Funny Money: Stuff You Should Never Buy Because You Can Get it For Free

birthday candlesPeople tend to say and repeat the quote “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” as if it’s something wise and profound.

These are people who have never been to Denny’s on their birthday, where there is also a free breakfast and dinner.

I’m not sure what world those anti-free lunchers live in, but it’s nowhere near the planet I inhabit, in which free stuff pops up like so many moles in a game of whack-a-mole, grinning and taunting you, just begging for you to smack them with a mallet and rack up points.

Finding the opportunities is just a matter of keeping your eyes open. Also, it doesn’t hurt if you’re willing to degrade yourself a little in the name of the hunt.

Here are some of my favorite freebies.

Condiments and dining utensils

Fast food establishments kindly lay out all the packets of ketchup, mustard and mayo you could ever desire. Every time you’re out to eat, grab a few of them, as well as a healthy slab of napkins, and you’ll have enough material to refill your supplies whenever they dwindle.

Birthday food

Denny’s is far from the only place that is willing to gibe up gratis goods on your own personal holiday. Presumably, these places are hoping you bring paying friends along and are assuming birthday boys and girls tend not to fly solo. You know what they say about those who assume. Stick it to ‘em by going it alone and making off with complimentary grub. Sites like this show you which ones are in on the act.

SIM cards

The beating hearts of smartphones are priceless in dollar figures as well as function. Although some scammy folks try to hock them online, cell phone providers are always willing to hand out free cards for those who step inside their stores and ask for them.

Premium TV channels

If this sounds familiar to you, I am happy, because it means you’ve read stuff I’ve written before and did not run away screaming. So thanks! Free binges of pay-extra channels such as HBO and Showtime can be had for mere calls to nervous cable systems that are ready and willing to cut you deals just to keep you on their subscriber rolls.

Office supplies

Sure, it may not be technically cool to consciously snag a pen or a box of paper clips from work, but sometimes they accidentally wind up at your place of residence. Just don’t let the so-called accident happen to you any more than it does to your cube mate and you should be OK.


Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping. The service costs about $80 a year, but you can try it out with trial offers. When one expires, switch to a different email and shipping address — say, your work info — and start the trial over again. You’ll also gain access to the e-tailer’s library of streamable movies.

What are some of your favorite freebies?

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


  1. Courtney says:

    I can get behind the birthday handouts, but a few of these veer more toward “stealing” than they do “freebies.”

    • Those with 364 fake IDs can turn the birthday one into “stealing” too.

      • And I can get free food by walking into safeway and pocketing it… Come on now – the “advice” in this is pretty sketchy. Are going to see an article on cheap dates that recommend we take someont to Costco for the free samples next…

    • Agree! I’d rather pay a few bucks than even get near the line of stealing. Integrity, people.

  2. I would add antivirus software to this list. All of the free options I’ve experimented with actually work better than the paid option.

    • Great point, Rob. There are so many paid computer apps and services with paid alternatives that are just as good, if not better. I should devote a column to those.

  3. I agree with the comments against stealing. This website shouldn’t promote making/saving money over ethical behavior. When does it stop? I’m disappointed in Money Over 30 for posting this.

  4. At least you didn’t post about getting free food by pretending to be needy and going to the food bank (that would be sketchy).
    Free stuff on your birthday? Why not take advantage!
    I get coupons in the mail/email as I’m nearing my birthday that allow me to eat cheap/free for a week (free meals, free sides, 50% off, free appetizer, etc).
    There are other things you can get free on your birthday as well (like rounds of golf…great unless you have a January birthday in the midwest like I do).

  5. I have to agree. I don’t think that these are morally or ethically sound ways to save money. I’m disappointed to see these suggestions on this website…

  6. I have to say that I have taken my share of of free Condiments and dining utensils from fast food establishments in the past. They usually give you a bag with lots of room and it sure can be filled with ketchup and sporks at their little condiment bars.

  7. I can stand behind a couple of these ideas however some of them are completely unethical. Makes my uncomfortable to read other articles on this site. Hope you will edit out the Amazon/e-mail change and taking office supplies from your office.

  8. Courtney says:

    Okay, those of you that are taking this way too seriously need to get your heads examined. It’s called “Funny Money” for a reason people!

  9. I like a lot of the stuff on this website, and I’m all about good deals. This article was poor judgement, though, and I cannot get behind some of these suggestions. Examples: work materials, fast food utensils, and shipping with Amazon prime.

    However, I have no problem with a free meal on your actual birthday, bargaining with cable/dish providers, and SIM cards. These are all honest and “up front.” I also have no problem with saving the condiments and utensils you are given in your bag, or asking the people behind the counter if I can have one, even if I don’t buy something there and I’m on a road trip, maybe. But don’t consciously build up an inventory. That is ridiculous.

  10. Alejandra says:

    LOL. I think many people missed the fun nature of this article. I, however, appreciate the tips and just called to cancel my Amazon Prime trial actually. ;)

  11. I certainly take advantage of free Amazon shipping on a monthly basis. I’ve never considered the email trick, but usually wait till I have at least $25 worth of purchases and take advantage of free shipping. Also, since I live in the Phoenix area, where Amazon has a warehouse, shipping usually is 2 days anyways. So never a need for prime account.

    Another tip for free food, besides birthday treats once a year, I’ve never had to pay for a donut in over 2 years. If you look at the receipt of many joints, they offer free items for completing VERY SIMPLE surveys. In this scenario, Dunkin Donuts receipts. In just 2 mins or less, you can complete a survey and receive a free donut during your next coffee purchase. On top of that, the employees at the location are VERY friendly since they know I’ll always complete the survey with a great review. Let’s just say, I love dunkin donuts now. Maybe too much thanks to the extra poundage.

    – RC