Saying "I'm a student" is often a euphamism for being poor. It should also be a perfectly valid excuse for why you can't pay in a restaurant, or a legal defence for why you didn't feel it necessary to pay for all that stuff in your bag before leaving that shop. Unfortunately the world doesn't work like that, but you can get plenty of free stuff (legally) by looking in the right places. Here's our guide to some great freebies you can get.
Go to websites that offer freebies
There are websites (like us) that give you free stuff when we get it, and then there are websites set up entirely to connect their users with free stuff that other people are giving away.
The best of the lot for finding entirely free things is FreeCycle. On there you search for items in your local area that people are giving away for free. These vary from sofas to bikes and some just plain odd things but are generally all of good quality and worth much more than the no money you paid for it.
The only downside is you will usually (unless you have a very charitable seller) have to collect the item yourself, which makes FreeCycle great for bikes and other modes of transport, but less great for wardrobes, which you can rarely ride home yourself.
Generally meeting people giving away stuff for free isn't dangerous, but make sure you're safe and comfortable when collecting any freebies. It's always best to be cautious.
Make the most of free trials
Companies often try to get you subscribing to a product by offering you a free trial. Most people take up the trial, and don't bother to cancel the subscription (which is what the companies want). The best free trials include:
- Netflix - 1 month's free trial then £5.99 per month
- Amazon Instant Video - 1 month's free trial then £5.99 per month
- Audible - 1 free audiobook then £7.99 per month
- Xbox Live Gold trial membership 1 month free then £5.99 per month
- Tastecard - free 30 day membership then £79.99 for a year
You may be put off doing this because you are asked to put in your credit/debit card details up front, but as long as you are careful you can cancel your subscription before you're ever charged. The easiest way is to set a reminder on your email calendar, laptop or phone to tell you to cancel a day before your free month/s run out.
Complaining about bad stuff turns it into free stuff
There are nice ways to complain. You don't have to be like this guy:
If you're nice about how you complain about poor food you can usually get your food for free, or at least free drinks or a pudding.
You can also complain about poor products. If a product doesn't perform properly or breaks through "normal use" you can usually get your money back (or a replacement) through complaining, without needing a warrantee.
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, products must be of ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘as described’, as well as lasting for a ‘reasonable’ amount of time.
This means that if your product breaks within an "unreasonable amount of time" it's assumed to be faulty to start with, and you can get your money back for it. If you've had it for a while you will have to prove that the product is faulty and broke through no fault of your own, though this is still possible to do.
Ingrid Stone, a semi-professional moaner, claims to have earned £2000 a year through complaining about faulty products and getting freebies as a result.
Compliment a company
Being nice to a company can get you just as much free stuff as complaining about their terrible products. Write an email or letter (if you're from the 1840s) to a company telling them why you love their products and they may send you free stuff.
Make sure your emails are personalised and you'll get a better response. No company is going to give away free stuff to somebody who is a huge fan of INSERT PRODUCT NAME HERE.
Is it worth it?
We've heard tales of people getting a lot of free stuff from companies just by complimenting them. It's anything from free burritos at Chipotle to coupons for Ben and Jerry's.
It's probably worth doing if you can be bothered, but expect to send off quite a few letters for every freebie you get, and for that freebie to take a while to arrive.
Go in store to buy - and ask for more
If you're buying something big, you can usually get some smaller things thrown in for free if you negotiate with the salesperson a little. For this you'll need to actually physically go into a shop (incredibly retro, we know).
If you look unsure as to whether you want to buy an expensive product or go elsewhere they'll be more likely to "sweeten the deal" by giving you free accessories to go with your purchase.
When buying a new laptop in most shops it's possible to get a laptop case thrown in, or even software such as Windows for Students. If you're getting a TV you can usually get speakers, and a games console can normally be sold with more games than originally advertised.
It may feel cheeky asking for free stuff, but when you're making a big purchase the freebies you get pale in comparison. You, the salesperson and the shop are all getting a good deal by the time you leave the shop. You'll be amazed what discounts and freebies you can get if you just have the nerve to ask for them.
Go to extra lectures at uni
Most guest lectures provide a large buffet and wine. A lot of them will offer free food and wine, of a calibre you aren't used to. Sure you'll pick up a few facts about macroeconomics in feudal England than you'd ideally like to earn in your spare time, but you'll get free (very high quality) food and drink. There's no reason you can't be educated and drunk.
You'll be surprised how many students go to these events, and they can be a great way to meet new people as well as getting free food and wine, especially if you pick out the lectures you'll be interested in anyway.
Head to your university's website to see upcoming lectures, they are usually announced in their news section on the part of the website which is only accessible to students and staff.
Make use of your library
This may seem fairly obvious (please forgive us if you already know this) but your uni library has a lot more in it than books. There's normally a huge selection of films there, including recent releases. This is especially true if your unviersity has a course in Film and/or TV.
If you're the type of person who buys DVDs on a whim, or for event nights (e.g. halloween) then it's worth taking them out from your library rather than buying them outright.
If it's your birthday, now is your time to get all the free stuff you can
There are a lot of restaurants and companies that will give away free stuff to people celebrating their birthday. Check out our guide to see what free stuff you can get on your birthday. Our favourites include:
- Krispy Kreme: become a Friend of Krispy Kreme and get a free original glazed doughnut straight away, AND they’ll email you with a voucher for another free doughnut for your birthday.
- Barburrito: pick up a Burritometer loyalty card in store, register it online and you’ll be emailed a voucher for a free burrito on your birthday.
- La Tasca: free bottle of Cava when you spend £30 two weeks either side of your birthday at La Tasca. You need to book ahead of time in the birthday boy/girl’s name.
Get free books
There are plenty of places you can get free ebooks. Project Gutenburg is especially good and has enough reading material on there to keep you going for the rest of your lifetime if you wanted to.
Books over 100 years old automatically are no longer protected by copyright, so if your course book fits into this category (e.g. Pride and Prejudice or Das Kapital) there is no need to buy it, as you can download for free as an ebook.
Some other great free ebook sites include:
Review food (and other products)
You can get food sent to your house for free in exchange for a review. Places like bzzagent, Tesco Orchard and supersavvyme will send you new products for testing before they are released to the public, as well as food and other products.
If you live anywhere in the countryside you can probably forage for a lot of expensive fruits. Blackberries (around £2 per punnet in most supermarkets) are free from roadsides and the public side of any field. In most woods you can get wild garlic (though be careful, as it looks similar to lily of the valley, a deadly poisonous plant) as well as massively expensive and delicious pine nuts (from less delicious pine cones).
It's all completely legal as long as you're on common land or a public road. This doesn't include public footpaths through farmland, so don't take this as permission to kill, cook and eat any sheep you find on your daily dog walk.
Stay away from mushrooms. Figuring out the difference between a portobello mushroom and the mushroom from Mario Kart does not make you a mushroom expert.
That's easy. Portabellos aren't insured to drive.
Figuring out the difference between a safe to eat mushroom in the wild and one that'll kill you in minutes is not so simple, so stay away from it.
Don't pay for phone calls, texts etc
Paying per text is a bit 1990s. As long as you have an internet connection of some kind, you don't have to pay for your phonecalls and texts.
WhatsApp is a messaging app where you can send messages over wifi (or using data) to other people using the same app. It's an extremely popular app and already has millions of users adopting it.
In the same way, you won't be charged for any messages sent using iMessenger, or for messaging other people on the Giffgaff network if you yourself have a Giffgaff phone.
It's also possible to turn an iPod touch into a functioning, wifi only phone, by only buying a set of headphones with a built in microphone and using VoIP to make calls.
Condoms are expensive. When you're having sex upwards of three times (we don't want to brag) a year the cost adds up. If you go to the sexual health clinic you can get a massive bag full of assorted condoms for free just by filling out a quick form. There's usually a sexual health clinic in whichever city you're nearest to, if there isn't one on campus. Use this tool to find the nearest sexual health clinic to you.
You can also pick up free chlamidia tests whilst you're there, just to be sure.
Entering the right competitions can yield a lot of freebies, if you choose the right ones. Be warned though, if you're going to do it, it might take a bit of effort. The more offputting something something is to enter, the less competition you'll have. If there are long surveys out there that only offer small rewards to entrants (e.g. a £20 voucher) then this will put off a lot of people, meaning less competition for you and your odds of winning will go up. Try to look for the smaller websites and smaller competitions. The smaller the website and the prize will dramatically up the odds of you winning. FreeLotteries.co.uk is a brand new site that could be worth a shot. They give away £20 every day and it's supported by advertising, so it's totally free to enter. You can also find a lot of competitions on websites like Prize Finder.
Before you sign up for anything, make sure you don't enter any bank details (it could be a scam) and it's probably best to get yourself a new email address, as you will probably get heavily spammed if you enter a lot of contests.
It's a lot of effort, but you can win. Our Editor managed to win, through a month of entering competitions:
- Two tickets to the opera
- Joe Malone perfume
- a Kate Spade watch
- £20 phone credit
- Wedding show tickets
Get a free McBurger or McFlurry by flashing your student card
Flashing your student card around like you're a policeman can get you discounts, freebies and odd looks in most shops and restaurants. If you show your card in McDonalds you can get yourself a free burger, cheeseburger or McFlurry with your already massively calorific meal just by showing them your student card when you buy any meal deal from them. We'd recommend you take along a friend to eat it with.
As a student you probably think you need Microsoft Word, Excel and (we pity you) Powerpoint. In reality you just need programs that can create, open and edit .docx .xlsx and .pptx files. There are plenty of free programs out there that do this, a lot of them free.
If you're happy to do most of your editing when attached to an internet connection, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides is pretty convenient to use, and will do everything you need from document, spreadsheet and presentation editors. You do everything in browser (obviously it's recommended you use Google's own Chrome browser for this) and can create files that can be downloaded in the file types you need to submit your essays etc. It constantly saves whilst you are connected to the internet, and all files are stored on Google's own servers, meaning it's not taking up precious space on your computer.
They've introduced offline editing too, though browsers tend to be more unstable than Microsoft Word and (though we've had no problems with their offline mode so far) it can be a bit worrying that you might lose your work.
Another free alternative to Microsoft Office is Open Office, which is an open source document editing software, which works pretty much exactly like the Microsoft Office package. It looks a bit different (though not by much) but you'll pick up where everything is pretty quickly, and can save your work offline just as you would do with Microsoft Office. It's highly usable and free.
Walk back and forth past a person handing out freebies, wearing a different moustache and wig each time
A lot of people think this is only for cartoons. Not so. Try it and real-life and see what happens.
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