Live free or buy?
It was the Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark who gave us New Hampshire’s famous motto, “Live free or die.”
Although Stark most certainly wasn’t talking about getting freebies over the Internet, his words nonetheless describe the plethora of price-free goodies that in many cases are just a keyboard stroke away.
Whether it’s getting a diet analysis or gaining a free meal, learning French or downloading Voltaire, free and easy describes innumerable offerings available for the asking. Here is some priceless advice on how to find them.
Free for the asking
The clock is ticking, so get clicking to score your fair share of free stuff. A good start is Volition.com, one of the oldest websites showing where you can get free samples and other items. Offerings include Procter & Gamble Co. products, circus tickets, baby-care goods and even a free diet analysis.
The website also gives you a chance to be one of the first to see a movie — for free — by going to advance film screenings. If you want to do some comparison shopping, stop by TheFreeSite.com or FreeChannel.net.
Meanwhile, keep your driver’s license handy, because FrugalLiving.tv lists free things that restaurants will serve birthday boys and girls — of any age. If all this searching has your computer overloaded, go to OpenOffice.org for free open-source software.
Don’t have a globe-trotter’s budget? Expand your world anyway by picking up free language lessons. The language website of the British Broadcasting Corp., bbc.co.uk/languages/, has lessons in everything from Arabic to Urdu.
There are audio and video courses in French, German, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese. The ever-helpful BBC will supply you with weekly e-mailed language tips. You will even get a certificate upon completing the course.
Don’t have time? No problema. The website offers a “quick fix” of essential phrases in 36 languages, merci beaucoup.
Free and easy listening
Audio books are great. Getting them for free is even better. Let sonorous voices do your reading for you as you commute to work or pick up the kids. Download hundreds of great reads — er, listens — for free, courtesy of LibriVox.org, which, not surprising considering their prices, is a nonprofit organization.
Volunteers produce the audios from books in the public domain. You can go to the group’s website, or the books can easily be searched for — and accessed on — iTunes. Besides classic novels, such as Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which obviously is an earful, there are podcasts of things such as William James’ classic essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.”
You can give back by volunteering to read books for the free audios. The group will provide you with — you guessed it — free recording software.
Travel some free ways
Willie Nelson couldn’t wait to get on the road again. Then again, he gets paid to tour. Fortunately, you don’t have to let an empty bank account keep you from roaming.
The nonprofit Couchsurfing.org offers travelers a chance to stay at homes for free and make friends with the sponsoring families. Think of it as getting to know the locals while saving a dime. You can travel in the United States and other countries. Just realize you will probably end up sleeping in a kid’s room or on a couch.
Our home is our castle — but without the royal staff. No problem: Most houseware retailers, such as Williams-Sonoma, regularly hold free classes on cooking and kitchen gadgets for the domestically challenged. (Rachael Ray got her start teaching cooking classes at an Albany, N.Y., store.)
Other places will teach you how to primp your pad without paying a king’s ransom. Home Depot has the online Home Improver Club that, like other major chains, offers free classes and instruction on all kinds of home repairs and cosmetic improvements.
And don’t forget free advice from your local hardware store, says Jeff Yeager, author of “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches.” Their advice and tips could save you thousands on the repairs. Another free benefit: An hour of remodeling work burns an estimated 500 calories.
Waste-free living and giving
Don’t like garbage dumps? Who does? Join the 8 million people doing something about it. They belong to the nonprofit Freecycle Network, dedicated to saving the planet one landfill at a time.
The group set up Freecycle.org, where people who want stuff find those giving it away. As the website states: “It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.” The idea is becoming popular. So far, 4,918 groups, with more than 8 million members, have signed on.
A search function lets you find fellow freecyclers near you. You’ll get a stern warning at first: “Everything must be FREE, legal and appropriate for all ages. No selling, trading or borrowing.” Joining won’t cost you anything, but a Freecycle bumper sticker will set you back $2.50.