Fresh homemade donuts with icing.

Your Guide to Finding Freebies

Singing up for email newsletters can be one way to find goodies.

Fresh homemade donuts with icing.

You can usually score some free donuts on National Donut Day.

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The worst part about shopping is paying for stuff. Whether you’re a savvy saver or not, you’re still forking over some cash for those items you need. The biggest savings of all is when you don’t pay anything. Nothing in life is free, right? Well, not quite. Freebies are easier to come by then you might think. Check out these three main categories:

Holiday Freebies

Holidays and special occasions are the best times to find freebies. It’s been a growing trend for the past few years for restaurants to offer up free samples on just about every occasion. Nothing pulls a customer in more than getting something for nothing. So, on Halloween, for instance, if you dress up and spend the day making the rounds to the restaurants, you’ll be rewarded for your holiday spirit, including free donuts from Krispy Kreme and free cappuccinos from Starbucks. You could probably feed your kid all day on Halloween if he’s in costume given all the “Kids Eat Free” deals.

But it doesn’t just go for Halloween. We see the free deals pour in for practically every holiday, such as Mother’s and Father’s Day restaurant freebies of all kinds. They even pop up in less obvious places – just last week my family flew home from San Francisco on Mother’s Day and JetBlue made all the pay-for-play in-flight movies available free of charge (Hello Anchorman 2!).

Another thing to keep in mind with holiday freebies is to broaden your definition of “holiday.” You’ll find freebie deals on Tax Day, Election Day and other types of special days. Then there’s the crazy-specific ones such as Popcorn Lover’s Day in March and the upcoming National Donut Day in early June. Visit stores that specialize in those particular items on those days and expect freebies-galore.

Rewards Card Points

Remember, rewards credit cards are not just for frequent travelers. The very concept of credit card rewards has been tied to travel for so long that a lot of people don’t think about it as a means to get free stuff in the non-travel arena. Many rewards cards these days give you either cash back or points on all of your everyday purchases. Given that, just using cash, checks and a debit card for your everyday transactions gets you practically nothing in return.

I recently made the switch to a rewards credit card that gives me points on every purchase. I earn more if I spend money on certain categories, such as entertainment and food. Anyone who knows me can tell you, entertainment and food are kind of a big deal when it comes to my spending habits. After I signed up, I stopped using my debit card for everything except paying bills. Now I watch the points roll in quite steadily and use them for all kinds of free shopping, particularly at Amazon.

(A word of warning: as with all matters concerning credit cards, do not use one regularly unless you can pay off the balance every month. Interest rates are for suckers.)

Email Freebies

Over the years we’ve all become jaded when it comes to email campaigns. They’re all junk, clutter up the inbox and stick you on some mythical “list” that you can never truly get off of. Some of that’s true enough, but if you subscribe to emails wisely, and only go for stores or services which you frequent, they can be a goldmine of savings. Aside from all the special deals and offers you’ll regularly be alerted to, most email signups offer special incentives and freebies to make it worth your while to sign up right from the get go. Again, the key is to be selective about your subscriptions and if you don’t like the experience, just hit “unsubscribe” and move on.

The bottom line is that freebies are everywhere, and you have to “pay” very little for them. How hard is it to wear a Halloween costume, or use a rewards card, or sign up for a useful email list? The payoff is well worth the trouble. Then you can enjoy your freebies