With a little ingenuity and minimal legwork, anyone can score free stuff, and these helpful hints will get you started.

Whoever said "nothing in life is free" obviously wasn’t too creative. With a little ingenuity and minimal legwork anyone can score free stuff, and these helpful hints will get you started.

Free Accommodations

Keeping strangers in your home used to be a symptom of disaster relief or serial-killer cannibalism; but today there are whole social networks dedicated to it. Sites like CouchSurfing.org, Airbnb.com and Hospitalityclub.org link fellow global travelers and adventurers with places to stay a few days for free or cheap. You can often count on having a nice meal, lodging with like-minded folks, or at the very least hanging out with people who know the culture and area. Couchsurfing allows users to write references for each other, linking new travelers to past ones, which helps provide a safer platform for sleeping in a stranger’s home. Of course, there’s always the risk of waking up to the host eating one of your legs for breakfast, but no system is perfect.


While not the most illustrious of ways of getting what you want, complaining about services or products is a surefire route to obtaining free goods. The larger the franchise or corporation, the better. If your pizza has the wrong toppings or your rental car is a poor model, complaining on a local level will almost always result in freebies. Why? Because the only thing worse than a complaining customer is a complaining manager from corporate. That said, if acting on a local level doesn’t work, complaining on a company’s corporate website through customer service will most certainly result in some freebies and a little ass kissing, as well. If you don’t mind feeling entitled or writing emails, this really works and produces results. And if you want to up the ante, call the customer service hotline using a Steven Seagal stalker voice. The representative should be just freaked out enough to give you what you want while not calling Homeland Security.

Trading up

If selling used women’s underwear to foreign businessmen on Ebay proves too much work, one can always go the way of “trading up,” even if it’s a giant, red paperclip for a free home. In 2006, with a little help from his blog and the smallest amount of work, Kyle MacDonald decided to try and obtain a free home through a series of Internet-fostered exchanges. Starting with a giant red paperclip, the 26-year-old Canadian traded up to a fish-shaped pen, doorknob, camping stove, generator, an instant keg party, a snowmobile, a trip to British Columbia, a van, one recording contract, a free year of rent in a house in Phoenix, an afternoon with Alice Cooper, a KISS snowglobe, a Corbin Bernsen-affiliated role in a movie, and finally, to a farmhouse in Kipling, Canada. After 14 trades, the young entrepreneur had finally achieved his goal of a free home, consequently landed a book deal and entered talks with MGM for a movie deal while simultaneously garnering the bitter respect of everyone who didn’t think of trading up first.

Exploiting Expired Copyrights

Thanks to movements such as Project Gutenberg and websites like BooksShouldBeFree.com, public-domain literature is popping up all over the Internet in the form of downloadable ebooks and audiobooks. Because most copyrights last at least 70 years after the death of the artist, you’ll have to wait a while to listen to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy in secret. Luckily, all of the classic literature you never wanted to read is available for free. Amazon.com similarly offers nearly 50,000 song titles for free download. You’re not likely to find any Pharrell Williams on there, but you can always lay back and relax to the soulful pickin’ rhythms of “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean” by Sturgill Simpson.

Radio Contests

Believe it or not, calling or texting into radio contests is still an effective method of scoring free and often expensive swag. Supplied with tickets and other merchandise from event promoters, local radio stations constantly offer free tickets to concerts, sporting events and a slew of other experiences you’d likely never pay for on your own. Partnering up with a friend or two, using multiple phones, using a landline, having stations’ numbers on speed dial, and calling or texting until the winner is announced are a few ways to increase the chances of winning. In fact, given the low number of listeners at any given time, mixed with the apathy of the average human, you are almost a shoo-in for those head-banging seats at the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado performance.

Freeganism and the Dumpster Dive

No one wants to be caught ass-up in a dumpster fishing out a perfectly good sheet of plywood for a cornhole set, but it happens, and for good reason. With the average American generating roughly 1.5 tons of solid waste per year, 75 percent of which is estimated to be recyclable, shopping from the trash makes a lot of sense. Americans also throw away upward of 40 percent of their food under the impression that sell-by dates dictate the actual shelf life of the food product. It’s no wonder a subculture called Freeganism would flourish in urban areas like Boulder and Denver. The practice is a rejection of contemporary consumerist ideologies, in which “urban foraging” is a key survival tactic for skipping Walmart when you need hangers or new shelves when school lets out and every dumpster features an amalgamation of entire complexes of wasteful college students. So, if you can get over the threat of scabies, E. Coli and possibly finding a corpse lying beside dinner, Freeganism promises free meals, clothing and all of the averted, sad glances society can offer.

Free Vacations

Have you ever seen one of those little cardboard boxes at businesses that you can enter your name into for a chance to win a new car? It turns out those things really work. Of course, you’ll never win the top prize. You will, however, be just lucky enough to get invited to sit through an hours-long seminar or timeshare walkthrough in exchange for a free stay at the resort or hotel sponsoring it. It sounds lame and is truly lamer, but if you can sacrifice a few hours on a Saturday to suffer through a car salesman / real estate agent pitch for something you will never buy, you’ll end up with a free weekend of accommodations. Sure, it may be at an East Coast ski resort that doesn’t see snow anymore, but it beats paying for a vacation on your own.


If money grew on trees, crowdfunding would still be more effective than picking that dirty fruit. Thanks to online fundraising sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, ordinary riffraff like you or Rooster can generate tens of thousands of dollars to, say … learn how to make a potato salad. One Zack Brown recently did this by posting an original goal of $10 on Kickstarter hoping to make one of the most banal cookout side dishes ever invented, a friggin potato salad. When his project went viral, it netted 6,900 backers and closed with $55,492 in total funds raised. That’s pretty good money for a dumbass who couldn’t even make a potato salad. Brown advertised he would recite the name of each backer over the salad as he made it and would offer a bite of it to each one.

Creative Dining and Boozing

Sometimes the question boils down to beer or food, and knowing we need both equally to survive, it takes a little skill and planning to stretch those hard-earned student-loan dollars. When funds are low, try hitting up bars with free peanuts and Mexican restaurants that serve free chips and salsa. One beer and two baskets later, you’re fit to run a 10K. Next, find a list of breweries that offer free tours with tasting trays and wet your palate with as much free booze as they’ll provide. On the way back home, pass through a grocery store and peruse the sushi and cheese sections. Not only will there often be people handing out free samples, but they’ll practically shove them down your throat, so watch out for your food allergies. Now, sufficiently filled with the snacks of several cultures, enjoy the money you saved and find a magazine/site with a list of local bars with the cheapest food and drink specials — you know, like maybe this one.