Stop Paying For These
In our culture of buy, buy, buy, it’s easy to forget that some things in life are still free. And we’re not just talking about fresh air and long walks: You can also get a handful of items that are cornerstones of American consumption, like media, paper goods and even educational opportunities, to name just a few.
From big expenses to .99 cent ebooks, it’s imperative to cut costs wherever you can so that you can use those funds for other (more rewarding) experiences. Like author Elisabeth Leamy writers in her book, “Save Big,” “Save money on the big, boring stuff so that you have something left over for life’s little pleasures.” Here are eight surprising items you can get for free.
Millennials may be reading more books than older generations, but overall, Americans are more likely to purchase books than to borrow them — a trend that doesn’t quite square with all the opportunities for free reading. According to Amazon, more than 11,000 libraries in the United States currently offer Public Library Books for Kindle. You can usually check them out via your local public library’s website (see the Brooklyn Public Library as an example), which will then redirect you to Amazon to “borrow” said title. And don’t forget that Amazon also keeps a running list of the top 100 free best-selling Kindle books.
Additionally, Project Gutenberg, dedicated to making ebooks more accessible, has over 45,000 free ebooks (in both Kindle and epub formats) that can be downloaded or read online.
Wedding invitations and Save The Dates
The cost of wedding invitations can really vary depending on design, formatting, number of guests and paper choices. Safe to say, though, that even simple invitations for a standard guest list can set you back in your wedding budget. But with a wide variety of printable wedding invitations (as well as save the dates), you can funnel that money into a different component of your day.
WeddingChicks.com has an array of styles for invitations and ThePrettyBlog.com has simple, printable Save The Dates. Many DIY printable sites also offer downloadable PDFs for table settings, menus, bachelorette invitations and other wedding stationery.
International Text Messaging
Roaming charges alone are incentive to turn your phone off once you’ve skipped town, along with whatever fees your provider charges per text. And although international text messages can be cheap if you purchase a new phone (€0.06 in Europe, for example), costs can still get away from you. (Plus, there is the added annoyance of navigating a new device).
However, provided that you can get an Internet connection on your cell, WhatsApp allows for cross-platform messaging at no cost. Available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia phones, WhatsApp also allows users to create groups and send unlimited audio, video and images.
There’s a reason cooking classes often make for such wonderful birthday and anniversary gifts — they can be awfully pricey and therefore understandably difficult to justify for yourself. The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City, for example, offers technique cooking classes for $100 and up, with more specialized classes running at $250 a class. On the lower end, Whole Foods offers cooking classes in some states for $20 a person or more.
But Williams-Sonoma locations, the home of Martha Stewart-worthy Le Creuset, offer hour-long technique cooking classes without a charge, which includes free tastings and a 10 percent discount on any same day purchases.
Epicurious will also let you try online cooking course for free (current classes include pizza, cookies and bars) and LearntoCook.com has a cornucopia of free, more complicated cooking classes for such dishes as chocolate souflee and cannelloni.
Free Rewards at Your Favorite Cafes
Anyone who has done even a little budgeting knows that daily caffeine indulgences can get pretty expensive. All the more reason to consider making use of the free Starbucks app, which can link to either a Starbucks gift card or any specified amount of money from a credit/debit card or PayPal account. You can then make purchases exclusively with the app at Starbucks registers.
While setting aside a certain amount per week on an app for coffee is a good exercise in budgeting, beverages and products also earn you stars which can garner free refills. A single beverage purchased on your birthday (with the app) is also free. If you’re a self-admitted Starbucks fiend, you might as well get some free cappuccinos out of your addiction.
Similarly, Pinkberry offers a free app to earn rewards towards free yogurt (your 10th purchase and on your birthday) and Coffee Bean is currently testing a rewards app program in Los Angeles. Dunkin’ Donuts’ rewards app also includes offers for free coffee and doughnuts (as well as discounts).
Graph Paper, To-Do Lists, Calendars and More
When it comes to annoying, mundane expenses, specialized paper definitely ranks up there with paper towels and trash bags (you’re seriously buying a bag for your trash). Whether for kids’ homework assignments or for use in your business, this kind of paper has a tendency to be gone through like water. But provided that your printer is willing, paper goods are never something you necessarily have to shell out for again.
Print graph paper for free per your specific graph (such as hexagonal graph or Cartesian graph), spacing and paper format specifications. You can also get handwriting worksheets for kids for free and printable to-do lists, calendars, planners, chore lists and more. Fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole of printable recipe cards, holiday gift tags, banners and other organizational labels.
Looking to update your resume or try some new formatting on your cover letters? Give job application materials a little more polish with new, sophisticated fonts, a trough of which you can get online at no cost. Consider 1001freefonts.com, dafont.com and fontsquirrel.com.
Said additions can also help elevate any DIY invitations or signs (of which you also got for free!)
Online Business Classes
Throwing down hundreds of dollars for business courses or fancy instructional conferences means that you’ve already achieved a certain privilege or level of success to afford those opportunities. So, congratulations!
For those of less means — or who are looking to learn the basics of the basics at no cost — The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers free business courses online, covering everything from finding investors to savings for small businesses to how to write a business plan, among many other topics. Along with those courses, SBA also offers mentoring, counseling and training by way of your local SBA district office.
Save those pennies for your entrepreneurship venture! You’ll need them.