​6 freebies and discounts that can help you save money

In the 2008 movie $5 a Day, Christopher Walken plays a deadbeat dad named Ned who lives off deals. Ned uses a cell phone for the duration of the free trial, gives it back, then picks up another one from a different carrier. He drives around in a fairy-tale pink Sweet’N Low car provided by the sugar substitute company. He even treats people at restaurants advertising BOGO deals, then conveniently forgets his wallet so his guests have to pay.

As absurd as Ned’s character may be, the movie raises an interesting question: What freebies/discounts/ways to save are we missing out on?

Here are six ways to save money with a little bit of knowledge. And, you don’t have to drive around advertising artificial sweetener to get them.

1. Put those gift cards to use

In 2012 alone, $2 billion worth of gift cards were unused by Americans. That’s billion, with a ‘b.’

Sometimes we lose them or let them expire—much to the company’s delight. What’s the solution? Keep those gift cards in a place where you won’t forget about them.

Other times, though, we get gift cards to stores we don’t frequent. Not to worry … you can still get something out of the deal. Websites like Cardcash and Cardpool will send you money for your unwanted gift cards. Coinstar has special kiosks that give you vouchers to take to the store and get cash on the spot. Don’t expect to get the full value of the gift card, though. Coinstar typically pays 60 – 85 percent of the gift card’s value, while Cardcash and Cardpool give up to 92 percent. But, some money is better than no money.

2. Download free music (legally)

Several reputable websites feature music from up-and-coming artists as free, legal downloads. In some cases, the entire album is available. The only thing these bands ask is that you tell your friends on Facebook or Twitter about them.

Noisetrade is a great place to start. It has artists representing practically every genre—even audio books. If you’re not a musical Magellan who enjoys finding new bands, you can still get free music and keep a clear conscience. Starbucks gives away a free song or app every Tuesday via their smartphone app. And popular musicians will occasionally give their fans a social media exclusive, too.

3. Take advantage of some birthday lovin’

Birthday deals can range from a free burger and fries at restaurants like Red Robin, to 15 percent off purchases during your birth month at American Eagle. Most places require you to sign up for their mailing list or a rewards program beforehand. But if you’re already buying what they’re selling, why not sign up?

4. Get even more free drinks at Starbucks

Many coffee connoisseurs know that by registering a Starbucks card online, purchases made on that card earn “stars” that lead to a free drink. But did you know that you can earn stars for buying Starbucks ground coffee at the grocery store? It’s true. Just go online and enter the code on the bag to get one step closer to a free drink.

But wait … there’s more. Bring in your empty bag of Starbucks coffee and they’ll give you a free drip coffee. And, while you’re at it, enjoy your coffee in the store. Card members get free refills.

5. Stalk social media sites (and the library) to spend less on your vacation

Travel books are helpful, but social media can also be a handy—and more current—resource to maximize your vacation dollars. See if the places you want to go to have a Facebook or Twitter account. If they do, follow them to see if any deals pop up. You can always remove them when the trip is over.

If you take a “stay-cation,” find deals by scoping out the community events board at your local library. Occasionally, the library will have free passes to local museums, attractions or cultural events. Ask your friendly librarian if they have any freebies for library patrons.

6. Make sure you’re getting the insurance discounts you deserve

You can save on your car insurance, too. Check with your insurance company to see if you’re getting the discounts you deserve. For example, Progressive’s “Ways to Save” page shows you the discounts you may not be taking advantage of.

Knowing is half the battle

The moral of the story is this: When it comes to saving money, a little knowledge can make a big difference. It doesn’t take a lot of leg work to find these deals, just a little research. Look online and talk to your friends. And, if you find some good deals, share them below in the comments section!