You'll spend more than $100 to get Microsoft's office suite of software for your home computer. But you can get the capability for word processing, making spreadsheets, creating presentations and more with a free software package at OpenOffice.org instead.
CNET awards it five out of five stars, and users testify it's almost as good as Microsoft's suite -- and you can't beat the price.
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Free Diet & Fitness Help
Keeping your diet or exercise regimen on track is easy -- and free -- online. For instance, at FatSecret.com, you can create a personalized program and share it with the online community for moral support and feedback. Plus, you can track your progress, keep a fitness journal and research different diets and fitness techniques.Free Checking With Interest
Many banks offer free checking accounts these days, but they work a lot like mattresses: You can stash your cash there, but it won't help your money grow. Enter ING Direct's Electric Orange checking account, where a penny saved is really a penny earned.
It pays you between 1.7% and 3.4% interest on your money (your rate depends on your account balance) and there's no minimum balance required. You get a debit card, and you can send electronic checks for free.
When copyrights expire on books and music, the masterpieces become "public domain." That means you can get your hands on classic texts and sheet music for free -- and it's completely legal.
For instance, at gutenberg, you can download more than 25,000 e-books, including works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and James Joyce. And at Mutopia.com, musicians can print sheet music by more than 250 composers, including Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Joplin.
Free Capital Gains
Who wouldn't love to let their investments grow absolutely, 100% tax-free? Take a pass on paying capital gains taxes by investing in a Roth IRA. Any money you put into your Roth grows tax-free, and you won’t owe Uncle Sam a dime when you cash out in retirement. It's all yours.
Free Kids Meals
Kids eat free at Denny's and Lone Star Steakhouse every Tuesday night (and some Saturdays) with a paying adult. IHOP, Golden Corral, Hooters, Red Robin and Roadhouse Grill restaurants offer kids-eat-free deals at select locations. You can search for eateries in your area at KidsMealDeals.com.Free Tour Guides
To get a real feel for a city when you're traveling, team up with a local. The Global Greeter Network organizes volunteers in several cities worldwide to show you around, give you the inside scoop and answer your questions. Tours can last a couple hours or longer, the service is free, and there's a strict no-tipping policy.
Cities include New York, Houston, Chicago, Paris, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Toronto and more.
You have to buy groceries and gas anyway, so why not use those purchases to get a little more green in your wallet? Sign up for a rewards credit card and get free money, gift certificates, airline miles or other perks. (Of course, it's only free if you pay the balance in full each month without incurring interest charges.)
Many retailers also have customer loyalty programs that can pay off, too. For instance, with Regal Cinema's Crown Club, you earn credits for each dollar spent on admission, to go toward free popcorn, drinks and movie tickets.
You can visit many museums, galleries and other attractions nationwide for free, on special discount days, or during certain hours. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, for example, offers free admission every Friday night from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. And you can visit the San Francisco zoo for free every first Wednesday of the month.
Some top-notch attractions are free every day of the year, such as Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. And many college campuses host free concerts and student art exhibits.
Free Public Transportation
With the price of gas sky high, it's refreshing to find some U.S. cities offering up free bus, train and ferry rides, including Island County, Wash., Cache Valley, Utah, Clemson, S.C., and Chapel Hill, N.C.
Some larger metro areas provide free rides around their downtown areas, such as Denver, Colo., Portland, Ore., Miami, Fla., Seattle, Wash., and Pittsburgh, Pa. And across the entire state of Illinois, card-carrying riders age 65 and older get a free lift on public transit.
Not sure what's for dinner? The Web is your oyster. Allrecipes.com and Epicurious.com are perennial cook favorites. Together, they boast more then 100,000 recipes.
You can search by ingredients, meal or occasion, read user reviews, watch cooking demonstration videos and even save your favorite meals in virtual recipe boxes. Who needs to spend money on cookbooks?
Free Internet & Email
Even after you've upgraded to broadband Internet, it's a good idea to have a back-up dial-up service on your computer for when the cable goes out or your DSL acts up. NetZero, for example, still offers a free version of its software -- ten free hours per month.
Plus, set up a free e-mail account with Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo. Sure, your Internet service provider will give you an address, but it’s nice to have the freedom to change ISPs without worrying about alerting all your contacts about an e-mail address change.
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Visit the Banking and Budgeting Center
A year of graduate school costs, on average, anywhere from $17,000 for a master's degree at a public university to more than $56,000 at a private dental school. But free money abounds, from grants and scholarships to assistantships and fellowships.
Free Phone Calls
Save on your long-distance bill and chat via computer with free software from Skype.com (no tin cans necessary). You won't pay a dime for any call to another Skype user. You can call non-users' landlines, too, for about $3 a month.
Free Financial Advice
Not to toot our own horn (okay, maybe just a little), but Kiplinger.com is a treasure trove of free financial advice. Our tools and calculators will help you get on the right financial track. Our expert columnists will answer your personal questions, including general financial answers from Kim Lankford, family and kid topics from Janet Bodnar and big-picture financial planning from our Portfolio Doctor, Jeff Kosnett.
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