Saturday, April 9, 2011

FREE STUFF: Here's Where To Find It!

If you're always looking to save a dime or a dollar like me, there is an endless bounty of free samples & discounted deals inundating the webbie. All you need to do is know where to look, and in a week or two, your mailbox will start filling with free shampoo & deodorant, toothpaste & dog food!

A word to the wise: It's savvy to create a "junk" email address to sign up for samples, since you're likely to get a modicum of junk mail from some vendors. In addition, an email addy is always required.

Also, I never share my cell number. If a freebie requires a mobile text, forget it. And increasingly, freebies ask you to "Like" a page on your Facebook account. For a free squeeze of Fructis shampoo, not gonna happen.

It also helps to have your computer set to auto-fill so as you type in your address/info countless times, all you gotta do is type the first letter and the rest fills typically itself in. You can even do this for states and birth years, by opening the scroll-down and typing in the info; so instead of scrolling down to "New York," I click the bar and type in "New Y..." then hit return. Done.

Let the games begin... Sweet Free Stuff and its accompanying daily email, Your Daily Free Stuff, is the site I rely on each day for freebies of hair care products, restaurant coupons, pet products, cheap (or free) mag subscriptions and store-centered giveaways, like free crap at Walgreens when you print a coupon, or alerts for free ice cream at Ben & Jerry's, etc. The site also shares upcoming sales at national drugstore and grocery chains, and links those in-store deals with coupons in Sunday papers. Every deal has been screened, so you know none are scams.

The Freebie Blogger and Totally Free Crap and Bargain Diner and Eric's Free Site and I Crave Freebies and Start Sampling are similar, scouring the web for free food, kiddie portraits, cookbooks, make-up, detergent, magazines, even software.

Speaking of free software, the best place to download all sorts of helpful goodies for your computer is CNET.com. You can choose Mac or PC, free, shareware or paid, without fear of a virus. There are also user reviews and you can choose by application, popularity and the latest/greatest.

Walmart offers a fairly frequent posse of free samples, like shampoo and dog food. Free shipping for all!

Groupon, founded in 2008, has of course, become the big daddy of social networking deals on the webbie, offering daily bargains in major metros. The caveat: time limits & a limited number of offers for each. I've used Groupon to pay $15 for a $30 credit at Red Envelope, $30 worth of food at a Brooklyn nabe restaurant for $15, and two hours of handyman services for $50 (a $130 value). Watch for blackout and expiration dates. Also of note: If you refer a friend, you get $10 in Groupon bucks when they buy their first deal.

A number of sites offer similar services, including Scoop Street and Buy With Me and DealSurf and DealOn and Lifebooker and Zozi and Living Social. The latter's cool gimmick is that if you convince three of your pals to buy the same deal, you get it free.

Dealzon shares deep discounts on electronics, including computers, home theater, storage, gaming, cameras and office supplies. It also offers a column on the bottom right of the home page with free stuff. As with most, you can sign up for a daily email highlighting the best bargains. Within the past week, I've opted in for free Lacoste cologne, a Kit-Kat bar, dog food sample, Aveeno shampoo & conditioner and Nescafe flavored coffee samples.

Working Advantage is an employee-based discounter focused on shopping, entertainment (movie tickets!), travel, events and gifts. I apparently signed up for this years ago when I worked for Nielsen and continue to get their weekly emails. Not sure if you have to prove employment to sign up, but it's worth a try.

TravelZoo has evolved from a national webbie with air fare, hotel and other travel alerts to offering local deals in more than two dozen markets for dining, shopping, spas & salons and events. There's also the occasional skydiving, yoga class, speed reading or hot air balloons.

And finally, order one of those free coffeemakers with a couple boxes of java from Gevalia, and you become of member of Gevalia Perks, which offers some of the best daily deals we've seen, including its Overwhelming Offers, like $100 off a $200 purchase at West Elm or $25 for a $50 Home Depot gift card. Deals are "unlocked" at specific times, with a maximum number offered (like Groupon), so act fast. Deals of apparel, travel, electronics and home furnishings, too. Boffo.

Happy shopping!