Finding The Free

by Katy on December 4, 2012 · 26 comments

I am very good at finding free opportunities, and no I don’t mean horrible over-packaged and chemical laden commercial samples. I mean great adds-to-our-lives-without-creating-more-junk-in-the-world kind of stuff.

Here are examples of some recent great free finds:

  • I fill out three minute online surveys for Einsteins Bagels about my transactions. This then gives me a free coffee drink with my next purchase. Which then spits out another receipt asking you to fill out an online survey, and so on and so on. Yes, you have to make a purchase, but I’ll usually just get a $1 piece of fruit. (And in case this seems sketchy to you, I’ve talked to the baristas, and they’re totally happy that I’m filling out the surveys.) And of course, I bring my own reusable travel mug.
  • I registered my American Express Card for their Small Business Saturday program, which refunded $25 when $25 was spent at a participating small business. I looked through their website and found that the art supply store where my son works was registered. I bought a $25 gift certificate, which will go into my son’s stocking. Not only does this support a great small business, but my son will be able to use his employee discount to stretch the money. (Sorry, but this program was just for the specific Saturday after Thanksgiving.)
  • I’m always in the middle of a library audio book. I rock it old school with a portable CD player, and can be found doing dishes, raking the yard, folding the laundry and painting household projects while listening to everyone from James Joyce to Jackie Collins. I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we are to have access to public libraries, they are the best invention ever!
  • My husband is a fan of high definition TV’s, and is not too proud to embrace the big thick variety. Just last week he brought home a free-from-Craigslist 34″ Sony TV for our bedroom. The picture quality is fantastic, and it makes my husband a very happy man to be able to to watch high def international soccer games without interruption.
  • No list of my free finds would be complete without mention of found change. It’s everywhere, and I find it constantly. From the 13¢ found at Goodwill the other day to yesterday’s penny from the kids’ high school. It adds up, it matters and it always gives me such a kick.
  • Future free plans include bringing clothes to Buffalo Exchange to hopefully earn a $25 credit that I can tuck into my older son’s stocking, as well as countless yummy lattes from Einsteins Bagels. Because I will be filling out another survey as soon as I’m done writing this blog post.

Do you search out the free opportunities in your community? Please share your free finds in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire December 4, 2012 at 9:51 am

Great meal at Outback Steak House and the receipt gives a FREE blooming onion for feedback. Man do I jump on those. We can’t eat a whole one but the left overs then make great hash browns OR French Onion soup. What a deal.


Megyn @Unstuffed December 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

Our biggest/most awesome free find was FREE photos of our boys from professional photographers. Since we just moved, and my boys destroyed my camera, family back home is sad not to have recent photos. I posted an ad on Craig’s List to trade our boys’ time and cuteness for their skills. We get free, amazing photos, and the photographers get photos to use for their websites and marketing. And we got free holiday gifts for family. While at our second shoot this morning, my oldest found me a bunch of neat thumbtacks at the park, which I will greatly need and use (and now don’t have to buy). Before our move, I was taking out our trash (we had communal trash cans in an alley) where I found a copious amount of bubble wrap. I gleaned a bunch and used it to pack. Once we unpacked, it went on CL, so another was able to use it. I also got the all boxes for free from my old job. Our last freebie is a $100 AmEx giftcard from the flooring vendor who didn’t get our rental ready in time for our move-in date. And now we have grocery money for a week 🙂


Katy December 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

Wow, this is all great stuff! Color me super impressed!



sarah k @ the pajama chef December 4, 2012 at 10:57 am

while watching TV with my husband (aka him watching sports & me sitting with my laptop), i enter giveaways on blogs. they can be time consuming to do all the entries but i’ve won everything from a steam & sweep (a vast improvement over the swiffer i used before, both environmentally & in terms of how well it cleans) to free food products. i only enter a giveaway if i can actually use it (and not add ‘stuff’ to my house) or if i know someone who i could gift it to who would appreciate (i.e. i entered a pots & pans giveaway, that i won, and gifted to my mom as her 30 year old wedding gift pots & pans had bit the dust).

also, if you sign up for the rewards card & the email list from speedway, they send free product coupons by email every month. there’s a speedway near my husband’s office so it’s nice for him to get a free treat every so often…of things i would never purchase otherwise.

i always pick up loose change too!


charli December 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

At the moment we are doing lots of planting in our garden. Instead of going out to nurseries and spending up big on plants we are gladly accepting cuttings and extra plants from friends and families gardens. It’s taking maybe a little longer, but there are sections of the garden beginning to look like rainforest and it’s cost us nothing. I am a huge fan of the library too. They give you the best of both worlds, the latest magazines and books etc without the cluttered house.


Lilypad December 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

We charge just about everything to an Amazon Visa card, pay the balance in full each month, and receive rewards checks from Chase (the issuing bank). In the past 2 months, I’ve pocketed $106 this way. And believe me, I LOVE sticking it to the bank this way. Yes, I know they earn transaction fees on my purchases (and I pay cash at some favorite local businesses so they don’t have to pay the fees on their end) but it still feels like TAKING FREE MONEY FROM THE MAN.


Katy December 4, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Love it!



Heidi December 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

I do well with credit card points, too. I watch for their 5% promotions and then buy a bunch of gift cards at the store where I normally do my grocery shopping anyway. I’ll end up spending it anyway, and in the meantime I made a 5% bonus. Show me a savings account or investment where you can make that?!


Amanda @ The Scacchi House December 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Buffalo Wild Wings did a similar survey a few years back where you got a free dessert. Needless to say, I had a free brownie once a week for about 3 months when we would eat there on Boneless Thursdays. Free coffee would be awesome too!


Cluttered Mama@ The Cluttered House December 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Free-fifty-free is my FAVORITE thing. I rarely say no to a hand-me-down. My boys’ wardrobe is 90% purchased by someone else (my sister-in-law), which REALLY helps. My FAVORITE free thing is my KitchenAid stand-mixer. Some relatives were downsizing their home, saw I was registered for one when my hubby and I were getting married, and asked if I wanted it. Of course, the shiny red one was pretty, but I think I actually love my harvest gold mixer more than I would’ve loved a new one. It has many miles on it, but still works GREAT!!!


Diane C December 5, 2012 at 7:35 am

Oh! I love it! Free-fifty-free will be my new mantra! I’ll use it alongside my brother’s great line: “Free? I’ll take two, please.” I dig the fact that he remembers to be polite and not be greedy, even when something is free. Love this post! Thanks Katie and Cluttered Mama.


Heidi S December 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

Heard a line on TV recently that I like – “Fifty cents or less, but free is best.”


Michelle H. December 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Love this post! I try to find free entertainment for the family in our community. This past weekend we spent a fun 2 hours at a free holiday party at the local recreation center – complete with horse drawn carriage rides, bounce houses, and craft stations for the kids.

I also pick up spare change whenever I see it, but at 9 months pregnant I had to leave a penny on the floor at the grocery store yesterday because it was just too far to reach. : )


Kim Stewart December 5, 2012 at 3:52 am

This past Friday I went to the mall to collect my birthday goodies. First to Sephora to get 2 free lip glosses, then a stop at Godiva for my free truffle for the month. When he pulled up my in in the system he told me I had a birthday coupon for $10 off $10 or more purchase. He then said the small bars were 4/$10 so I got 4 for free. Then off to Noodles for my free birthday entree of Pasta Fresca with shrimp which I got as carryout. It was a fun trip to the mall which cost nothing but the gas to get there!


Heidi December 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

I love getting birthday freebies! This year I got a free medium drink at Dunkin Donuts, a free medium drink at Sonic, $10 at Kohl’s, and $3 at CVS.


Jennifer @ Little Blog in the Big Woods December 5, 2012 at 5:40 am

Most of our free finds come from our wonderful friends. We might mention something we are looking for, tell folks to keep an eye out for good deals at garage sales, and boom! Someone will usually have the item and just give it to us. For example, just this year I was looking for a food processor (finally gave in after canning for several years without one) and an IPod nano for my husband to use while running. Our friend’s dad was cleaning things out and was going to sell these but when our friend mentioned we were looking for those items, he gave them to us. This same friend is also a professional photographer. She purchased an old 1800’s church this year for her studio, she gave us one of the origial poplar pews (looks awesome in my entry way!!) and she give us free photo sessions. The catch is, we are always giving them stuff to, kids clothes, books and toys. We take care of each other!!


JD December 5, 2012 at 6:48 am

This is what my husband does: he purchases local heirloom varieties of produce at the food coop. We also grow our own heirloom veggie plants. We remove the seed, then eat the veggies, and he dries and stores the seeds until winter. He plants the seeds in peat pellets and babies them until spring, when he sells the now ready-to-plant plants for a couple of dollars each. He freely admits to people that he saved the seeds from the fruit of our own heirloom plants or purchased heirloom produce, and encourages others to plant their own seeds, but most are happy to have him do the seed-starting for him. He made about $400 last spring selling his plants, and customers told him they were the best plants they grew.
And you’d better believe I pick up found change!


Kris-ND December 5, 2012 at 6:59 am

My husband is a veteran. Applebee’s invites veterans to eat for free on Veteran’s day. Now, it wasn’t totally free because he had our son with him but it is an extremely generous thing Applebee’s does each year and my husband left very humbled and thankful by the way the staff treated him. We also have a regional chain(I don’t think it is anywhere but in my state) that gives you a free meal on your birthday.

Dairy Queen and Cold Stone creamery give you free birthday coupons if you sign up for their birthday clubs.

We live near a National Park. They offer free entrance several times a year. While this isn’t free, we also purchase a state park pass for 25.00. It is good for every one of our state parks for the entire year.

There is one item from Clinique that I love. My mother buys it for me each year for my birthday. She always waits for their free gift, so I get not only that one item I love, but also whatever the free gift is.


Karen December 5, 2012 at 7:53 am

I echo the library audiobooks, but download mine through an agreement between my library system and Overdrive Console. Not only do I get free books, but I am also not using gasoline to drive to and from the library.


Katy December 5, 2012 at 8:52 am

My library has the same thing or something similar. However, I have yet to make the leap to an iPod. Luckily, my library is walking distance, or at least it’s on my way to 90% of what i drive to.



Karen December 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I got an mp3 player when I started doing audiobooks. Price has dropped since the i-phones have become so popular.

My city has only been a city since the early 20th century. I think that is part of the reason that facilities are so spread out. Your city is somehat older so things are closer. Right now my city wants to move our closest library to a space that would cost less; current rent for the space they are using is $25,000 a month.


Kirsten December 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

Kind of off topic, but your free TV reminded me of this: Did you hear that NBC Sports outbid Fox Soccer for the EPL games? While there will still be several games on Fox Soccer, EPL and MLS will all be on NBC Sports, ESPN, and Root, which allows us to go down to a lower priced Comcast package. Fox Soccer will still have the World Cup, but since that isn’t until 2014, I figure we can do without until then. Anyways, just thought I ‘d share, it may save you some money and your husband MIGHT still be happy with the soccer selection 🙂


Diane December 5, 2012 at 11:38 am

Free coupon for Essence of Beauty hand lotion at CVS. I went to get mine…they had none in the small free size, so they upgraded to regular size. Now I another free stocking gift for my working girl.


greenstrivings December 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Baja Fresh gives you $5 off a $15 purchase for filling out their survey. Not free, but it helps. Oh hey, I’m looking at a letter from AAA which promises me a $10 gift card to Target just for getting an insurance quote. Sweet!


tna December 6, 2012 at 11:56 am

I remember watching a Chris Walken movie a few years ago…5 dollars a Day. It made me laugh, all the free stuff he found Mr. Thrifty conman, especially the little advertising car he drove.



Katy December 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm




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