I’ve always been frugal. Even as a child, I was careful to save up my money for the things I wanted most and hesitant to spend that money once I had earned it.
My spending habits didn’t loosen as I grew up; now, as a graduate student living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, finding ways to save money has become a sort-of hobby of mine.
One of my favorite ways to save money is finding ways to get things for free—especially when those things are indulgences that I couldn’t normally justify spending the extra money on.
Here are some of my favorite free treats, and how to get them:
- Free cupcakes. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a Georgetown Cupcake, follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Each morning they post a secret flavor, which is not on the menu for the day and is free when ordered by name at any of their locations. The catch: there are only 100 free cupcakes at each storefront, so if you get there too late in the day, you won’t get the freebie. However, at only $2.50 each, the delicious cupcakes are a pretty good deal even when you do have to spend a small amount of money.
- Free chocolate. Next time you’re at the mall, sign up for Godiva’s rewards program. It won’t cost you anything to sign up, and with their card, you can get one free chocolate a month. While this doesn’t seem like much, a yummy truffle or piece of almond bark can be just the perk you need on a long day out and about—especially when you don’t have to spend any money on it!
- Free coffee (or tea or pastries). If you’re a Starbucks addict like I am and you don’t have a My Starbucks Rewards card, you’re missing out. My Starbucks Rewards cardholders receive a star for each purchase made using their card; if you reach 30 stars in one year, you get a “gold” card. Once you have your gold card, you’re rewarded with a free drink or food item from Starbucks for every 12 stars you earn. While this is one of those cases where you have to buy something to get something, avid coffee or tea drinkers who frequent Starbucks regardless might as well get every thirteenth drink free.
- Free books. My favorite publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, has a promotion they call “Giveaway Mondays.” Each Monday on their blog, you can enter to win an advance copy of one of their forthcoming titles. They usually give away more than one copy, so the odds are relatively good. I’ve won two books through Algonquin’s giveaways, so it’s definitely worth entering! Other publishers also offer giveaways, either through their Twitter accounts or on Goodreads. And, while you may not win every time, the effort it takes to retweet a publisher’s tweet or click “enter giveaway” on Goodreads is worth it for a free book!
Many restaurants also offer birthday coupons for their email recipients, so ask around at your favorites. It can be a pain to receive a bunch of promotional email, though, so I have anything of this manner sent to an old email address. I still check that inbox regularly, but its emails are not sent to my phone. This way, I can keep the coupons, promotions, and shopping information separate from higher-priority items without missing out entirely.
What are your favorite ways to get things for free?