Keeping a budget on track can be really challenging, even when you're just covering the bases, but you might be able to get some of your everyday purchases for free with just a little research. "Technology and the Internet allow people to share things in a way that we were never able to before," says consumer expert Jennifer Jolly. "Entire worlds and communities are being built around getting stuff for free!" Get a few of her tips below:
• Books: If the library doesn't always seem to have what you are looking for, Jennifer suggests Bookmooch.com for free reading materials. "You make a list of the books that you want and the books that you have to give, and somebody says, 'Hey, I want Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons,' - you send them that and you pay for the postage on that, and then you get two books sent to you in return, the books that you’ve picked from your list."
• Fruit: People who grow fruit in their yards sometimes have more produce than they can eat, so they are offering them to strangers through the website Neighborhoodfruit.com. "This is happening all across the country!"
Note of caution: "Think of it like getting Halloween candy," Jennifer explains, "every year, we accept tons of candy from total strangers - it turns out to be just fine - but you do want to go into it with a little bit of caution. If there’s something that smells funny or looks funny, don't use it.
• Antibiotics: The next time you have a prescription for antibiotics, Jennifer suggests asking your pharmacy if they are giving any out for free. "There are about seven generic brands that most pharmacies give away for free. It’s a great way to save money," she explains. "Sometimes they’re samples, but even more than that, it’s a great way [for them] to get you into the store, and they’re pretty sure once you’re in there you’re going to buy something else." Of course, you need a prescription before you can obtain any antibiotics. "You do want to be careful. You don’t want to get antibiotics if you don’t really need them," Jennifer adds. "Let your doctor help you out with that."