It's been said that the best things in life are free -- and we couldn't agree more. So we've beefed up our annual list of our favorite freebies to bring you even more this year.
We looked for primo goods and services, no useless junk allowed. And boy, did we find 'em, from financial management and planning helps to entertainment and vacation freebies.
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Go ahead. Embrace your inner tightwad:
Our favorite freebies
Free TV & Movies
At Hulu.com, you can watch full episodes of more than 300 shows from NBC Universal and Fox stations, including The Simpsons, The Office, 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, Psych and House. You can even catch classics such as The A-Team, Bewitched, Dragnet and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hulu also offers more than 165 free full-length movies. There's something for everyone, and it's 100% legal.
If your favorite show isn't on Hulu, you can go to individual network Web sites, such as ABC.com and CBS.com, which are increasingly posting full episodes online.
Free Directory Assistance
Save a buck or two and dial 1-800-FREE-411 next time you need directory assistance. It offers free guidance for residential and business listings.
After navigating the voice prompts, you may have to listen to a short advertisement (about 12 seconds long) and then you have the option to connect to the original business you requested, or to the sponsor.
Free College Savings
Turn your everyday spending into money for Junior's college education through Upromise.com. Sign up online, and start earning cash rewards for eligible purchases including groceries, gas, dining out, travel and online shopping. The money is automatically transferred to your child's 529 account.
A few cents here and a couple dollars there can add up to a nice bonus to your college savings. Plus, family and friends can help too by linking their rewards to your Upromise account.
Here's one that'll make you smile. Many merchants offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount. A couple of our favorites include Amazon.com for orders over $25 and Sephora.com on orders over $50.
And a few sites offer this freebie no matter how much you spend, including Alyssagiftbaskets.com (special-occasion gifts), Bellacor.com (lighting and home furnishings), Bluenile.com (jewelry), Shopbop.com (clothes) and Zappos.com (shoes).
Free Junk Mail Control
Put an end to those pre-approved offers from credit-card companies through the free service at optoutprescreen.com or by calling 888-567-8688. Then, sign up free at catalogchoice.org, and the site will do the grunt work to get you off mailing lists for catalogs you don't want.
Free Investment Tracking
Among your 401(k)s, IRAs and other investment accounts, it can be difficult to see the big picture. Stay atop of your investment performance with Kiplinger's Portfolio Tracker. It'll follow all your stocks and mutual funds, as well as help you manage your cost basis for tax purposes.
Free Books, Music, & Movies
The public library is still one of our all-time favorite places for a free diversion. If you haven't been lately, dust off your card. It's your ticket to mounds of free books, magazines, CDs and movies.
Many libraries also offer free lectures, book readings, children story hours and community clubs to residents.
Free Sporting Events
You needn't pay a small fortune to see world-class athletes in action. For example, some professional baseball and football teams allow the public to watch them train pre-season for free, including the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Diamondbacks.
You can also watch Olympic athletes train for free in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Park City, Utah.
Free Credit Report
You're entitled to one by law once a year from each of the three main credit bureaus. Go to annualcreditreport.com to see what lenders can see about your credit history.
A buck or two here and there may not seem like a big deal, but if you're frequenting ATMs outside your bank's network, the surcharges can add up quickly. Get money from an ATM that belongs to a surcharge-free network.
Allpoint has about 200 participating institutions and 32,000 ATMs. Money Pass has 600 members and 8,000 ATMs.
Free Language Lessons
Broaden your horizons and take the BBC's free online language courses at www.bbc.co.uk/languages. Choose from among complete beginner courses in French, German, Italian and Spanish. You can also dabble in Chinese, Japanese, Greek and others.
You'll find all sorts of stuff for free on your local Craigslist and Freecycle sites, including couches, chairs, entertainment centers and tables. Many are in heavily used condition and will work fine to furnish a dorm or first apartment. (One caveat: While free or cheap mattresses abound in classified listings, you should probably steer clear for sanitary reasons.)
Keep your eyes peeled for diamonds in the rough. We recently spied a free upright piano in good condition in Baltimore, and a free foosball table in San Diego.
Free Wireless Internet
Surf for free when you're away from home at so-called free wireless hot spots. Search for restaurants, parks, hotels or other hangouts in your neighborhood at WiFiFreeSpot.com.
Free Online Bill Paying
Stop paying your bills –- by check, that is. Consolidate and pay all your recurring bills through your bank, and you won't have to mess with deposit slips, stamps and envelopes any more. Plus, you'll never miss a payment.
At some banks, including Bank of America, BB&T, SunTrust and Wachovia, bill paying comes free with every online checking account. At other banks, such as Wells Fargo, you have to maintain a certain balance in your checking account to get the freebie, so make sure you read the fine print.
Free Place to Stay
Traveling? Consider trading spaces. Hospitality exchange Web sites are growing in popularity. You can network to trade homes with someone who wants to visit your town, or even take turns hosting each other.
Some popular sites that specialize in connecting members with free places to stay include CouchSurfing.com, HomeExchange.com, IntervacUS.com and HospitalityClub.com.
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