Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Favorite Free Stuff

Are you a little holiday overstretched this month? I'm okay right now, but on Wednesday I'm making the official "visitors coming to stay, big holiday meals to prepare" grocery trip, that's going to be rough on my bank account.

I'm also getting ready for my Dave Ramsey style year of the gazelle, which will mean trimming my budget down as much as possible so that I can pay off my second mortgage, save a real emergency fund, and pay cash for some much needed home improvements.

With that in mind, I give you a list of my favorite things that don't cost a dime.

The Public Library: I used to buy a lot of books. When I started decluttering the house, I found out that I bought a lot of books that I only read once. Sometimes I traded them back and forth with my parents, but for the most part I bought a book, read it over three or four days, set it on the shelf, and eventually got rid of it. And repeat. Now I get most of my books from the library. It saves me some cash and prevents some of the clutter. I occasionally purchase a book if I really want to read it and the library doesn't have it, but honestly there are enough titles there to keep me entertained for a lifetime or three.

Pandora: Beth gets the credit for introducing me to this service. You create a station based on an artist or genre that you like, and it tailors the music to your preferences. You get a certain number of hours of free music each month (I'm not sure what the number is but I have never exceeded it). What I love is that it helps me discover new artists and lets me explore music from folks I am already familiar with. You have to listen to a few commercials if you don't pay for a subscription, but they aren't excessive. And anyway, maybe the nice Pandora folks are trying to hint that I need some laser hair removal.

Hulu: I gave up my television this year, and is helping me keep up with The Office and Modern Family FOR FREE on my laptop. Like Pandora, you get some extra services if you subscribe, but if you are a big cheapskate like me the basic, free service is plenty.

Running: Okay, technically you have to buy some sneakers, but it's free after that. I told you a little bit about my foray into the world of running Penguin-style back in August. I have kept it up, running about 2-3 times a week since then (mostly). I ran my first 5K in October and my second a few weeks ago. What I love about running is that I don't have to have a membership, I don't have to drive anywhere, and I don't have to follow anyone else's schedule. I did pay something to run the 5Ks, but really you could just go run on your own and never pay a dime. If you need some help getting started, here's a free training plan for beginning runners. And if you need a little motivation, here is a blog post from a chick who just finished her first marathon, and also quit her job to travel around the world. I can't claim accomplishments of this magnitude, but my pants fit better.

Walking the dog: Also a technicality here-the dog itself isn't free.  But the walking of the dog is like free therapy and a free personal trainer all wrapped up in a furry little package. I have said it before, and I will say it again: taking a long walk can cure boredom, writer's block, unsolvable problems, and vitamin D deficiency. And a dog is unlike a treadmill, in that he is too wiggly to hang clothes on and has to be walked or he will poop on your floor. If that isn't motivation, I don't know what is.

Can you guys out there in the peanut gallery recommend any other free services that you love? Because, seriously, this gazelle thing is going to be tough.

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and try some free things now and then. Your overindulgent holiday wallet will thank you.


  1. The library will order most books you request - you complete a request form online and when it comes in you get notified to come and pick it up. I've done it three times and all three times they've ordered the books I wanted. Including Sweet Valley Confidential :)

    I've already given you all my free stuff tips - no new ones...yet...

  2. Movies at the Reitz Union Cinema. Sign up for their mailing list or bookmark their calendar. They play a different movie each week in the spring and fall, and most of them are just out of the theaters. It's not a state of the art theater by any means, but it's free! Bonus: you can bring your own food and drinks.

    Also, Friday nights at Bo Diddley Plaza. I don't usually attend these, but they have various musicians and vendors each Friday from (I think) Spring to Fall.


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