile on your piggy bank.
It's no secret that you can find hundreds of books to read for free at your local library. In today's electronic world, libraries also feature a collection of ebooks you can check out, many in Kindle and epub formats compatible with any device. Project Gutenberg also offers nearly 50,000 free ebooks, available for download or to read online.
2. Productivity Software
Productivity software for presentations or word and data processing can cost big bucks. Opt instead for the free Apache OpenOffice suite, which includes such software as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases. Google Docs also offers a free online editing tool for word processing that can be used individually or shared with coworkers.
3. Printed Photos
Although the cost of printed photos continues to decline, nothing beats free. Many retailers, including Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, offer special deals for free photo prints. Online photo sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly also offer specials for free photo prints, but these many incur shipping fees.
4. Prescription Medications
Pharmacies at Giant Eagle, Publix, PriceChopper, Meijer and some other supermarkets provide some antibiotics, diabetes medications and generic drugs for free. Some stores may require you to enroll in a loyalty program or charge a small annual free. You also may receive free or low-cost medications direct from pharmaceutical companies' patient assistance programs. Search the RxAssist database to find eligible programs.
5. Apps and Music
Free apps and music are offered everyday through the App Store on iTunes, Google Play and even Amazon. You also can receive free apps and music through loyalty programs like My Starbucks Rewards.
6. Museums, Science Centers, Botanical Gardens
Many museums offer free admission year-round while others have free nights weekly or monthly. Also, Bank of America offers cardholders free admission to 150 museums, science centers and botanical gardens on the first full weekend of every month.
7. State and National Parks
Throughout the year, state and national parks offer entrance fee-free park days to encourage more visitors to get outside and explore. The National Park Service publishes a schedule for each year, but check your individual state park website for fee-free day(s) where you live.
8. Kids Meals
Feeding a family can really eat into your budget, but many restaurants offer free kids meals to help keep costs in check. Most, if not all, come with restrictions such as "must be accompanied by a paying adult," "free for every $__ spent," or available only during certain hours or days of the week. Find a participating restaurant near you at MyKidsEatFree.com.
If you're willing to share some of your private information – location, career track, salary information – or complete a survey, you can receive free magazine subscriptions from a number of publishers. Titles range from women's interests to sports and business. Simply search for "free magazine subscriptions" for a lengthy list of providers.
10. Computer Games
Expand your gaming library with a wealth of free computer games that include everything from sports and racing games to puzzles, action and even multiplayer games at MiniClip. Choices include titles such as Bejeweled, BMX Freestyle and Trivia Machine.
11. Calendar and Lists
Skip the office supply store, and print your own calendars and to-do lists at home. Find to-do lists, checklists and planners at PrintableToDoList.com, and check out Free Printable Calendars for current, future and even custom calendars.
12. Wedding Invitations and Stationery
Saving money on wedding expenses ranks high with anyone paying for these special events. At Wedding Chicks, you'll find an entire range of invitations, save-the-date cards, favors, guestbook pages and more, all available for free. A Pinterest search will result in many more leads for free wedding printables.
13. Baby Supplies
As any parent can attest to, raising children does not come cheap. To help offset some of the costs, sign up with many baby supply companies for free samples. For instance, Similac and Gerber both offer coupons and free samples, while Pampers and Luvs offer free diapers. Check with local stores, too, to see if they have baby programs. For example, members of the Publix Baby Club receive coupons, samples and a free book.
14. Treats and Eats
Score your favorite drinks, sweet treats and more in a number of ways. For instance, sign up for the loyalty program at your favorite restaurant, and you could receive a free beverage, appetizer or dessert. As you log purchases or visits with those programs, you'll earn even more free food. Also, many restaurants give out freebies in honor of special days, such as National Ice Cream Day, National Doughnut Day or National Chocolate Day.
15. Free Samples
You can receive a selection of samples from a variety of categories when you sign up with certain manufacturers or services. Companies like Procter & Gamble, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury regularly offer free samples via their websites. Find even more offerings from sites such as PINCHme, which ask for product reviews in return.