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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Get Free Stuff. Really.

About a year ago, I may have become a bit obsessed with freebies. I started paying attention to the mom blogs and bargain sites that awakened me to a bright new world filled with free packets of instant coffee, free Disney travel promotional DVDs, and free dollops of wrinkle cream. Full disclosure: I don't drink anything with caffeine, my family is not planning a trip to Disney World any time soon, and I am lucky enough to not yet worry about wrinkles. None of that stopped me.

I also subscribed to freebie sites that awarded points for answering surveys, watching online videos, and conducting Internet searches. That sounded wonderful; I could do all of those things on my smartphone while playing outside with the kids. I would amass points in exchange for gift cards to retail stores, restaurants, and more. I could shop for myself and not feel guilty! Sound too good to be true?...

It only took me six months of surveys, commercials, and searches to earn enough points for a $15 Macy's gift card. By then, the points required for a $15 gift card had gone up and Macy's was no longer an option; I set my sights on a Target card instead. Two months after that I finally had the revised number of points, but Target was no longer an option. I estimated spending at least an hour a week for 32 weeks,   for $15 toward iTunes. That's like earning one song for every two hours I wasted. So. Not. Worth it.  

My philosophy at the time was blind-siding me: companies are willing to give this stuff away for free, so why shouldn't I benefit? Then I started to realize the obvious; I was bordering on becoming an intervention candidate.

I've since pared down on the freebie sources. And lucky for you, I compiled the highlights! You really can get free stuff, but be sure it's stuff you'll use (or donate) and that it's worth your time.

ROCmomma's Seven Wonders of the Freebie World

1. Does your family eat Kashi cereals? (If not, skip to number 2.) If so, check out Recyclebank.

  • Create a username and password, then enter the codes from Kashi cereal boxes and earn 50 points per box. 
  • Every week or so, they add new ways to earn points on the site - quizzes, videos, pledging to do eco-friendly things, "Liking" eco-minded companies on Facebook, etc. Yes, it will take up some time...but minutes here and there; never hours.
  • I've already redeemed a free subscription to Whole Living magazine; I'm really close to a $10 Gap gift card.

2. Do you buy Disney DVDs, or do you have a ton in your cabinet? If so, check out Disney Movie Rewards.

  • Create a username and password, then enter the codes from the DVDs and earn about 100 points per movie.
  • I entered the codes from all the movies we already had - including grown up movies like Pirates of the Caribbean. We had enough to redeem a youth-size Phineas & Ferb cap, 3 puzzles (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, and My Friends Tigger & Pooh), a Treasure Buddies plush, and we donated a couple of plush toys to KIDS (Kids In Distressed Situations). I still had points leftover, and my next target is a free photo book.

3. Would you like to receive free samples of shampoo, cereal, and laundry detergent? If so, check out the random samples featured on Freeflys or Free Samples 2 Fill Up Your Mailbox.

  • Freeflys - you'll need to sign up and create a username and password; review a list of Featured, Food, Beauty, Children, Health, and Miscellaneous freebies.
  • Free Samples 2 Fill Up Your Mailbox - on the right side of the page, click to "Like" it on Facebook, and/or enter your email address to receive email updates once daily; you'll be in the know about the latest freebies.
  • NOTE: Sometimes you'll need to "Like" a company on Facebook in order to receive the free sample these sites feature. 

4. Want to be the first to hear about and try new foods, beauty products, games, and more? Then try House Party.

  • Create an account, then fill out a detailed profile about your interests, social media habits, etc. 
  • House Party allows you to apply to host various parties - if selected for a particular party, you'll receive a party kit and the chance to invite some friends over to try the new item with you.
  • I was selected for a Breakstone's flavored sour cream House Party last summer. My party kit included coupons for free sour cream, a chip & dip bowl, and a spatula all for the party; I also received the following for each of my guests: coupons, recipe books, and cutting mats.
  • Current parties include Kinect Rush: Disney Pixar Adventure, Because I Am A Girl, and Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom to Indulge (my fingers are crossed for the Kinect party!).

5. How do you feel about contests? Try Self or Lucky magazines' web sites.

  • Each month these sites are updated with tons of free contests for jewelry, clothes, cosmetics, and more.
  • I won a bunch of lip glosses from Soft Lips through Lucky magazine last year.
  • I also was selected as a test-panel member for Self in December and got to try out (and keep!) four full-size moisturizers.
  • TIP: be sure to uncheck all items that indicate any kind of interest in receiving email updates from the sponsoring companies when entering these contests.

6. Would you like to hear about a freebie every day of the week? Check out All You magazine's Daily Free Sample Calendar.

  • Enter your email address to sign up for a Free Sample daily email alert.

7. Would you like some special freebies on your birthday? All of the following offer a fun birthday perk!

  • Dunkin Donuts - get a free medium beverage on your big day
  • Maggie Moo's - sign up for their email listing & get a free cone on your bday
  • Bruegger's - sign up & get a free cookie on your day
  • Ben & Jerry's - sign up for their Chunk Mail and get a free scoop for your birthday
  • Moe's Southwest Grill - sign up for Moe's e-world get a free surprise on your day
  • Sephora - sign up to be a Beauty Insider and receive free birthday gift (last year it was a Philosophy "Happy Birthday Baby" vanilla shower gel/shampoo; looks like this year is a Fresh Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Duo)
  • Barnes & Noble - sign up for the free Kids' Club and your kid receives a free cupcake or cookie on his or her birthday
So, welcome to the wonderful world of free crap - er, stuff! I hope you enjoy the ride. If you have any other fun freebie tips, please post them in the Comments section. And thanks for reading!

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