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50 great things you can get free - or not!

totalgenius

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The best things in life are free", sang the Beatles.

Bitter experience tells us that is rarely the case. The Fab Four admitted as much when they revealed that money was what they really wanted.

But there's no need to be too cynical. There are a surprising range of free things out there, if you know where to look.

Here are 50 fab freebies which were available at the time of writing - enough to make John, Paul, George and Ringo change their tune.

Art & Entertainment

1. Cinema Paradiso

Get to see the latest must-see movie first and without paying a penny. See Film First, Freecinematickets and Momentum Pictures offer regular preview cinema screenings nationwide. Or check out one of the free films being shown this summer in the Scoop, an open-air amphitheatre outside of London’s City Hall.

2. Televisual Treat

Many top TV and radio shows offer free tickets to people who want to be part of their studio audience. It’s a fun and free way to fill an afternoon or evening and there’s something for everyone’s taste: from Mastermind on the BBC to ITV’s The X Factor

3. Bag a Banksy

The art gliterrati snapped up works by grafitti artist Banksy for £3.5m at auctions in London and New York earlier this year. Fools. Didn't they realise they could have downloaded the artwork of the reclusive painter by heading for the shop on the official Banksy website.

4. West End Pizzazz

Once a year cast members from some of the top West End shows perform free in London’s Leicester Square. You’ve missed this year’s event, which featured stars from shows such as Mamma Mia, The Sound of Music and Jersey Boys but keep an eye out for next year’s extravaganza.

5. Olympic Glory

As a nation we may not be brilliant at sport but one thing we do know how to do is throw a party. A huge one is being planned for the handover of the Olympic Games from Beijing to London, including a free concert in the capital for 40,000 people on August 24.

6. Movie Collection

Free DVDs are often used as an incentive by market research firms to encourage consumers to fill in questionnaires. At the Free DVD Club you can choose from over 50 titles.

Health & Beauty

7. Sparkling

The Silver Jewelry Club offers silver rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets free and ships to the UK. All you pay is a shipping charge of $8.99 (about £4.50). It seems to think it’s a good marketing technique. Other businesses take note.

8. Made Up

If you want to freshen up your look go to one of your local department stores where many of the beauty counters provide free makeovers. Don’t be presssured into buying products, but be polite or you could end up looking more like Coco the Clown than Coco Chanel.

9. Beauty Tips

Ayton Online Research recruits volunteers to trial new ranges before they hit the shops. The products have already been declared safe, so you won’t end up with third degree burns, and are not tested on animals; the companies just want consumer feedback before launch. A host of other websites offer free samples. Check out the links on Mysavings and Smartfreestuff or Free Samples.

10. Dental Work

There are opportunities for free treatment by dental students at all UK dental schools. The British Dental Health Foundation has contact details.

11. Cut and Blow Dry

Salons and colleges up and down the country need models for hairdressing students to practise on. If you’re prepared to put your hair on the line it’s a great way to save money. Just make sure you have a paper bag handy in case they are overzealous with the clippers or hair dye.

Sport & Leisure

12. It is Cricket

LV, the friendly society formerly known as Liverpool Victoria, has been handing out tickets for County Championship matches. At the time of writing it had run out but the website promises that it is working on getting some more. If you’re a cricket fan check the site daily as new tickets are likely to disappear fast.

13. Chuck the Gym Subscription

Get fit jogging or walking and enjoy the great outdoors: it’s that simple.

14. Fitness Freak

If you’re a gym junky at least take advantage of a free trial at your local gym. Fitness First offers a free day and LA Fitness three days at selected gyms.

15. Play the Game

"Don't work play games". This noble sentiment is the motto of Freeloader where you can download hundreds of online games. Hours of fun, just don’t tell the boss.

16. Motor Show

This year’s British International Motor Show promises the first sight in Britain of the hotly awaited Vauxhall Insignia, the follow up to the Vectra, and the Ford Focus RS. Excited? I am. Tickets normally cost £25, but here you can get them for nothing.

17. Football Crazy

If the reams of newspaper pages and hours of TV dedicated to the beautiful game are not enough for you don’t despair. There are several free online football mags to feed your longing. Away Win is published monthly, Catflap once a week.

18. Picture this

Asda is offering 30 free photo prints when you register with its site. At Photo Box you get 40.

19. On the horses

Bookie William Hill is giving new customers a free bet of £10 or £25.

Music

20. Downloading

Online music downloads have become hugely popular, thanks to the surge in use of MP3 players such as iPods. You have to be careful about using sites which offer very cheap or free downloads as many are illegal. However, Last FM has the seal of approval. It offers 200 free downloads every week.

21. Band Aid

Freeloaders will do all sorts of unspeakable things to get into gigs and concerts. But you don't need to degrade yourself to get to see great bands, as those aiming for the big time often play in front of non-paying audiences. More mainstream artists appear regularly in HMV stores. Or check out what Puregroove and Rough Trade have planned in trendy Shoreditch. Here are details of what else is going on in London.

22. Liszt for Lunch

Concert halls and churches up and down the country hold free recitals, usually during week day lunchtimes. The Royal Albert Hall, for example, has a programme called Ignite every Friday lunchtime where you can hear “talented young ensembles in performances from gypsy jazz to Parisian folk”. Whatever floats your boat.

23. Sheet Music

Musical scores, from ABBA to Wagner, can be downloaded from a host of sites including Free Sheet Music and Free Scores. The Free Sheet Music Guide is a good place to start.

Children & Animals

24. Give your Dog … a Health Check

Tired of expensive vet's bills? Keep your dog in tip top condition by attending a free health check organised by PDSA, an animal charity. Their trained veterinary nurses even provide slimming tips if your dog is a little on the porky side. Unfortunately for cat or guinea pig lovers only dogs qualify. For safety reasons apparently - when a guinea pig is in a mood they can be a real threat to life, didn't you know?

25. Animal Magic

There’s masses of free stuff out there for your furry friends from collars and leads to vitamin supplements. Try Free Pet Stuff.

26. Baby Talk

Register with Pampers and get £4 worth of vouchers to spend on Pampers' products like nappies and wipes. Huggies has a similar offer. There are loads of other freebies for parents, from baby food to nappy rash cream.

Holidays & Travel

27. Drive Time

Sick of sky-high rail fares? Try Liftshare, a nationwide database of more than 200,000 members. Just register your journey and the website will hook you up with drivers who are taking the same route and will allow you to jump on board.

28. Couch Surf

The cost of hotel rooms can be extortionate. A cheaper way to travel is to join an international hospitality exchange website such as Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club. These enable members to offer a few nights accomodation on a spare bed or sofa. The sites are free and members are not allowed to charge.

29. Swap your Home

If staying with a stranger does not appeal and you are a homeowner, a home swap is an alternative. Members pay about £30 to £120 a year to list their property at websites such as Homebase-Hols and HomeLink (so I guess its not completely free but bear with me). Listings give a description and photographs of each home, plus the owner's availability for travel and preferred destinations. Then you make a rent-free exchange (the free bit) with members whose requirements mirror your own.

30. Oyster Top-up

The Rewards Centre promotes everything from mobile phone deals to book clubs. If you use its website to sign up for at least one of its advertised deals and can persuade a friend to do the same it will give you a £250 voucher to top up an Oyster card used on the London transport network. There are a lot of strings attached so read the terms and conditions carefully.

Money

31. Don't Fret over Debt

As the credit crunch has worsened companies have sprung up offering debt advice for a fee. But don't waste your hard-earned cash. National Debtline, Debt Free Direct and Citizens Advice will help you out without making a charge. You can check your credit report for free at Credit Expert.

32. Free Cash

When new customers sign up to First Direct’s 1st account they get a £100 bonus provided they start paying an income of at least £1,500 into the account within three months. There is another £100 on offer if you decide to switch away from First Direct within 12 months of opening the account. The downside: the account doesn’t pay any interest.

Alliance & Leicester’s Premier Direct account pays an impressive 8.5 per cent on balances of up to £2,500 for the first year and offers a bonus of £25 if you persuade a friend to sign up – the friend gets £25 too.

33. Borrowing

By switching to a 0 per cent credit card you can save yourself interest and effectively borrow for free. Times Online lists the latest offers.

Food & Drink

34. Forage in the Hedgerows

There’s a whole countryside of free food out there. Some of it’s appetising – mushrooms (provided you don’t pick ones that are deadly poisonous) blackberries, wild garlic – others not so tasty- hawthorn shoots (believe me, they are not worth the effort). Here’s some ideas.

35. More Nourishment

There are loads of free and discounted food offers on Food Freebies.

36. Cook’s Delight

Don’t bother with expensive cookbooks. Tens of thousands of recipes are available online at sites like this. More than enough for a lifetime of meals.

37. In the Drink

Retail Eyes sends tens of thousands of members on up to 16,000 “mystery shopper” assignments a month - all expenses paid. You could be asked to go to the pub or stay a night in a hotel. Hard life.

Good for the mind

38. French Lesson

The BBC offers excellent courses online in languages including French, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Polish and Urdu.

39. Local Library

Borrow books for free, saving yourself money and shelf space.

40. Culture Vulture

Bored? Why not take a trip to your local museum or art gallery – most permanent exhibitions, including the great ones at the British Museum and the National Gallery, are free.

41. Educate Yourself

Some universities offer study materials, incluiding video lectures, notes and exams, on the internet. You won’t earn a degree but it’s a good way to improve your learning. In the UK material is available from the Open University while in the US the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology is equally generous.

Technology

42. Internet Access

Browse the world wide web free of charge by logging in at one of the plethora of wi-fi hotspots. My Hotspots can help you find locations in your local area or take a look here for spots worldwide.

43. Debug your Computer

Protecting your home computer is vital, especially if you bank online. Virus protection from the likes of Norton, McAfee and Symantec typically costs about £40. But there are free alternatives. Microsoft offers Windows Vista users a free firewall, which should be adequate for most users. Free updates are available here. Another option is Grisoft's AVG.

44. Free Wii

Wii, the games consule that has taken the nation by storm, keeps selling out in the shops. However Dialaphone is offering a free Wii, Ipod Touch or laptop if you take out a mobile deal with it. Read the terms and conditions extremely carefully as there are strings attached.

Shopping

45. Retail Therapy

Even better than doing something you love for free is getting paid for it. Retail Eyes sends members to use a shop and report on the quality of service. Most earn £6 to £10 a task, plus expenses, and are reimbursed for, and can keep, any purchases. Easy money.

And the rest

46. Freecycle

Like eBay, without the money. Freecycle encourages members to give away unwanted junk instead of throwing it away. Just as importantly they can replace it with new stuff for free.

47. Dressing Up

What’s Mine is Yours and Big Wardrobe are similar to Freecycle but for users who want to swap dresses, shoes, bags or furniture.

48. The In-Crowd

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the former It-girl, has set up an online lifestyle mag that promises special offers and free gifts from some of the worlds leading brands

49. The Business

Create your own business cards at Templates 4 Cards

50. Romance isn't dead

A century after it published its first bodice rippers the magic of Mills & Boon's romance novel continues to woo women in their millions. If you've been seduced you can get two free books and a mystery gift. Swoontastic.





By David Budworth
http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2008/06/fifty-great-thi.html?cid=120635906