“Free” Can mean a lot of things. “Free” can mean having the freedom to do what you want with your life and time. While these are very worthy topics to write about, this post is going to be about the more common use of the word “free”, in the sense of not costing any money.
I actually had a completely different post lined up for this week. However, the universe forced me to talk about free things by throwing free s**t at me and letting me enjoy free activities. I usually don’t talk (or even take seriously) things like “messages from the universe” but this week was too extreme for me to ignore.
Before I start sharing, let me warn you this post will include more photos than usual. All the photos in this post were all taken by yours truly.
So without further ado, let me share with you my week, how you can get free stuff delivered to your door, and the financial impact of free activities.
My “free” week
Sadly, I did not have a week off work. It was “just” a week full of free activities and stuff sent to my home. Let me start from Saturday.
Whenever the weather allows it, I take my daughter for a walk in her buggy along the canal. It is calm, quiet, beautiful, and she also gets to see animals that she will not see during the week: ducks, swans, and other birds.
Every time I walk along that canal I think how lucky I am, to have such a place only a ten-minute walk from where we live. I always think to myself that if I saw such a place while travelling abroad, I would be amazed by the beauty of it.
The funny thing is that when I got home I was thinking how much fun I had with my daughter, and how it cost me absolutely nothing. Little did I know what was ahead for me that week.
Sunday was by far my favourite day this past week. It started, as usual, with my morning routine with my daughter. This routing included a lot of mutual smiles and laughs. It was followed by Lazy FI mum and her mum (Lazy FI grandma?) taking our daughter to the pond and drinking some coffee, happy faces all around.
However, five minutes after they came back it started snowing!!!
The two ladies who just came back didn’t want to go back outside to the cold. However, when I said I’m not missing my daughter’s first snow- they joined.
We had the best time ever. My daughter was over the moon from the combination of the snow and the excited adults around her.
The total cost of this experience? £0.00
For the privacy of my daughter, sadly, I will not share photos of her face lighting up with a huge smile in the snow but it’s just as precious as you think (probably more).
Later that day, I had an online lesson with a new student I started tutoring. Tutoring is something I really enjoy and I plan to do this more once I reach FI. This Sunday, we started learning about a few functions in Excel. Not only do I really enjoy it, I actually make money from it!
This completes the section of free activities, now let’s move on to free products.
I sometimes sign up to get free stuff sent to me by post. Lazy FI Mum is often shocked by the amounts of parcels I receive with energy bars, perfume samples, and other cosmetic samples for her (I explain below how you can get these too).
However, Monday was a new record for me. I got a case of three flavours of Red Bull that I didn’t even remember signing up to! oops…
I guess this is the life of a “freegan”. “Freegan” is a term I heard on this Facebook group and it made me laugh.
Tuesday was double-freebies.
The morning started with a knock on the door by a delivery guy delivering a branded t-shirt from the job I just left a week ago, I guess they sent these out before my leaving date.
In the afternoon, I picked up my daughter from childcare and took her to our local library. Sadly, we couldn’t go in, but a selection of baby books was brought to us to choose from.
The local library is an amazing place to visit, especially for older (than my not-even-one-year-old daughter) kids.
- They learn to appreciate books and develop a passion for reading.
- They can get the “child in a candy store” feeling as they can choose whichever book they want and even more than one.
- Most importantly- you don’t need to store and spend money on dozens of books, which might not be relevant in a few months!
The library is great for adults too. I have had books in my Amazon shopping basket that I decided to check if the library had them so I can borrow them. A surprising benefit for me was that I tend to procrastinate reading but when you only have two or three weeks to read a book before you have to return it, it becomes a priority. It feels a bit like when you do the best studying a week before the exam, like positive pressure.
In addition, I recently found out my local library allows you to borrow audiobooks through an app. I went, again, through the books in my Amazon shopping basket and was able to find one (for those of you who care- Moonwalking with Einstein/ Joshua Foer). I listen to the book before I go to sleep and during walks with my daughter while she’s asleep in her buggy.
Due to COVID, I try to do my walks with my daughter where there aren’t many people- the canal on the weekends and in our block during the week.
On Wednesday afternoon, on my walk with her, while listening to my free library audiobook, I noticed something colourful and shiny in one of the bins. While I don’t make a habit of going through my neighbours’ trash, they were just in front of me- seven brand new balloons full of helium that were “floating” above the bin. I took my key out, cut the string off two of them, and brought them home for my daughter.
She’s currently terrified of them but it’s the thought that counts, right?
They’re still here and she’s getting used to them as the days go by so I hope one man’s trash can become another man’s not-so-terrifying treasure.
Before COVID and before becoming a dad, I used to do a lot of mystery dining. I actually kept an Excel sheet to track how much exactly is “a lot”. In my first two years (ending just before COVID) I managed to eat out for free a total of just under £8,000. Yes, that number is correct and will be explained in a separate post in the future.
Anyway, as you would expect- there aren’t many places open nowadays so I was happy to find an available dine from a café that will deliver to our home. That’s Monday’s lunch sorted.
A bit more free stuff
Although not free, because it definitely cost us (a lot of) money- we paid our monthly bill to the childcare centre my daughter goes to.
Why am I telling you that? Because thanks to a government scheme called “Tax-free childcare” the government essentially picked up 20% of that bill. The government will top up anything you save by 25% up to £500 a quarter. That means if you pay into that account £2,000 a quarter or more, you will get a free £500 from the government which you can use to pay for childcare. This means that for every £2,500 we pay the child centre, £500 (20% of £2,500) is paid by the government.
Update: I dedicated a separate post to this scheme- Tax-free childcare: free £2,000 a year from the government.
To find out how this actually works and if you’re eligible, visit the government’s website by clicking here and/or wait for my post about this amazing scheme and how to avoid some of the mistakes I made with it.
So that was my week, now let’s see what you can do to enjoy some of these free things as well.
How to get free stuff delivered to your door
Although I use WhatsApp as my main messaging app, I do have Telegram as well. I’m not sure why but the 2 best places I find free stuff are on Telegram.
1. Save The Student (STS):
STS is a great page. First of all, they don’t bombard you with messages and deals, they only send one message a day, rarely two. Also, they put an asterisk near the word “free” if a deal isn’t really free (usually for cashback). Not everything on there is free because they also include deals they think are worth mentioning. They also have a Facebook page if you don’t have Telegram or don’t want to use it. However, the deals do appear on Telegram first from what I’ve noticed so far. In case you were wondering – no, you don’t have to be a student to follow them on Telegram or on Facebook.
2. Latest Free Stuff (LFS):
LFS focuses on free stuff, they send a few messages a day.
The good thing about them is they have a lot of free stuff.
The bad thing about them (compared to STS) is that some of the links require signup and a slim chance of winning the opportunity to test an expensive product. Essentially, it is not as clear and easy to use as STS but it has more free stuff. Just like STS, there is an alternative to Telegram as they have their own app. Just search for “latest free stuff” on your app store, the logo is a red heart in a light blue circle. Remember the free Red Bull cans? I got them from LFS.
What else can you do?
Explore your local area, there might be beautiful areas to walk through like our canal.
Don’t forget to visit your local library, in person or virtually. If you like books like me and Lazy FI Mum do, they are great.
Do we ever spend money?
Let me start by saying this was not a free-from-spending week. I don’t even consider ourselves minimalists, we have a very high standard of living in our opinion.
I believe in value for money, this means that I consider a purchase for a while instead of buying it on an impulse. If I still want it after a few days- awesome, if I don’t or if I forget about it- it wasn’t worth my money anyway.
Ever since I became a dad I wait even longer before buying, because every penny I spend has the alternative use of getting me to FI quicker and allowing me to spend more time with my daughter.
This week, for example, an expense that passed that test was a premium subscription for Chess.com, I’ve been playing for just over a month and spend a bit too much time on the app. The premium account has a few features to improve your game. Although the annual subscription is not a lot of money, I still had to think about it for a month before being convinced I’ll get enough value for my money. Even then, I didn’t pay full price.
The financial impact of free activities
Doing free activities can be a lot of fun.
Firstly, keeping yourself busy, and having fun of course, for free can save you money compared to paid-for activities. You can invest this money and reach FI quicker.
Secondly, when I dream about my perfect post-retirement life, most of the things I dream about don’t cost a lot of money at all (if any), it’s mainly being outdoors and spending time with my family, ideally both at the same time. This means that by making free activities part of your normal schedule, not only do you save more- you also need less money to cover your expenses which again, can mean reaching FI quicker.
Lastly, while I’m not a Greenpeace environmental activist (sorry Greta) or even anything close to that, there is something nice about the great benefit to the environment from reusing things (like my neighbours’ balloons for example) and sharing things instead of each of us buying it separately (like books from the library).
What I’m really trying to say is that the best things in life are free, try and find an income-generating hobby, and go visit your local library.
What free activities do you get up to? Do you have a cool trick to get free products? Let me know in the comment section below.