Sunday, October 18, 2009

Free stuff 101 - some guidelines to finding free stuff on the internet

Freebies, Codes, Coupons, Printables & Contests

I belong to a lot of yahoogroups, cafemom groups, and newsletters that send links out to get free stuff. I love getting freebies! At least twice a week I'll share these with you here, so check back! Please keep in mind that sometimes offers are rescinded due to overwhelming response. I cannot guarantee they will still be available every time.

I try to find true freebies, which means they don't require you to fill out long, long surveys and then sign up for a credit card or something similar. They don't require you to pay shipping and handling, though occasionally I do find an offer that is REALLY, REALLY good that may requires a little shipping and handling cost, and I will pass it on to you. Please read all details for any offer before supplying information.

I do have some advice for you:

1) Create a separate email account to use when you sign up for freebies. This way your main email account will not be inundated with SPAM. Use Yahoomail or Gmail - they are free services.

2) NEVER EVER give out your social security number for any reason!

3) When giving personal information, you'll need to fudge it a little bit in order to not be inundated with phone calls. DO NOT use your real phone number, make up a phone number. For instance, use your area code and then 555-0000 (similar to the movies). And NEVER ever give out your cell phone number. You do not want your cell phone tied up with telemarketers or SPAM. This costs you money!

4) NEVER use your real birthday - make your date of birth off by either one month, one or two days or one year (best to do all three, or at least one month and one year). This helps you avoid identify theft. If they don't have all the information correct, they can't use it.

5) If you have a PO box, and the offer will ship to a PO box, use that as your address.

6) Follow the rules. If the offer is one free sample per mailing address, please respect that. If you abuse the offer, it makes it unfair for others, and hurts the company.

7) Regarding printable coupons - there are very few merchants in the Buffalo area who accept coupons printed from home computers. Check with your local retailers before attempting to use them. I believe Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid will accept them, but the policy varies from store to store.

8) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When in doubt, don't bother. Better safe than sorry, especially if your credit or debit card or bank account is involved.

I've been sending for free offers for many, many years, and have rarely had any problems. The only problem I have ever encountered is NOT receiving something for which I sent. Many companies will offer a "Freebie" so that they can harvest names and addresses. Hence, the reason I never give my real phone number and have a separate email address, unless I really want to hear from the company.

Good luck and happy freebie hunting!

Rachael Monaco is a freelance writer, and currently writes a column for the Examiner online publication, Buffalo Frugal Living Examiner

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