I’m not embarrassed to admit it.
I love free stuff.
I mean, what could be more fun than getting stuff you didn’t have to pay for and doing it legally, so you don’t have to worry about those nice men in uniforms knocking ot your door and escorting you to the station house? Thankfully, the Internet is a treasure trove of free merchandise and, with Chanukah right around the corner, maybe you can cross a person or two off your gift list with one of these sites that will have fun stuff coming your way, completely and totally gratis.
Recyclebank: It was daughter #2 who first turned me on to Recyclebank, a website that is dedicated to, you guessed it, recycling and other environmentally-friendly lifestyle habits. Create an account on Recyclebank’s website and get to work. There are mini quizzes, slideshows and videos, all mercifully short, which is perfect for those all-too-frequent moments when you know you should be working but just can’t put your mind to it. I can’t promise that the site has gotten me to start a compost heap just yet and I am for sure not giving up aerosol cans despite their possible role in global warming, but most of the content is actually pretty interesting and the points rack up quickly, getting you close to getting your free goodies relatively quickly. While Recyclebank’s rewards can include gift cards to various stores, the magazines here are a really great deal. I just ordered two years’ worth of Good Housekeeping for 240 points, not too difficult to accumulate with many activities offering 25 point rewards for less than three minutes worth of my time. To be honest, I have gotten so many magazines from Recyclebank over the last two years that I sometimes find myself a few months behind on my reading pile and it has been years since I have paid for a magazine subscription.
MyPoints: MyPoints is a shopping rewards program and, once registered on the site, you can earn points in a variety of ways in addition to shopping at one of the many, many affiliated stores. Clicking on emails can earn you five points in less than ten seconds and you can also accumulate points by referring friends, filling out surveys, using the MyPoints tool bar and printing out coupons. Honestly, all I ever do at MyPoints is click the emails and shop through the site and I still manage to accumulate enough points each year to pick up a pair of $25 gift cards from retailers I already love to patronize. What kind of stores are in the program? The list is huuuuuuge and includes Amazon, Target, T.J. Maxx, Starbucks, eBay, Overstock.com, Dell, and American Airlines to name just a few. You can even get pre-paid Visa cards. All in all, I spend minimal time mindlessly clicking on MyPoints emails during those moments when I can’t get my brain to focus on work, so the whole thing works pretty well for me. Be forewarned that MyPoints does send out multiple emails per day, but as a Gmail user, mine automatically get shuffled to a secondary folder in my inbox so I don’t find them to be particularly annoying. If you do, you can still participate in MyPoints without signing up for the email option.
Ebates: I confess that I am fairly late to Ebates. The site has been around since 1996 and, like MyPoints, requires one to begin a shopping trip at its home site. Once on Ebates, click on any one of the more than 2,000 participating stores and accumulate not points, but cold hard cash on every purchase. I just purchased a new winter coat for my son last week from Lands’ End and, because I accessed the site through Ebates, the nice people at Ebates will be sending me a check for six percent of the purchase price when they next send out their quarterly checks. Ebates also offers coupons to stack on top of their cash back offers; they must be doing something right because they have more than 8 million customers in the United States, Canada, Korea and China, according to the Wall Street Journal. So, let’s see if I have this right. Cash back on items I was going to buy anyway? How does that not sound like a great deal?
Shop 4 Freebies: Unlike the previous two sites, there is no shopping involved at Shop 4 Freebies, which sends out daily emails with the latest and greatest in free stuff. Often there are samples of small items like toothpaste, moisturizer and coffee, and there are plenty of free magazine offers as well. Checking out the website as I write this, I see a free $10 promotion from Nordstrom for signing up for Nordstrom Rewards, an updated listing of Black Friday ads, a Sam’s Club freebie offer as well as a long list of printable coupons. Typically I get one email a day from Shop 4 Freebies, but occasionally it sends out an extra one. I have registered for several similar freebie websites over the years, but I opted out one by one, as I didn’t find them particularly productive. Shop 4 Freebies are the only emails left in my inbox and they are among the few emails I read every day before I get down to business.
My Coke Rewards: I don’t know that this site offers the best rewards, but there are always Coke products being consumed in our house, so I save up those bottle caps and eventually find time to enter them into the Coke Rewards system. Over time we have scored plenty of free 12 packs of Coke and the occasional gift card. Is it worth the time spent entering those tedious codes that are random 14-character strings printed in that teeny, tiny font? To be honest, I’m not 100 percent sure, because every Coke cap is worth only three points and the rewards don’t start getting good until you have accumulated close to 700 points, but free is free!
Finally don’t forget to take advantage of stores and websites that send you fun stuff just for being born. First off, check out those loyalty programs you are already enrolled in. Many have birthday perks including DSW, Starbucks, Anthropologie, Famous Footwear, Coldstone Creamery, American Eagle, Ulta and Sephora. Also, be sure to check out Huledet.com which will sign you up for a whole bunch of birthday goodies, though despite the Jewish-sounding name, not all of them are actually kosher. Still, there are plenty of great ones here from both local and national companies and they can make your whole birthday month a whole lot brighter.
Finally, remember that while you can use all your great free loot as Chanukah gifts, feel free to keep some for yourself. Come on, don’t you deserve it? I bet you do!Sandy Eller