Born Free!

by Katy on March 30, 2009 · 14 comments


Everyone likes a little something for nothing. However altruistic one might be, there’s just something about a freebie that’s not just exciting, but also a bit ego inflating. 

Who needs money to enjoy the good life? I’ve got smarts which is way better!

I was talking to a friend the other day about the rich confluence of freebies that have come my way in the past few weeks.

“But how can you write about getting free stuff when no one else has your opportunities?”

But that’s precisely my point. I may have certain opportunities for some of the freebies in life, but you have opportunities that I don’t have access to. 

In the past few weeks, (which, even I admit have been a bit unusual) I have received for free:

  • One haircut, (I registered online with The Aveda Institute to receive an e-mail when a free service was available — it took less than 24 hours.)
  • One trip to the Great Wolf Lodge. (I contacted them in January about how I was wanting to come and write a piece about people vacationing close to home. They offered me a single weekday night, which I was able to book during Spring break.)
  • Two excellent tickets to see the traveling Broadway production of Wicked. (My mother was renting to a couple of the cast members, and they offered the tickets as a thank you. [By the way, it was incredible!])
  • A grocery bag half-full of food. (My neighbors will be out of town for a week, so they gave us their perishables.)
  • A night at a snowy Mountain cabin, including meals, movies and good conversation. (My father and step-mother have a cabin on Mt Hood, where they live about half-time. We visited them over the weekend, and they even let us use their library card to check out the movie, Nim’s Island, which was surprisingly good.)
  • An offer to borrow camping equipment. (I really do have the best neighbors, even if the idea of camping makes me want to run screaming!)

Of course, we all have different opportunities from one another. Your parents may have a beach cabin or RV, but my mother owns furnished rental houses perfect for mini stay-cations. My old next door neighbors had a family beach cabin they used frequently for free, and my best friend from college had an uncle who kept a furnished New York City apartment that she was able to stay in for free whenever she was in the city.

Even if you don’t have vacation home owning relatives, there are plenty of free opportunities out there. For example, I’m currently registered to be notified when the next clothing swap in my size is a go.

Please note that getting free stuff without being a mooch is a fine art. It’s important to look for ways to reciprocate, and make sure to profusely thank the giver. 

Have you been honing your freebie skills lately? What are the free opportunities that have arisen in your life? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara Morrison March 31, 2009 at 2:47 am

As I a have had a baby almost every spring or summer for the last few years ( and this June will be the last) my gardens have been unsuccessful. I do have a number of friend who garden and often give us produce. Oodles of it.
We are also fortunate enough to have friends a little larger or older than us and constantly receive hand me down clothes…My best friend has a trust fund and a shopping problem. We also have other friends who hand us down childrens clothes.

My husbands work sells( for a 25 or 50 dollar donation to the SPCA) old computers…I now have a very nice laptop. Not exactly free but close.

Just Saturday we went to an event at the library for kids and had a full day of fun for free, They also have movie night with free popcorn all spring!


atsquared March 31, 2009 at 6:33 am

We are very lucky to have generous friends who are finished having children and are trying to get their home decluttered. (We have one child, and would like to have more.) Our most recent freebie is a twin bed, complete with trundle bed and mattress. Our daughter is only 10 months old, but she will need it soon enough, and for the low, low price of “free” I don’t mind storing the bed for a while. 🙂 They have also given us baby clothes, a baby swing, baby coat hangers, and many other things since our daughter was born.

We have been able to give things to this family as well… most recently, a CD tower and a 27″ television. The TV was taking up space in the storage area and fell into the “but we might need it someday” category.

We also get free sitting fees from a friend who is a photographer.

BTW, I recently posted here under the name “Alison”, not realizing that there was already an Alison following this blog. My apologies!


Jeanine March 31, 2009 at 7:03 am

I tend to agree…a lot of people don’t have the access that you do to certain things.

In most of the frugal minded blogs that I read, the people are in or close to a major city. It would be nice to read something on how to be frugal in small towns.

130,000 thousand. In the whole county. And that was that was from 2000. It’s so easy when you have access to public transportation, and the nations’ largest public library, and salons that actually know what an Aveda product is, much less use them.

It really would be nice to see (online anyways ) how people use it up, make it do, or do without when there’s not much to start with.


Angela March 31, 2009 at 8:53 am

I think it’s probably true that it’s easier to be frugal when you live near a major city. We live in Los Angeles and don’t even have time to take advantage of all the free opportunities.

Also, being in the film industry, our biggest freebie is screenings of new films. We always see all the new movies for free, often with directors or actors speaking about them. (My favorite still was George Clooney. Triple strike: gorgeous, brainy, and funny. Aah.) Also film industry related, I get posters of the new kid movies at Disney for my niece and nephew and they love that.

One thing that might work in a small town is the fruit and produce. We get lemons from one neighbor and tomatoes from another, and I recently asked a stranger on my walking route if I could pick some of his grapefruit and he said he’d be happy if I did because they don’t even eat them.

Also- what about Freecycle and free Craig’s list and all those services? Don’t they exist in smaller towns? Maybe you could be the manager or whatever it’s called for your area and start it up.

And one other thing that would work anywhere- trading services. Babysitting for a haircut, cutting the lawn for tax advice. Same for borrowing from friends and neighbors- just keep it going both ways.


Mary Ann March 31, 2009 at 9:06 am

We live very close to St. Louis Mo. . The zoo, forest park, the science center, museums and magic house have free admissions. You can spend the whole day. We usually pack a lunch and hop on the metro link ($2 for a round trip)


Jeanine March 31, 2009 at 10:38 am

@ Angela….

Funny you should ask about Craigslist and Freecycle.

I deleted part of my comments because I felt they were too long.

Closest Craigslist town? 35 miles away.

Freecyle? Closest hit I got was about 15 miles away.

Craigslist did open up my town for about 45 days. Know how many transactions were posted? 5.

Freecylce was the same way.

Rural areas are excellent for produce…my office as a whole drew who planted what because there’s ALWAYS too much when we all plant a variety of things.

It’s just not that much free to be had in this town…
If I don’t mind the drive, deals abound in AL and LA. Even the next county over has some deals. Just not here.

My DH family is HUGE…there are 14 of them…so we trade quite a bit for servies…tax prep for an oil change, babysit for grass cut….things like that. But no free movies, or condos/cabins, haircuts. Maybe a piece of furniture every now and again.

It’s a trade off really…quiet and peace…(at least my DH says so) for….(snark) culture and accesability.


Stacey March 31, 2009 at 10:46 am

My family recently acquired a lovely outdoor play set from our neighbors whose children had outgrown it. I called to ask them if they would sell it to me and they said they would be happy to give it to me for free. They had been wanting to plant fruit trees in its place but hadn’t known what to do with it.

They refused any payment but I insisted on giving them a gift card to our local whole foods grocery. I definitely agree that it is so important to acknowledge the generosity that is given with *some* token of gratitude – if I didn’t have the money to give for the gift card (this was actually provided by my mom who wanted to give the play set to my mom for her birthday and was thrilled that I had found something that didn’t have the $1500 price tag of a new set), I would have made some cookies or brownies for them.

You can see the play set and my son and some friends enjoying the set here:


Stacey March 31, 2009 at 10:47 am
Lisa March 31, 2009 at 3:50 pm

In some ways it may be easier to be frugal living close to a big city–better access to public transportation, more libraries and free community activities etc. The flip side of that is that living near a big city usually costs WAY more in housing. So at least there is a big, bright, frugal spot for those who don’t live in metropolitan areas.


rebecca March 31, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Things you can do anywhere:
I take online surveys at and lightspeed consumer panel and earn cash or gift cards for participation.


thenonconsumeradvocate April 1, 2009 at 10:57 am


I certainly do have access to certain free stuff because I live in an urban area, but I miss out on the free stuff found in the country. And much of what I do for free can be found anywhere.

Although I did go to a beauty school for a free haircut, I also cut my husband and kids’ hair. This is certainly free. If I could cut my own hair I probably would. (The one time I did that, a secretary at work made me promise never to do it again.)

I am on the receiving end of the bounty from friends’ gardens, which is both an urban and non-urban occurrence.

I have been sent great stuff by Compact members, which would have happened wherever I happen to live. (Star Trek action figures, T-shirts and a big ol’ Tiffin food carrier.)

The last few weeks have been unusual, but I’m happy to let that happen. I have not much on the horizon at the moment, but you never know!

I love your comment, it’s good to get this stuff discussed!

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Marj April 1, 2009 at 11:56 am

We live on 5 acres with the closest town of 250 people only 5 miles away. Wouldn’t trade for anything.
When going to the big city for supplies is when we set up the freecycle
Our church is the greatest giver of all. So many folks to trade with and always free produce. Will be planting our own garden this year and reciprocating on the produce.
I do scour the internet for giveaways to register for and have been so very fortunate.


alunatunes April 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I love free. And I don’t just get free, I pay it forward. I’m able to get free samples and coupons from and many times I pass along those free samples and coupons to friends and neighbors. I also will offer a freebie or two as part of my professional services.
It’s nice to say, “Let’s do an additional date as a freebie.” when I’ve been enlisted to provide publicity for bands. It shows a gratefulness for being hired!


Gigi April 3, 2009 at 12:05 am

This is a great post – I signed up for the Aveda service and clothing swap. Here’s a freebie for you: did you know that as Portland residents we get access to the Washington County library system? The best part about that is something called a “Cultural Pass to Adventure”. It allows a day of free admission (usually for 2 adults and 2 children) to some of the local museums and gardens. When I had visiting relatives, I was able to take them to the Chinese and Japanese gardens for free!


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