I like to think of the internet as a gigantic paper map, on which you could find a variety of routes and locations. One can make a quick search for something they are looking for, and oftentimes are given direct access to a variety of websites hosting content which they will find helpful. On occasion, our searches will turn up results which leave more questions instead of answer. However, we will ignore those occasional searches and focus on the good aspects of the internet. It is really a handy tool which can be used by anyone, and is capable of churning out information which can be used in all sort of scenarios. We can find things which make us laugh, things which enlighten us philosophically. We can read about scientific research we may not have otherwise been able to. The list is virtually endless.
So, with this out of the way, how can we manipulate and use the internet to gain access to free things? Like many people, I undoubtedly find free things to be some of the best things in the world; if only because I do not have to pay to use them.
1). Online Contests
I always questioned the validity of online contests, until I managed to win 2 of them in my lifetime. Many companies will offer a contest to win something for signing up on their mailing list, for example. This is how I managed to win a pair of shoes, 2 shirts, skateboard magazines, skateboard trucks, and so on. Some advice I would offer would be to try and find relatively small websites which are offering things for free by signing up for a mailing list. This diminished competition. In larger scale websites, it is still worth signing up (as it takes about 1 minute of your time); however the probability of winning is very low. I have won things from three websites, all of which were relatively small and in need of viewership.
There also exist other types of online contexts. Some may require you to answer trivia questions or similar. The same rules should apply across the board. Your goal should be to find places where your probability of winning is higher.
2). Craiglist.org Free Listings
Craigslist has been a strange phenomena since I started browsing its pages. Sometimes I do this for fun and because I like to snoop (haha), and other times I have a very specific need which I may be able to have filled for a low price or even free. It amazes me to this day what types of things people are willing to give away for free. For example, as a musician, I have been amazed when I've seen many individuals giving away for free Hammond organs; which can actually be sold for hundreds of dollars. I have never picked one up, but eventually I intend to actually pursue them. One could honestly make a small business exclusively on free products you can pick up from people around your local area.
Other free things I have seen include video games, vinyl records, clothing, baby accessories, computer parts, and so on. While, of course, not everything is worth going out and picking up; some things can really help take a financial burden off of a person. Interestingly enough, many people are not even aware of the free section of Craigslist!
3). Free Classes
It is amazing what sorts of things are available for people willing to go out and look. I have read quite a lot about free classes, in virtually any subject or area of study. There are the expected free exercise classes in many cities, which perhaps stem from the new health initiatives the government seems to be endorsing. Beyond this, many may not be aware that they can audit virtually any college course they would be interested in. This is particularly great for older individuals amongst us who do not need a college degree, or cannot afford the price of college. I took a philosophy course once which was audited by an older gentleman. He was able to sit in the class and even participate at no cost to him. It is a great opportunity for individuals to learn and thoroughly enjoy the classroom atmosphere without having to sacrifice money, or even have to do the course work.
4). Free Music
There are very few art forms that people of all creeds and cultures flock too like music. In this day and age, an album at a record store can cost on average between $15 and $20 dollars. As a musician myself, I even find that price range to be relatively atrocius and detrimental to the human desire to hear new music.
Now, when I refer to free music; I am in no way supporting piracy of music. I am a musician myself, and you cannot imagine the laboring hours spent just on a small handful of songs. Everything from composition, to tedious recording, to even more laborous mixing and mastering is an art in and of itself. Do not disrespect artists by illegally downloading their music. There are so many outlets for attaining music at very fair prices, and even for free; that is should be unnecessary to even download music illegally.
For example, websites like Pandora.com provide free streaming music via their internet radio. This is not just a deposit of underground musicians either, as you can find many big names. Additionally, the way their system works allows for you to find musicians similar to the initial musician you search for. This will help you to grow your musical interests substantially! There are also many other websites where you can find music for free as well, such as Bandcamp.com (many musicians give out free song and album downloads, including myself) and Last.fm.
It may take some searching, but free music is readily available all over the internet.
As an additional word of advice, you may also be able to attain albums legally which you would generally pay hefty prices for via websites like Amazon.com and Ebay at used prices which can be around $2 or $3 dollars.
5). Free Movies and Television
Since the dawn of the technological age, people have consistently been searching for ways to minimize their payments on entertainment, amongst other things. Undoubtedly, there have been many companies in the recent past who have started up business models which provide services at a virtually free cost. Website's like Hulu are taking the world by storm, and essentially side-swiping the television industry. Additionally, movie theaters have seen a decline in sales because we are now able to catch up on old movies which we have been meaning to see from the comfort of our home. To my surprise, even Youtube has begun offering free movie's; and currently features relatively new ones like Pinapple Express.
In addition to free movies and television, you can also minimize your monthly entertainment bills by dropping your cable and picking up a service like Netflix. It is extremely worthwhile as far as I am concerned, and provided a very large range of films and television shows; even including foreign films and HBO tv shows which you would have to pay even more money to watch on regular television. In some uses of the word "free", it can also mean "the best bang for your buck" as far as I am concerned. That is really what we all want, is it not?
6). Free Cultural Outlets
Some inexperienced travelers may be surprised to find out that a lot of free entertainment is available when it comes to cultural exhibits. Just two weeks ago I took a trip with my family to New York City, and went to the Museum of Natural History. As a student, I was able to get in for the price of a donation. For some people, this means free. For myself, well, I gave them two dollars as my gratitude for being able to enjoy the exhibits.
Often when you think of large cities like NYC, high prices spring to mind. This does not necessarily have to be the case, as most cities offer a lot of free entertainment and cultural exhibits.