Fishing for Deals
Rockin' in the Free World
In the end, exploring the depth and breadth of the freebie subculture wasn't really my thing. But if it's yours, here are the basics.
1. Create a dedicated e-mail address. To avoid polluting your regular inbox with spam concerning the $1.5 million you'll inherit from a long lost Slovenian relative if you just send your checking account number, go to google.com, click Gmail in the toolbar at the top of the page, then "Create an Account."
2. Do a search for "free stuff online." You'll find hundreds of sites that collect all of the freebies being offered on a particular day and make them available to the world at large.
3. Limit yourself. Don't follow too many of these sites because the same offers appear on all of them. But totallyfreestuff.com, which I found best in terms of collecting the most (and most interesting) offers and which contains no photos, wordy descriptions, or personal endorsements about why the product is so terrific, is worth checking out. Other good sites: gofreebies.com, moneysavingmom.com, and freemania.net.
4. Become a subscriber. Most sites give you this option through a button on the home page. The subscription is an RSS feed, which sends the offers the site collects directly to you, so you just need to log on to Google to see what's brewing instead of constantly checking the site itself. The best place to send the feed is to your Google Reader, which comes (yup) free with your Gmail. Click "Reader" in the toolbar at the top of your Gmail inbox.
5. Check your feed at least twice a day. Some sites post multiple offers a day, and if you don't act fast the cool ones "sell" out. Also, the offers pile up and won't go away until you've read them. Fortunately, Google Reader has a "Mark All As Read" option for lazy days.
6. Click to the freebie. Each offer from the site will have a hotlink to the actual offer, where you must fill in your home address and Gmail address. If it asks for a phone number, make one up.
7. Keep a log. Note the offers you signed up for and when, then check them off when the products arrive. This provides evidence that all your time and effort have managed to produce something.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2010.