I am a writer in the making with a passion for imagery, globetrotting and exquisite designs.
Published February 11th 2013
Tips on how to give your wallet a well deserved break
1. Join a network
What? Accommodation. Couchsurfing is now a globally established network of people who offer other people a place to sleep in their house, free of charge. It is provided with a system of recommendations and feedback, where you can check out a member's network of friends and comments from people they've hosted or stayed with. Home exchange requires you to list your property and literally 'swap houses' with someone else around the world for an agreed period of time. Last but not least, Work Exchange allows you to stay in all sorts of different environments helping a family run their organic farm, doing housekeeping for a yoga institute, babysitting children in a big city you name it in exchange for room (and sometimes board!).
Possible downsides? You have to overcome the potentially unfamiliar feeling of bunking at a stranger's house, or of a stranger bunking at yours.
What? Various services. You're a hairdresser in need of a new paint job? A painter in need of French lessons? Time banking just might be your fix. The idea of time banking is an evolution of the age-old practice of barter, except in this case the exchange is between services, not goods.
Possible downsides? It doesn't require you to pay, but it requires you to work for what you get.
3. Turn to your country
What? Government funded courses. John F. Kennedy once said "Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country." Well, it would also be nice to know what your country can do for you. You will often find that there are ongoing courses free of charge and that sometimes even provide you with a certificate.
Possible downsides? You have to do a fair bit of research to stay in the loop of what's on offer, and might not always be eligible to benefit from the courses.
4. Sign up to sample distributing websites
What? Samples of just about anything. A very popular marketing technique is that of handing out samples of a product for the general public to familiarise with it faster. Websites such as this one offer a directory of free offers which includes samples, coupons and competitions.
Possible downsides? Potentially unwanted offers making their way into your inbox.
5. Go grocery shopping
What? Free pub meals. Shop A Docket, reportedly "Australia's first online coupon site", besides offering discout deals, also features 2-for-1 pub meals and an ongoing series of competitions you can sign up for. If you're not internet savvy or simply hate receiving all the unsolicited emails that come as a side effect (See number 4), a simple trip to the supermarket will do the trick - many popular stores, including Woolworths, Coles and IGA will have coupons printed on the back of their receipts.
Possible downsides? One may argue that shopping at more cost-effective supermarkets such as ALDI will allow you to save the money required for that extra meal anyway.
What? Freeware, i.e. software that has been created and gratuitously divulged for the benefit of the general public. Gizmo's Freeware, for instance, offers a comprehensive and updated list of available freeware complete with reviews and ratings.
Possible downsides? Some software may be more basic than the 'brand name' version.
7. Become a mystery shopper
What? Various products. If you've always fostered a secret desire to become an undercover agent paired with a slight shopping addiction, this may not even feel like a job to you. Mystery shopping is a technique used by businesses based on employee-client interactions to assess both employee performance and client experience. As a mystery shopper, you get sent on 'missions' in which you have to pose as a customer and act out an assigned purchasing scenario, following up the experience with a detailed report - so the free merchandise is rather a side effect of what is in fact a paid job.
Possible downsides? You don't decide which stores you are sent to, and you don't always get to keep your purchases.
8. Go to the library
What? So much more than books. Ok this one is a little obvious. However, it seems as though so many other things libraries offer go by unnoticed. How about free wi-fi? Films, CDs, videogames? Magazines? Art exhibitions? And my personal favorite, a quiet place to read or study in the heart of a bustling city? Absolutely free of charge.
Possible downsides? The books never actually belong to you so you can't highlight, underline or dog-ear the pages this may be a problem for some people.
What? Building supplies. You don't need to be a Block All Star to know how costly home renovation can be. What if you could benefit from a little hand out? Websites such as Salvage Bazaar make the whole business seem a perfectly rational way of avoiding unnecessary waste.
Possible downsides? You probably won't find everything you need it's kind of a hit and miss on what's available.
10. Sign up to Weekendnotes
What? A range of activities. If you contribute your reviews to Weekendnotes and work your way up the ranks, you could be eligible to score free tickets to various events, restaurants, activities etc. around town. If you prefer being on the reading end of articles, you are still in luck here you will find plenty of suggestions and information on things you can do for free.
Possible downsides? Mmh .nope. Can't think of any!