The old adage is true: It pays to save. And as today's economy sputters, it's never been more important to cut costs everywhere. Beyond that, there are actually household necessities you can get without spending a dime – yes, free. If you pair these things with your overall coupon cutting and deal shopping, you'll go far toward maximizing your bottom line.
Here are some of the items you should never spend money on:
Anyone with kids will tell you how quickly electronics go through batteries – and how expensive they can be. But getting them gratis is surprisingly easy. About 3-4 times per year, national office supply retailers such as Staples and Office Depot offer both AA and AAA batteries for free after 100% cash back rewards.
Sign up for a rewards account (that's free, too) and purchase the batteries at full price. Then send in the form and await your rebate. Occasionally, the cash back is actually a certificate for the full purchase price, but since you know you'd be spending it anyway, it's just as good.
2. Miscellaneous Office Supplies
Kids blaze through various office supplies, so discounts on these items are always offered at back-to-school time, as well as regular intervals throughout the school year for pens, pencils, post-it notes, staples, scissors, and much more. The 100% rebate will become your best friend, and your children will thank you. Often, these deals are only on the retailer's store brand, but really, no one will know the difference.
3. Computer Virus Protection Software
There are plenty of antivirus products on the market today, some costing up to $100. But for most people, a free version gives you all the protection you need. Two good bets are AVG or Avast. One tip: Make sure you commit to the free version, not a free trial. One downside of free antivirus protection is the lack of customer support, but depending on your needs, it should still do the trick – and save you a bundle. With other software titles available for free upon a quick Internet search, you can clean your computer, prevent malware, convert videos, and much more.
[Note from Eric, I use Microsoft's free Microsoft Security Essentials, it is a 100% free anti-virus program for Windows.]
4. Tax Preparation Software
If your natural instinct is to always pay an expert to do your taxes, think again. So many products are on the market now that make it far easier and just as thorough as ever. There are also promotions by reputable tax preparers such as H&R Block, as well as the IRS' FreeFile option, depending on whether you meet the criteria. So, when tax time rolls around next year, keep your money in your pocket and file using free online tax preparation software. Uncle Sam shouldn't get any more of your money than he needs to.
5. Credit Report
Knowing your credit score is critical to being a well-informed consumer, but you don't need to pay for the right. Just go to the website AnnualCreditReport.com, and request a free annual credit report. Go through it line by line, and be sure to report any errors.
In short, free is good. Anytime you don't have to pay out of pocket, it's like money earned. So in addition to the above tips, before you pull out your wallet for anything ever again, check the website Freecycle.org, where people are simply giving away perfectly good things. And remember, every cent you save should be reinvested wisely.
What other items do you typically get for free?
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