Skip to main content

Whoever said, “Nothing in life is free,” wasn’t using their imagination. As long as you know where to look, there are plenty of things and services our there that can improve your lifestyle without depleting your budget. And in this shaky economy, that sounds like a great deal. Here are five freebies to take advantage of while you wait for your stock portfolio to recover.

Free Education

The average tuition and fees at a four-year private college costs $23,712, according to the College Board, and that doesn’t include room and board. If you’re considering going back to school, you may want to sign up for free online courses from some of the country’s most prestigious universities. The University of Washington offers classes on Greek Mythology, World War II, and Jazz. Carnegie Mellon makes it easy to learn Physics, Economics, Statistics, and more. And MIT will school you on Linguistics, Literature, Anthropology and dozens of other subjects free of charge.

Free Meal

Depending on where you live, dining out can cost upwards of $50 for two people. More if you indulge in appetizers, entrees, wine, and dessert. Save that money by joining EyeSpy, a critiquing and consulting company that allows you (and a guest) to dine anonymously at restaurants in exchange for a detailed review of the service and quality of each establishment. The only catch is that you pay for your meal upfront and are reimbursed when you file the evaluation.

Free Party

Just because times are tough doesn’t mean you have to sit at home sulking. Throw a party and have someone else pay the bill. Liquor companies are desperate to generate buzz about new beverages and, if your guests fit the right demographic (age, income, number in attendance), they’re likely to sponsor your event in exchange for exposure. Think of it as a partnership: They give you free booze, gift bags, or a space and you share their products with your wide social circle. Help them build brand awareness and have your next social or work gathering sponsored by the latest vodka to hit the market.

Free Music

When shopping for music online, spending 99 cents for a song on iTunes (STOCK QUOTE: AAPL) may not seem like much. But add it all up and it can get pricey to upload 4,000 songs to your iPod nano. Luckily, there are many sites that give away legal quality mp3 downloads. RCRED LBL is a record label/social network that offers curated music by cutting-edge artists like Gnarls Barkley, Justice, and Kid Sister. The company pays the musicians so you don’t have to resort to file-sharing Web sites that stiff your favorite singers.

Free Stuff

You’ve heard it before, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and no one knows that better than the altruistic folks behind Freecycle, a nonprofit network of people across the globe who are giving away (and getting) stuff for free in their own communities. The aim is to reuse items that may otherwise clog up landfills. Membership is free and allows users to browse local online bulletin boards for unwanted “gifts” like an old laptop, a 100-year old piano, or a big cozy chair. Warning: You may also be inspired to de-clutter your home.