30 Things You Should Never Pay For

A lot of things out there are free. Just ask any frugal person. Most of them would gladly rattle off a list of things they never had to pay a cent for, some of which might surprise you.

There are tons of free products and services out there, but businesses work so hard at hiding them from us. They’ve succeeded in getting us to fork over our hard-earned money for stuff we could easily get for free. It’s time to start beating them at their own game! Take a look at the following list of 30 things you should never pay for.

1. Museum visits

Why pay full price when you could get a free pass at your local library? A lot of museums also offer free admission on certain days. However, you might still have to pay to see special exhibitions.

2. Cable TV

Millions of people fork over at least $75 a month for cable TV. It’s an unnecessary expense, considering how many free movies and TV shows are available online. Local channels are still free, and with digital signals being stronger than ever, you can receive over-the-air digital television without having to pay a cent.

3. Books

Borrow books from your local library. Download free audiobooks from LibriVox.org. Swap your used books at PaperBackSwap.com or TitleTrader.com. Get free eBooks at websites like Free-eBooks.net.

4. Cookbooks

With a lot of recipes readily available online, why should you pay for a cookbook? You can download free cookbooks from websites like AllRecipes.com.

5. Music

Paying for music has become somewhat obsolete. Internet radio services like Pandora and Spotify offer great music at no cost. You can also rent CDs from your local library.

6. DVDs

You can choose from a huge selection of DVDs at your local library. Redbox also offers a lot of free rental codes to anyone who signs up for their Mobile Text Club.

7. Information services

Instead of paying a ridiculous fee every time you dial 411, call 1-800-FREE-411. They’ll make you listen to a 10-second ad before offering you any information you need… at absolutely no charge.

8. News

Why pay for a newspaper subscription when the Internet offers an overabundance of news for free?

9. Email

There are many great free email services and clients, like Gmail, Mozilla  Thunderbird, and Yahoo! Mail, so there’s no sense in paying for one that might not be just as good.

10. Higher education

If you want to expand your knowledge without getting a degree, you’re in luck. There are many free online courses and lectures from prestigious schools. For example, MIT has free online classes open to anyone in the world, and BBC offers free lessons to anyone who wants to learn a foreign language.

11. Business advice

The Small Business Administration has tons of free resources, including online courses and consulting sessions, for anyone who’s looking to start their own business.

12. Birthday meals

There are many restaurants out there that will give you a free meal on your birthday. The only catch is that you have to sign up for their mailing lists beforehand.

13. Kids’ meals

Many restaurants offer free meals to their pint-sized customers. Visit MyKidsEatFree.com to find the participating restaurants in your area.

14. Water

Water isn’t technically free, because you still have to pay your water utility bill. However, tap water is still a whole lot cheaper than bottled water.

15. Job listings

Some websites actually charge job seekers to apply for jobs. Do all your job hunting on the websites that will allow you to apply for free. Chances are you’ll see the exact same job listings on both kinds of websites.

16. Condoms

Planned Parenthood, college health clinics, county health departments, and bars are some of the many places where you can get free condoms.

17. STD testing

Many clinics and health departments all over the United States offer free STD testing. However, some of them might charge you a small fee based on your income.

18. Moving boxes

You can score used moving boxes from sites like Craigslist or FreeCycle. You can also visit local warehouses, retailers, or office buildings because they usually have a bunch of boxes they no longer need.

19. Packing supplies

Before you go out and shell out a silly sum for packing peanuts, crumple up some used newspapers and stuff them into the boxes. You can also cushion your fragile items with old sweaters or pillows.

20. Firewood

Construction sites always have an overabundance of scrap wood, and they want you to take it all. You’re actually doing them a favor because they would’ve had to pay to dump the wood somewhere. You can also get free logs at a lumber yard.

21. Passport photos

In this age of digital cameras, it’s kind of silly to pay a drugstore to take your passport photo. Have someone use a digital camera to take your photo (while following the official passport photo guidelines), and then upload it to ePassportPhoto.com for free.

22. Exercise

Instead of paying for a gym membership or attending pricey classes, go jogging in your neighborhood or rent exercise DVDs from your local library.

23. Real estate commissions

If you put forth enough time and effort (and list your house on ForSaleByOwner.com), you’ll have just as much chance of getting your house sold as if you had a real estate agent. However, if you’re going at it alone, it’s very important that you really know what you’re doing.

24. Travel-sized toiletries

Go on freebie websites and request free samples of soap, shampoo, and other toiletries. Your collection may take a while to complete, but it won’t cost you a cent!

25. Nursing advice

Why pay hundreds of dollars for a “lactation consultant” when you could dial a free nursing hotline offered by your local hospital or breastfeeding organization?

26. Baby food

Not only is packaged baby food pumped with preservatives and artificial flavors, it also costs money. It’s much cheaper (and healthier) to mash up or puree the food you already have around the house.

27. ATM fees

Use only ATMs that are in your bank’s surcharge-free network. If you can’t find one nearby, buy something small like a pack of gum at a supermarket and ask for cash back while checking out.

28. Basic checking accounts

Why pay for a checking account when you could use one for free? There are still a lot of banks, such as ING Direct and Ally Bank, that offer free checking and great interest rates.

29. Annual credit card fees

Your credit card company is making money by charging you interest, so why give them more money? Look into using a no-fee credit card unless you’ve determined that the annual fee will actually save you money (i.e. more cash rewards).

30. Pets

Don’t buy; adopt! If you adopt a pet from a shelter, you might still have to pay a low adoption fee that covers shots and care costs, but it’s for a good cause. You’re still supporting a shelter that doesn’t put a price tag on animals.

  • I Like Free Stuff

    #20 – Firewood is not a good idea. Most of that will be treated lumber, and you’ll be burning chemicals. This is especially worse if you’re thinking of using that scrap wood for an indoor fireplace, rather than an outdoor fire pit. Either way, not a good idea.

  • Yikes.

    This is the most poorly written column I’ve stumbled upon in a long time filled with atrocious advice.

    Sure, some of the things you should never pay (like email) but most of these vary from cheesy things to do (gather free condoms or travel items) to downright bad advice (free business consulting). Also, imagine if everybody heeded the advice of things never to pay for and museums failed to collect a dime? They’d be gone. As would the bands that make the music and the writers that write the books and the newspapers that make the news websites.

    Extremely simplistic list with absolutely no interesting items. It’s as if the editor said, “I need a column!” and this writer produced this three minutes later.


  • Craig

    Your comment is the most poorly written comment I’ve stumbled upon in a long time filled with baseless arguments.

    Look, Einstein, some museums are funded by the state, others by counties, cities, universities, and private donations. Museums will never “fail to collect a dime”. For every person who’s savvy enough to score free passes, there are 5 suckers willing to pay a $20 admission fee. Bands get paid every time their songs are played on Spotify. If publishers thought they were losing money to libraries, they wouldn’t sell their books to them. Libraries act as free advertising. Many people discover an author at a library and then go on to read more of their books. Libraries also pay more for books mainly because they’re going to be loaned out. News websites make their money from advertising and classified ad fees. Getting free business advice is a smart business decision. Many many many books written by successful businesspeople have more valuable information than a business consultant charging $300/hour and you can get them at the library for free.

  • Hunter Beck

    people pay for those things all the time… bottled water, gym memberships, and job seeking sites (ex. flexjobs.com) people are stupider than you think hence why this list exists

  • TexasFisher2020

    If your smart you’ll look for untreated wood. They’re easy to distinguish, just have to look for a green tint in pressure treated wood. Regular lumber is perfectly safe, NO chemicals are introduced during the drying or milling process . If people use their common sense avoiding stained painted varnished wood and plywood they’ll be OK

  • Nubukey

    Can,t agree further with Parker. I think these information should be re-edited before posted so as to stop misleading people.

  • justkelly11384

    i think your advice is solid for anyone who needs advice on saving money. i cut the cable cord in 2005 and i don’t miss it one bit, thanks netflix and hulu!! i never paid a cent for a gym membership… i’m in great shape, i do pilates and yoga at home and i jog and ride my bike on nice days. my sister has a clothes shop downtown she never paid anything for business advice. she went to SBA and a guy helped her set everything up. she read lots of books on starting a business… she was 100% self taught and her shop’s been open for 8 years, it’s very successful! she’s opening a second location early next year. so proud of her!!!
    this list is for smart people only…. that can do without real estate realtors, personal trainers, consultants… because teaching yourself with good resources is the best way to save money. and honestly some of the advice is just common sense… don’t pay for bottled water or an email account…

  • justkelly11384

    this is solid advice for anyone looking for advice on saving money. i cut the cable cord in 2005 and never looked back, thanks netflix and hulu!!! i never paid for a gym membership in my life… i’m in great shape!! i do pilates and yoga at home and i jog and bike on nice days. you just got to be smart and use your common sense… don’t pay for bottled water or cookbooks. people still do… WTF??

    my sister has a clothes shop downtown, it’s been open for 8 years and it’s very successful… she’s opening a second location early next year. i’m proud of her!! and guess what.. she never paid a cent for business consulting or any BS like that. she went to SBA and a man helped her set everything up. she read lots of books about starting a business… she’s 100% self taught. “not paying for business advice” is NOT bad advice… my sister is proof of that!

  • angeline391

    craig is right on all counts… you dont know much do you? lol

  • Dennis Regling

    Actually water is free – you can get it from your own well or from springs that are open to the community. A lot of my neighbors carry in water from the local spring for all their water needs.

  • Rob Eno

    Apparently its ok to pay for sex? I thought sex would be on this list.