I love getting things for free, and I'm always trying to root out more sources for freebies that work for my family.
In my sleuthing, I've discovered a few unexpected places to find great freebies besides the Web's many great freebie sites.
1) The doctor's office. Most physicians have pills and prescription samples to pass out to their patients, but those aren't the only freebies available from MDs. Consumer products companies often provide samples to pediatricians, obstetricians and other doctors as a way to promote their products.
I've scored laundry detergent, lotion, vitamins, tote bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, baby formula and super coupons at our doctors' offices. If you don't spot freebies in the waiting room or at the reception desk, ask your physician or another staff member if they have any samples to share.
2) Inside your cupboards. Check the labels of your favorite foods. Many companies reward frequent buyers with rewards codes or points that can be traded in for free products. For example, I collect Coke Rewards points from cases and bottle caps. I've earned free photo books, a free iPod speaker, free t-shirts and free magazine subscriptions, all for drinking Coke (Zero, in my case) -- something I would do anyway.
Here are a few similar programs:
Stouffer's Dinner Club is a similar program. Customers can enter codes from specially marked Stouffer's meals online and redeem them for rewards.
Huggies Enjoy the Ride: Parents earn points by entering codes from Huggies' ads and mailers and by participating in the Enjoy the Ride community. Then they can trade those points for sweepstakes entries and to enter instant win games. Heather at Freebies 4 Mom does a great job of explaining the program and posting codes as as they become available.
Pampers Gifts to Grow: This is very similar to the Huggies program. Redeem codes printed inside each package of Pampers for sweepstakes entries and baby- and kid-friendly prizes from the Pampers rewards catalog.
Donation drives are another way to score freebies in your cupboard. The N.C. State Fair offers free admission on one day to anyone who brings a can of food. You'll find similar deals at other state fairs and events around the nation, especially during the holidays. I once even read about a spa that was giving its customers discounts if they brought in Boxtops for Education to donate to a local school.
3) At work. I am not advocating that you steal pens and office supplies from your job. That's a quick ticket to the unemployment line. But many companies have freebies and perks that they pass out to employees. Check with your company's HR department to find out about any special discounts they have negotiated for employees. These could include discounted gym memberships, super saver movie tickets, amusement park passes and the like.
In addition, many companies buy season tickets to sporting events for client entertainment. But there are many times when those passes aren't used. Make friends with the folks in marketing and don't be shy about asking if they have any free tickets to share. My dad's company, for example, has season tickets to the Durham Bulls baseball games. If they're not being used for client entertainment, they're available for the asking. We've scored these tickets many times, and they are sweet seats, right behind the home bench. It's where Annie from Bull Durham would have been sitting.
In terms of at work freebies, don't limit yourself to your workplace. Find out if friends' employers offer similar freebies, and you may be able to work out a swap.
If you're a client of a business, don't be afraid to ask for a freebie. I have several friends who are media buyers, which means they place advertising for clients. Newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations are constantly offering them freebies because they want to keep her business. Our friends generously share their swag with their friends, and we do the same.
In our little group of friends, we've gotten some really great freebies: a free GPS system, crystal champagne flutes, a free set of luggage, two trips to Las Vegas, a cruise, a trip to the BET Awards, a meet-and-greet with author Nora Roberts, NBA tickets, circus tickets, NASCAR tickets, minor-league baseball tickets, Springsteen concert tickets (twice!) and a host of other great gifts.
If you have friends like mine who have access to incredible, high-end freebies, count yourself lucky. And please remember to reciprocate. When I get a great freebie, I try to share the wealth among all my friends.
4) Facebook and Twitter. Become a fan of your favorite companies on Facebook and start following them on Twitter to get insider-only perks. I've gotten freebies from Philosophy, Clinique and others by being a Facebook fan. Through Sunday, Starbucks is rewarding its Facebook fans (and their friends) every hour with free ice cream. Companies also are hosting giveaways and rewarding their loyal customers with samples and coupons promoted only on Twitter and other social networking sites.
While you're there, be sure to follow Goo Goo Buy Buy on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. I often share deals there that don't go on my blog.
5) Searching the Web. If you love free stuff, you should be searching the Web with Swagbucks. Swagbucks has supplanted Google as my search engine of choice.
The beauty of Swagbucks is that every time you search, you have the chance of winning Swagbucks -- or points -- that you can trade it for gift cards and other prizes. So, it's really the best of all worlds. I win "currency" for doing something that I do every day -- searching the Web -- and I get the best results on the Internet -- Google's and Ask's.
Swagbucks rack up really fast. In the past three days, I've won 15 Swagbucks just for using the search engine. At 45, I can trade in for a $5 gift certificate to Amazon.com or I can save them and earn gift cards for Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, iTunes or Target; cash on PayPal; or other swag like books, collectibles, music, video games, DVDs, and band merchandise.
I urge you to give Swagbucks a try if you're a frequent Web searcher like I am. Those points can really add up quickly, and when you're ready, you can convert them into freebies. I've earned several Amazon.com gift cards in the short time I've been a Swagbucks user.
To get into the habit of using Swagbucks instead of your other search engine, I recommend installing the Swagbucks toolbar right in your browser. You can also search Swagbucks from the nifty Widget in the sidebar of my blog.
Photos by carolyn.will (pantry), striatic (doctor's office), TooFarNorth (paper clips), dan taylor (Facebook) and frerieke (Web searching)