Trade shows and homeshows are one of the absolute best places to find freebies. Whether it’s an industry-specific trade show like for model railroading or farm equipment, there are usually lots of vendors offering samples, or branded freebies to people at the home show. Most of these events are free, and even the top ones have just a $5 entrance fee or so, which will more than cover the free stuff.
Here’s some of our favorite things we’ve gotten for free at these shows:
-Golf gear: for some reason, there’s an unspoken rule about trade shows that golf ones always have the best gear. You wouldn’t believe the hauls we’ve had, from golf tees, to free caps, to actual rangefinders. The cool thing about those is that even though they’re expensive, companies want someone to be on the course showing one off. That’s supposed to drive up their sales in the long run. But as far as you’re concerned, you’re ending up with one of the best on the market for free. Just put on your best golf enthusiast face, and act like you're an important person who writes lots of laser rangefinder reviews. It’s also a good bet that you’ll get free rounds at local courses, or at least significant discounts.
-Tools: Home shows especially are absolutely full of tools. Now, you’re not going to get a full power drill for free, but you’re almost guaranteed to find free T-squares, edges, tape measures, wrenches, and handy multitools. If you can put up with a bit of branding, you can do pretty well outfitting your toolbox for free.
-Gadgets: Home shows are also great places to find nifty gadgets that you wouldn’t necessarily want to spend money on, but don’t mind owning. We’ve found half a million random kitchen doohickeys, from avocado “keepers” to veggie peelers, to those little rings you put around eggs to make breakfast sandwiches. There’s also a whole range of weird cleaners and tools for cars and houses, usually free to sample.
-Air fresheners: say no more. There are SO MANY air fresheners out there, just waiting to be had.
-Shoe horns, nail files, and back scratchers: These should probably go in the gadget category, but for some reason we see literally thousands of these at homeshows and variety fairs. They seem to be a favorite for local companies looking to get their brand out there. Again, this isn’t stuff you necessarily need, but who cares? It's free!
There are plenty of ways to find free food around. You can easily eat a few meals a week for free, and find lots of snacks to keep you tided over in between.
Here’s a few of our usual haunts for free food:
Diet Studies: If you live near a big university with a medical program, you’ll probably see posters around for programs looking for trial participants. Unlike medical studies, where you take a trial drug for a few months in return for cash compensation, diet studies want to strictly control what the participants eat. And, luckily for you, the only way to do that is supply them food! So, if you can get yourself into one of these experiments, you could end up with something like a month of free food!
-Samples at upscale stores: Pretty much any upscale shop on a high street or market block will be selling a niche, gourmet product. Whether it’s cheese, chocolate, or olive oil, you can nearly always have a few nibbles as you walk down the street. It’s best to go on a busy shopping day, like Saturday afternoon, when you can blend in and be a bit less obvious about stuffing your face.
-Farmers’ markets: Farmers’ markets usually are selling things, but most stands that have a specialty product like sausage or jam offer some tasters. Of course, these sort of situations are a bit personal, so you might feel a bit bad not buying anything.
-Challah bread: A lot of religious centers have some sort of bakery component attached. It’s especially common with Jewish centers, whether it’s on a college campus or at the local synagogue. We’ve eaten some serious loaves for free-usually whole bags of bread get given out!
-Community center dinners: Wellness center and community centers are springing up all over the country. They offer a whole bunch of free services, from wifi to yoga classes. But the best part is the free dinners, which you can usually have at least once a week. They’re not always premium food, but if you can make do with some hot lasagna, you’ll do very well for yourself. Save some money and meet neighbors you might not have seen before.
Home Showings: These are the best places for the wine and cheese sort of spreads. This isn’t your typical realtor tour-you’ll want to make sure you go to open house evenings where there are a few people. When they show to a group, they’ll generally have wine, cheese, some veggies and dip out for you to nibble on as you pretend to be a serious purchaser. Just wear something classy, and prepare to nod and smile. The best bets for these sort of showings are at condo developments, or resorts .
Your best bet for free entertainment is to get to know your local college communities. Student work is often very nearly as good as the professionals, and it’s nearly always free. While some universities charge for big productions like musicals and other larger plays, you can always find student work on show for free. Check out senior recitals, student-directed and student-written plays, and all sorts of other events which are free and open to the community.
During the summer, you’re sure to find free outdoor entertainment in any major city. Look around marketplaces for buskers and street performers, and be on the lookout for festivals and other events. Most of them won't charge, and even the ones that do have ticketing policies that are easy to work around.