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Fabulous Freebies 2012

There’s only one thing better than getting a good price on something, and that’s getting it for free.


INVESTING FREEBIES

Free Investing Apps

Stay up-to-date on the financial markets with free apps on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android. Some of our favorites: Bloomberg for up-to-the-minute stock quotes and breaking news, Morningstar for mutual fund research at your fingertips, and Yahoo Finance for the latest financial headlines, stock news and videos.

Free ETF Trades
Here’s a great commission rate on exchange-traded funds: $0. Several big brokerages, including Charles Schwab, E*Trade, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Vanguard have free commissions on ETFs, meaning you don’t have to pay anything extra when you buy or sell. Learn more.

Free Savings Bonds
Before you make any purchase online, consider making BondRewards.com your starting line. You click on an affiliated e-tailer (there are hundreds) to do your shopping as usual, and a percentage of your purchase is given back to you in your BondRewards account. You then redeem your rewards for U.S. savings bonds or cash.

SHOPPING FREEBIES

Free Shipping

If you love to shop online but hate to pay for shipping, go to FreeShipping.org. The site can direct you to retailers who offer free shipping on every order, big or small. The site also gives you coupon codes to snag free shipping at other retailers.

Many retailers’ sites offer free shipping if you’ll pick up the order at a local store, including AceHardware.com, BestBuy.com, Payless.com, REI.com and Walmart.com.

Free Kids Meals
Don’t you hate buying a $12 entrée for a picky 6-year-old? Visit KidsMealDeals.com to find restaurants where kids eat free. Better yet, call your local eateries or connect with them on Facebook to find out if they offer kids’ deals. Some do but don’t advertise them, so it’s worth asking.

Free Sales Tax

Back to school season brings tax-free shopping days in several states. That means residents may be able to avoid paying sales tax on clothing, shoes and other school and office supplies.

Some states have tax-free shopping days at other times of the year. For example, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have sales tax holidays for energy-efficient appliances. Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia have tax-free days set aside for buying generators and other storm-preparedness supplies. And on the first weekend of September, Louisiana residents won’t pay sales tax on firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies. Get more information.

FINANCIAL FREEBIES

Free Credit Report

Your credit report can impact your interest and insurance rates as well as your ability to land a job or apartment, so it pays to make sure it’s accurate. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, no strings attached.

There’s a slew of free apps for your mobile phone that can simplify your financial tasks. Among our favorites are apps from Mint.com to track your spending and investments, Allpoint and Moneypass to find surcharge-free ATMs nearby, Expensify to automatically compile receipts for your business expense report, and Venmo or Paypal to instantly pay your friend back for dinner before you even leave the table.

Most banks also have free mobile banking apps that allow you to check your balance, transfer funds and make deposits on the fly.

Free Legal Advice
Nolo.com has been Kiplinger's go-to source for legal information for a long time, and it's still the best. The Web site is packed with free advice on a wide range of legal issues, such as estate planning, buying or selling real estate, managing a business and more. Nolo is authoritative, yet clearly explains when your situation calls for hiring a lawyer.

Free Tax Software and Guidance
Preparing your income taxes doesn’t have to cost a lot. Check out the IRS’s Free File program. If your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less, you qualify for free tax-prep software and filing. If you make more money than that, you can still file for free, but you don’t get the free software.

Have a tax question? Call the free IRS help line at 800-829-1040. Many communities also offer free face-to-face help during tax-filing season, with volunteers at public libraries and community centers. See the IRS’s list of free tax return preparation resources for details.

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