8 Free Alternatives for Stuff That Cost Most People Money

by David@MoneyNing.com · 3 comments

I went to get the flu shot the other day, a trip I make once a year to keep not just me but those around me safer. And oh man I felt so sluggish afterward! I got the shot in the morning and I was only half functional for pretty much the rest of the day. The nurse said it’s normal to feel tired though and not something I needed to worry about. Luckily, I’m back to 100% now and everything seems to be a-ok.

This year, we changed where we got the flu shot. We found out that our county’s health agency offers the vaccine for free, so I saved $18 since we normally go to Costco and pay the fee.

The experience was great too. Unlike Costco where the pharmacists/nurse there are really young and inexperienced, the nurse at the health agency was really good at administering shots so it was quick and it didn’t hurt at all.

Plus, I’m not sure if it had anything to do with the pandemic but I made an appointment and was in and out of the place in 5 minutes.


What are you paying for that’s probably free?

Most people have health insurance through their work, and most plans cover the cost of basic vaccines like flu shots already so not many people are missing out on free vaccines. Still, there are plenty of other stuff people pay for regularly that are free.

For instance:

Books and Magazines

Sara recently got into Harry Potter. I know, like five years late, but we didn’t push for her to read the books like many other parents when the movies were all the rage. We felt she was too young to appreciate the content even if she could pronounce all the words back then. She was so excited after she was halfway through the first book that I thought about buying the whole set because every copy of the rest of the series in the library was checked out. Our friend told us though that they bought the set years ago and their child never touched it. We ended up borrowing from them.

When was the last time you spent money on books and magazines? The library is a great resource for both. In some cases, so are your friends!

Tax Filing

I use a CPA to file my taxes because I run a home business, and have various tax advantage accounts on the business and personal side. Plus, I wanted to offload some administrative responsibilities to someone else and have a sounding board for how I keep track of all my records since I pretty much do everything by myself at the company. But back when I was working at a day job, I used Turbotax to file all my taxes. I was literally done in 15 minutes once a year. I actually spend more time emailing the CPA now to get them to file my taxes each year than I did back when I did my personal taxes. And the online platform charged me something like $50. My CPA would likely laugh if I asked him to price match.

Turbotax also offers a free version if you only file tax form 1040. Their competitor, H&R Block, also offers a free version, as do the IRS themself with what’s known as IRS Free File for those with income within a certain limit. As of writing, that amount is $69,900.

How much are you paying to file your taxes?

Digital Storage

Online storage is so common these days, but everyone I know pays Apple to store all the data they have on the phone because they ran out of the free storage that’s included with each Apple account. There are free alternatives though. Amazon Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive are just a few of the companies that offer free storage in hopes that you’ll pay for more. With each of them offering a few gigabytes of data, do you really need to pay for online storage?


We were lucky when we bought the house right before the pandemic in that we bought all the furniture that was already in the house. Otherwise, we might still have largely empty rooms because there were a few months when we weren’t comfortable going out to shop at physical stores. We could’ve looked through Craiglist.org and Nextdoor.com for free furniture though. When we were trying to sell our furniture in our old place, I couldn’t believe how many people were just giving out their old furniture. They were amazing quality too. The Facebook marketplace is also a great place to get free furniture. If there is a need in the future, I suggest you look there first.

Productivity Software

My friend was asking the other day if anyone wanted to share a family Office 365 account. I’m not sure if that’s even legal, but why try to save a few bucks and possibly have to break the law when you can accomplish the same goal for free? Every operating system comes with an email client these days. And the Google suite of productivity apps (like Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc) have come so far that it’s a realistic replacement for Microsoft Office.

The best part about Google Docs and the like is that it’s natively online, which means you can just go onto any computer, tablet, or phone and access your documents. My kids use Google Docs exclusively at school now, and they don’t even need to press save anymore because the app pretty much automatically saves everything that’s typed onto the document. I told Jayden, my 8 year old, about how I’ve lost hours of work because I forgot to save back when I was in school, and he just gave me the “what are you talking about, Dad” look.

I’m getting old!

Phone Calls and Text Messages

I use Ting as a cell phone provider and pay less than half of what I used to pay AT&T. They even provide free long distance calls to a bunch of countries so I have that covered if I needed to call someone overseas. If I don’t want to use up my minutes, I fire up my Google Hangout app and make calls there. It uses data and any calls won’t count as minutes used on my cell plan and all calls within North America is free. Calls are crystal clear too because when I’m home, the calls route through WiFi.

You shouldn’t be paying for text messages either. I think people in the United States are one of the few countries around the world who still pay for text messages because we are still paying for SMS text messages whenever we text someone with an Andriod phone. Apple has its iMessage system, so at least messages between people with iPhones are free. And it’s not that people in other countries don’t use any other brands of smartphones. It’s just that they smartly all use a messaging app for their texting needs.

Some people are wary of companies “eavesdropping” on their conversation through these messaging apps, but it’s really the same thing with iMessage or SMS because iPhone owns the former and your carrier can access SMS message contents.

Next time you see those green text messages (meaning they are paid ones) ask the other party which messaging app they already use and just migrate your conversations over.

Stream Music for Free

Those music streaming apps are awesome, so I’m not here to tell you to stop paying if you can’t live without their premium version. Still, the free version of each app is also extremely good. Between YouTube, and the free version of Spotify and Amazon Music, all my music needs are met already. And if you have an Amazon Prime Membership, it comes with Amazon Music without all the ads.


I always wonder why the bank is able to make so much money off fees each time I read their quarterly call transcripts. I know they nickel and dime us whenever and wherever they can, but I’ve honestly paid less than $50 in 30 years of banking. And the only reason why it’s not zero is that I’ve made overseas wire transfers a couple of times before to a vendor in another country. That’s it.

Have you been charged fees before? Figure out why you had to pay and at least don’t let that happen next time. Pro tip: if you are charged a fee and it’s pretty recent, call up a banker and ask them to waive it. Chances are good that they will do something about it.

Bottom Line

The Internet not only made a ton of things cheaper but it’s also created opportunities for companies to offer free alternatives. If you are paying for something to do done right now, there’s a decent chance that you can find a free alternative. Google is your friend. Go to the search bar and type away. You could be saving a ton of money after a few searches.

What do you pay for these days that you know could actually be completely free? What’s stopping you from saving that sum?

Editor's Note: Did you know about the service called $5 meal plans? For $5 a month, they send you recipes of delicious, healthy, yet cheap food that costs just $5 a meal.

Several of my friends signed up and they are able to eat at home more because the instructions are easy to follow, making everything convenient. The deal also comes with grocery shopping lists, which saves them so much time. Check it out yourself by clicking here and you too may be able to save more and become healthier at the same time.

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

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  • Joe on the Move says:

    I think I originally went to Ting because of your recommendation too. Thanks for that. I pay $30 for my line and it uses the same Verizon network as my old phone.

    I haven’t tried Google Hangout though. What is it? How do you get free calls?

  • Vicki says:

    I’m guilty of buying a book here and there instead of going to the library. I like filling up my shelves with books. It makes me look smart :).

    • Isabel says:

      An Amazon Prime membership includes a section of free videos and books and music. The book choices are limited but it is a good place to start. Most libraries also have online books and movies and music that can be downloaded or listened to free of charge. There are some libraries that even loan out items you would not expect like small kitchen appliances and some kits for cooking or crafting.

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