Like “The Truth” on X-Files, Free Stuff is “Out There”

by Katy on July 15, 2012 · 21 comments

As much as it would support my Non-Consumer Advocate story to report that I have impressive savings and fully funded college funds, such is not the case. I choose to work very part-time, so that I can be present with my kids and enjoy the now of life. It’s enough to keep us out of dent, and feels just right.

However, there’s not a lot of money leftover for indulgent fun, especially during this year of trips to Japan, (the three combined trips added up to around $8000) so I am on hyper-alert for free and close-to-free opportunities.

Luckily, free stuff abounds. And here’s what I’ve been able to glean over the past few days:

  • Starbucks gave away free 12 oz. servings of their new Refresher drinks on Friday from 12 – 3 P.M. My son and I stopped in on our way to his soccer game and each chose the Cool Lime flavor. It was too sweet for my taste, so I poured out half of my water bottle, (refillable, of course!) concocted my own version. Free drink!
  • Portland’s Grand Central Bakery has a Tweets for Treats program every other day, so when I saw that their treat for the day was a cinnamon roll, I brought my son in. It turned out that they were out of the cinnamon rolls, so they told my son to pick anything he wanted form the pastry case. My smart boy chose a chocolate croissant. Free treat!
  • My younger sister is an organic farmer, and brought me to her farm to show off her awesome farm-grrrl prowess. She told me to consider the farm my grocery store and to pick out anything I wanted. I chose two types of lettuce, basil and beans. Free vegetables!
  • I drove my son through Burgerville yesterday between soccer games, bringing with me a free milkshake gift card from a Timbers game, as well as a buy-one-get-one-free Tillamook cheeseburger coupon from The Chinook Book. (For those not in the Portland area, Burgerville is a local fast food chain whose tagline is “Fresh, local sustainable.”) Unfortunately, the worker repeatedly messed up our order, initially overcharged us, kept closing the drive-through window and standing with her back to us and then refused to give us a receipt so that I could make sure we were charged the correct amount. It was bizarre. When I got home I checked my credit union account to confirm the amount we’d payed, (I had used my debit card) but the transaction hadn’t posted yet. I later drove back to Burgerville to talk with the manager, who looked up the transaction. She confirmed the amount we’d payed and gave us a $20 gift card as well as a  free milkshake voucher as an apology. I had not been trying to get free stuff, I was simply trying to make sure I hadn’t bought any Florida swampland. But . . . the end result was Free Burgerville! 
  • I experienced the rare occurrence of being on my own last night, (one son in Japan, other son plus husband at The Timbers/L.A. Galaxy game) so I called up my mother who was also flying solo and invited her to come hang out and watch a movie together. I stopped into Fred Meyer to grab yummy snacks, ($3.99 packs of sushi plus store brand mango sorbet) as well as a movie from the Redbox machine. Luckily I had the code “BREAKROOM” which made the DVD free. I chose The Help, which I’ve been wanting to see since the movie came out. Free movie!

Today is shaping up as another soccer-centric day, even though the Oregon skies are currently grey and precipitous. Luckily Grand Central Bakery is tweeting out an offer for a free 12 ounce coffee, which means it’s free latté day for Katy. Just have to make sure I return that DVD before 6 P.M.

For those who may wonder, all of these businesses were within a mile of my house, and I made sure to leave tips when appropriate.

Do you make sure to take advantage of all the free stuff available to you? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.

Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Katy July 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I suppose I should add that I found 14¢ on the ground yesterday.




Karen July 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Nate scored a quarter on a chair at the bagel place today. He loves money 🙂


Katie July 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

My landlords were having a rummage sale yesterday, and I picked three jingle bells out of their free pile. ( I will use them to make a festive doorknob hanger for our front door.)

I also asked my landlady if I could put my old boombox in the free pile, since the tape player doesn’t work and I wouldnt have felt right giving it to goodwill. She said she was looking for a radio for her workroom and would be glad to have it herself. Yay new home for my old stuff!


Katie July 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Plus, one penny on the ground. 🙂


Katy July 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Maybe a bell to ring every time you find change on the ground? 😉



D. Savage July 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm

We don’t have too many freebies in the U.P. But, i do make sure we get our free movie from Mitchie’s Movies on our birthdays. The next larger town is an hour, one way, or i’d be looking for more of the free stuff.
I always pick up returnable cans for the 10 cent deposit; scope out the dirty, nasty bottle return area for coke codes so i can get free coke and magazine subscriptions. We also pick up dropped change. I’m still looking for that all- elusive million dollar bill someone is bound to drop!


Heather July 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I’m actually surprised at the amount of free stuff out there. I was thinking about this recently. We have gotten free: 4 pairs of ski pants for the boys, about 30 plants from our neighbors, a swingset, a outdoor wooden elevated playhouse, cookie cutters, cake decorating supplies, 8 brand new diaper covers (four were too small so I sold them for $10), five all in one diapers, used but in good condition (from a friend). That’s just what I can come up with off the top of my head. I know there is more.


Katy July 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm




Jennifer July 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm

We definitely take advantage of local freebies. Dh took the 4 kids to Starbucks on Friday for the free drinks. The kids liked them, he hated them. We also recently went swimming in Lake Erie for free – only 10 minutes farther of a drive than the lake we used to go to that cost $5 per person to get in.


Linda in Indiana July 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

We live in a very rural area….so finding freebies and driving to them can be challenging. We have a free coupon for a pizza to use from a drawing we won at our local paper. We are trading veggies now. In our local area it is accepted protocol to share your extras and when others have extras, you are blessed with theirs. We have shared sweet corn, blackberries, rhubarb and been given melon, tomatoes and squash. That way we all have a bountiful table and less is wasted. I was just sitting on the patio at our round metal table that has four chairs. This was from someone who wanted to get rid of it. I have painted it and it is like new to us. We do lots of bartering and are the random acts of kindness of others when they have extras or castoffs and we try to do the same for them. Free to us and free to them. Not like city freebies but about as close as we can come as rural as we are.
Pretty good way to live. But I must admit, your style in the city has me quite envious:)! You are quite the Freebie Queen!!! Sure admire you.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land July 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm

My freebie theory is that there are freebies that are really free, and those that are not free.

A true freebie is fruit in a public park. Or something you needed found in a trash pile. A true freebie doesn’t cost anyone anything.

Something that’s not a true freebie costs someone else something (be it the business giving it away, or the cost to the environment for waste created), causes the recipient to incur other costs (such as fuel, or tips, or add-ons that go with the freebie), costs the recipient time that’s not proportional to the benefit, or creates dependence.

When a freebie is not free for all involved, opting to go without is often a very valid choice that should be celebrated, too. While I don’t pretend that no one should take some of the offers that are available, often there is a knee-jerk reaction from those of us who like to save money that if something is free, we OUGHT to take it, when we can be just as happy without.

One example that comes quickly to mind is free stuff given out at trade shows or expos–you get it home and the very thing it seemed so clever to take becomes another piece of useless clutter. Or the free Krispy Kreme donut that’s gone in a minute, and you’ve gained little for your efforts. (I will fully admit, though, a chocolate croissant is a LOT gained for the effort.)


Katy July 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I’m totally fine paying for tips. Yes, it’s money I wouldn’t have spent if I weren’t scoring that “free” deal, but we’re not living so close to the bone that it makes a difference. I’ve been that person working retail where tips make a difference in the past, and it feels good to get to be a decent tipper.

I totally agree about turning down free branded swag. I do *not* need your pens, notepads, magnets and other useless crap. House is cluttered enough, thank you very much!



Angela July 16, 2012 at 8:42 am

We took advantage of the free Krispy Kreme donut day – our family of 7 each got a free (and very delicious!) donut! I love donuts, they are one of life’s small blessings – when eaten occasionally, of course. Just this past Friday Chick Fil A had Cow Appreciation Day when they offer a free meal to anyone dressed like a cow. We didn’t do it, but friends of ours did. We love Chick Fil A!!! 😉


Bauunny July 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I work hard in my birthday month to use up all my “free” and discount coupons that are sent to me. I also am a faithful user of loyalty cards and the freebies I earn with them. And of course I pick up pennies and change that people inexplicably leave on the ground. I LOVE free stuff – but since I live in the country there are few if any curbside freebies which os good because I seriously don’t NEED anything and am trying to shed all but the things I love and use these days.


AnnW July 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm

My birthday is in December. My only birthday gift from a company was from Talbots’ where I have a charge card. They never mailed the coupon out on time and I never needed anything the week before Christmas. So I changed my birthday for their purposes to May. Now I get a day of 10% off shopping when I really need it. I’ve gotten a few others along the way, so I spread them out. There is a really old steak and buffalo restaurant in Denver that gives you a discount on your birthday equal to your age. Nice. That Starbucks Refresher – I looked at the package next to the cash register that they were selling. The first ingredient was cane sugar. As my father used to say “Belly Wash!” The canned refreshers are really good, no discernible sugar and only 60 calories.


Paula in the UP July 15, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Great finds! I recently was given a nice head of brocolli and cauliflower from our daughters BF ‘s parents garden!! Two items we do not grow as the hubs doesn’t like. We were camping with a big group of friend over the weekend and was given a bunch of leftover pkgs of buns my friend didn’t want, heck they can go in my freezer no problem! Our daily local paper has a coupon in it from different businesses for often free items , things like a small coffee or small French fry, etc. I have never paid much attention to it, I guess I should start, haha!! A borrowed book…… free read, although most of my books come from the library but this is from my daughter! Hmmmm al I can think of I’ll have to start paying better attention.


emmer July 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

freebies are good, but the fuel and time to go get them are not. what i have done is develop an informal bartering network. i am self-employed as a seamstress and often trade alterations for housecleaning or sewing lessons for garden weeding. recently i accepted a beautiful large ball of imperial stock ranch wool yarn for a repair.
many people start craft or sewing projects and then don’t finish them. i have become a clearing house for all things fiber. i keep what i can use and find homes for the rest. most of the yarn i acquire this way is made into warm hats, scarves and sweaters, which then go on the mitten tree at my church every dec. rather than a xmas tree, we have a tree full of brightly colored warm things for children. after the holidays, these go to a local title I school.


Katy July 16, 2012 at 8:55 am

I wouldn’t have driven across town for any of these freebies, but they were all super close to my house. And the Redbox is a few minute’s walk from home.



Angela July 16, 2012 at 8:34 am

I don’t find too many bargains like that, but Wendy’s here in MS have been offering free specialty coffees every day in June and July. They are called Redhead Roasters and you can choose from vanilla iced coffee, original redhead and a mocha roaster. They are good sized! I don’t drink coffee of any kind because I hate the taste, but my husband and a few of my children have gotten some nearly every day since the promotion started. Do you have a special website that you go to to find all of these freebies? FYI: We don’t have facebook accounts or twitter, so anything offered on those won’t work for us.


Lili@creativesavv July 16, 2012 at 8:39 am

I had snack duty at our church’s VBS last week and brought home a ton of leftovers, including 3 dozen hot dogs in the buns (took them out of the buns, froze buns and dogs separately, plus they came wrapped in aluminum foil, which I washed for reuse), a pound of grapes, 1/2 pound of cheddar cheese, half boxes of Teddy Grahams, Goldfish crackers, and graham crackers, about 10 quarts of brewed coffee (and all the grounds that went with it. froze all the coffee, sprinkled grounds on garden), a pint of strawberries, 5 slices of cake, 5 dishes of blue jello, a handful of hard candies, a big bag of popped popcorn, a half jar of marshmallow cream. Numerous plastic containers and their lids for freezing produce this summer.4 cans of soda. 1/2 gallon of apple juice.

They were going to throw all this away. Just about all the other ladies turned up their noses at taking this stuff home. All the more for me, I say! Plus my daughters and I had coffee, juice and snacks every morning and a hot dog lunch on one of the days, at the church.

While I loved getting all these freebies, what made working VBS worth it for me was knowing what I was doing was important, and the big hugs I got all week long from the kids. The hugs were the most valuable freebie I got all week!


kim July 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

return before 6pm?? is the redbox time different here??


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: