Save thousands a year in freebies

December 17, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Frugal mom Jennifer Jolly shows us how to save more than $21,000 a year in freebies!

Fabulous freebie ideas from View from the Bay contributor Jennifer Jolly:

1) FREE DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE
www.free411.com
Average yearly savings: $1,000

I was pretty mortified when I realized I was spending $30-$50 a month on 411 calls -- a service you can totally get for free!

By calling 1-800-FREE411, you get free directory assistance service for any business, residential, government or toll-free listing in the United States.

How it works: After navigating the voice prompts, you listen to a short advertisement (about 10 seconds long) and then you have the option to connect to the original business you requested, or to the sponsor.

A family of four can save up to $80-$100 a month, or about a $1,000 a year.

American's spend $6 to $7 billion on directory assistance in 2007, which is more than the U.S. government spent on cancer research the same year.

The catch: It's all automated (which is part of the reason they can give it to you for free).

2) FREE LEGAL ADVICE
www.avvo.com
Average yearly savings: $5,000

Consulting a real, live attorney usually costs about $400 an hour.

At avvo.com, you can ask any legal question -- even anonymously -- and get a personalized answer.

Instead of just picking an attorney out of the yellow pages, avvo.com helps you shop for the best lawyer by providing you with ratings for lawyers and sorting them by speciality -- kind of a YELP for lawyers. It's a a great place to find free legal advice by "test driving" lawyers without having to hire them first

This is so relevant right now. Most people have financial questions, maybe some tax or property related questions. You might find a Web site that speaks to the generalities of the issues, but this is a connection to a real and credible lawyer.

You do need to register and sign-in for the site, which takes about five seconds and you DO NOT have to put in any personal information or credit card numbers.

3) FREE ENTERTAINMENT THROUGHOUT THE BAY AREA
sanfrancisco.about.com
Average yearly savings: $2,400

The deYoung Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is free the first Tuesday of every month.

The Exploratorium and The Bay Area Discover Museum are free the first Wednesday of every month.

There are also museums that are free everyday and a lot of other activities like free guided walks throughout San Francisco and Golden Gate Park that you'll also find at that site... and guess what else is free?

Being the studio audience of right here at View From the Bay -- come meet Spencer and Janelle -- see how a live television show happens. Click here to request tickets.

A family of four easily spends $100 just going to the movies -- this can save you $2400 or more a year just on fun stuff to do together!

4) FREE BIRTHDAY TREATS
www.freebirthdaytreats.com
Average yearly savings: 2,000

I did a segment recently on how out of control children's birthday parties have become. We're spending anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 to throw our kids parties these days. It's our version of keeping up with the Joneses and equivalent to a small wedding.

But there's a Web site, freebirthdaytreats.com, that gives you a database full of freebies that companies offer on a birthday for both kids and adults.

This includes:

  • A free day of skiing at Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Free bowling
  • Free dinners
  • Free golf,
  • Free movies
  • My favorite: spa treatments!

You have to do your homework and live in an area to take advantage of these deals - but the average family can save a few thousand dollars a year just shopping this site before they break on bank on birthdays!

5) FREE KIDS MEALS
www.kidsmealdeals.com
Average yearly savings: $2,000

Sometimes it doesn't have to be your birthday to get a free meal. Kids can eat free at a lot of restaurants across the nation.

At www.kidsmealdeals.com you can find all kinds of places where kids eat FREE with a paying adult.

This includes Denny's and Lone Star Steakhouse -- kids eat free every Tuesday night (and some Saturdays).

IHOP, Golden Corral, Hooters, Red Robin and Roadhouse Grill restaurants offer kids-eat-free deals at select locations.

What you do here is sign up for their newsletter and all the deals are delivered right to you mailbox ever month.

Again, you need to live in an area that has a participating restaurant, so if you don't see something on their that's in your neighborhood, ask the restaurant to sign up!

6.) FREE MUSIC
www.imeem.com
Average yearly savings: $1,200

The average family spends about $100 a month on music downloads - or CD's. Guess what, music is another thing you can get totally free.

At www.imeem.com you get any song you want, any time, on demand. Think of a song. Play it. Share it. Post it on your blog or website or myspace page. Enjoy.

There are more than 6 million songs streaming for free on imeem and it's a social network so you can share photos and videos, as well as modern day versions of mixtapes.

My friend Tim listens to music all day at work - he told me he was spending a fortune on itunes - now, he has thousands more songs than he's ever had before - as well as thousands more dollars in his pocket. This site opens up a whole new world of music listening and sharing - it's pretty amazing.

It's super easy to use - even for non-techy types and we busy moms.

The catch? Again, you'll need to sign up, but no personal or confidential information needed. And I've never once been spammed by them.

7) FREE PC PROTECTION
www.housecall.trendmicro.com
Average yearly savings: $50-$7,000

We all know by now that our home computers and everything we keep on them -- for me that's my daughter's lifetime of pictures, my financial iformation, that great novel I'm going to finish someday -- is vulnerable. One virus, one bad bug,and it's all gone.

So, here's what you need to remember: www.housecall.trendmicro.com. They'll scan your computer for spyware, viruses and other nasty software for free.

Until now our only choice was to $50 -$250 for virus protection software that might or might not work, and when it doesn't, spend a small fortune to get a computer tech to come to your house or get a new computer altogether. Both of which I've had to do in the last year. I'm not sure what's worse, losing it all or realizing that I could have gotten all the protection I needed - FOR FREE!

If they do a scan and find that you already have a bug, HouseCall will fix the problem and help you make your computer safe, for free.

You don't need to install any software to use HouseCall.

Total Potential Savings: 20,600

Cautions/red flags to "Fabulous Freebies":

If you're looking for freebies on the Web and come across what seems like a great offer, here are some important points to consider:

Never, ever, ever give out a credit card number or bank account

Make sure the site has a way to contact a real person, such as a phone number where a real person answers. If the Web site looks cheap and unprofessional, it probably is.

Never download anything "to get your free offer." It could be a virus

Never submit personal information such as name, address, phone number and other things that you wouldn't want to get into the wrong hands.


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