There's only one thing better than a bargain, and that's a freebie! ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently uncovered ways consumers can score a variety of stuff without shelling out a dime, including many food and activity options for adults and kids this summer season.
"If your budget is tight, there's lots of products and services you can score for free," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "But beware, some offers really are too good to be true, so make sure to check the details if the freebie requires you to sign up and share personal information or a credit card number."
GREAT SUMMER FREEBIES
ShopSmart uncovered dozens of ways to score free stuff in six categories: skills and services; snacks and more; classes; fun times; books, music and more; and other surprising stuff. Below are some warm-weather suitable products and services from different categories that adults and kids can enjoy without paying for them:
• Bowling. Head to kidsbowlfree.com to register little ones to enjoy two daily games of bowling all summer at participating alleys. Some places even throw in a free shoe rental.
• Internet service. Want to stay connected while on the go this summer? The Wi-Fi Finder app (free for Android and Apple) finds no-charge connections nearby.
• Kid food. Search the Kids Meal Deals app (free for Android, Apple and BlackBerry) of kidsmealdeals.com daily to find nearby no-cost bites.
• Movies. A few independent theaters and chains, including Clearview Cinemas and Cinemaworld, screen movies for kids; seating is first-come, first-served, and some theaters require a paid adult admission. As temperatures heat up, many cities turn parks into movie theaters with sunset film screenings.
• Outdoor skills. Get out and enjoy the weather. Some REI locations offer no-charge instruction on bike maintenance, mountain climbing prep and a lot more. Check a local store for more information or go to rei.com.
• Park visits. More than half of the country's national parks are free every day and all will be free on Aug. 25 in honor of the National Park Service birthday. Check online (nps.gov) for other free days offered throughout the year.
• Workout sessions. Stay in shape this summer with no financial commitment. Check online to see if a municipality offers group fitness classes at their local recreation centers and parks -- as some do.
PAYING A PRICE FOR FREE STUFF
Free stuff is awesome, but ShopSmart advises consumers not to be lax with their personal information to get it. Here are three things to do when signing up for freebies:
• Read privacy policies. Consumers shouldn't provide information they aren't comfortable sharing and be especially careful when it comes to children. For example, with birthday clubs, it may make sense to use initials instead of full names.
• Check the fine print. Freebies aren't free if consumers are required to sign up and pay for something else. The Federal Trade Commission cautions that certain companies that use payment info to sign consumers up for stuff make cancelling extremely difficult, hiding the info in tiny, out-of-the-way type. Watch for prechecked (opt-out) boxes on sign-up forms.
• If payment info is required, use a credit card. The Fair Credit Billing Act makes it easier to stop payments. Check statements after canceling.