I love to read. As the daughter of a bookseller and a letterpress printer, this is only natural. In fact, when I was little, my mother’s preferred punishment for me (on the oh-so-rare occasions I misbehaved) was to take away my reading privileges.
But books are expensive, especially when you live in a country where the majority language is not your native tongue. If I were to go to a bookstore and buy a new paperback novel in English, I would pay about â‚¬10.50- quite a chunk of change for a few days pleasure. Movies and music are the same thing, if they’re your weakness. A new CD can cost â‚¬10-â‚¬15, the same for a DVD. So what’s a frugal person to do?
Free Ways to Get Books
I bet the first place you’re thinking of is the library. But the library is not always free! Beyond the local taxes Americans pay to support their local library systems, many people around the world have to pay to be able to join their library. I pay â‚¬15 a year to use my city’s library system and have free access to a private, English language library through my membership in a local expat group.
I think the best way to get truly free books is by swapping them with friends. I have four or five friends who have similar taste in reading material as me, and we swap books frequently. But there are also more formalized book swapping services, such as Paperback Swap or BookMooch. I don’t have any experience with Paperback Swap, as they only accept US members, but I love BookMooch. For the cost of shipping a book to someone else, you get a new (to you) book. OK, it’s not truly free as you pay for the shipping on books you send to others, but it’s like getting a wonderful present when a mooched book arrives in your mailbox.
Free Ways to Get Music
One of my favorite ways to get free music is through Last FM. I love that I can listen to many different kinds of music, that I can see other users’ libraries, that I can just listen to one particular kind of music. I especially love that I don’t need to have my stuff with me to listen to music… not an MP3 player, CD player or even laptop in sight. Because it’s through the internet, I can listen to my favorite, personalized music anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. Not to mention that it is free! It is the perfect solution to radio listening at home– I just leave my laptop on and the music plays all day long.
If you’re looking to discover new artists, then here are a couple of interesting free sites. ReverbNation is an online place for music artists to promote themselves- there are many different styles represented here, and all kinds of sounds. It’s a great place to discover and support independent artists. If you speak French, then Zikpot is the place to go. (Warning- the only thing that I don’t like about this site is that it plays music automatically when you visit it… not workplace friendly!) Not only is it a good place to hear new artists, it’s a good place to learn about the stock market; you ‘bid’ on your favorite artist, and as he or she moves up (or down) the ranks you earn (or lose) ‘money’. Full disclosure: I learned about both of these sites from my husband- if you like loud rock music, you can check out his sites on ReverbNation and Zikpot.
Both of these sites are good for listening to music on your computer, but what about on the go? I don’t have a portable music player, unfortunately, so I don’t know frugal ways to get good music for a MP3 player or the like- does anyone have any tips?
Free Ways to Get Movies or TV
I often rely on the same techniques to get movies as books: the library or my network of friends. But I’ve heard of another alternative, for people in the US: SwapaDVD. It’s run by the same people as PaperbackSwap, so I believe it to be fairly dependable, although I can’t vouch for that myself.
Most of the time however, I rely on the most frugal source of viewing there is: TV. I watch a lot of movies as they come on the UK satellite channels, but there is also the possibility of watching TV shows online. Miro is a free, open source system that lets you watch videos online. There are also many TV channels such as NBC or the BBC that will allow you to watch the most recent episode of a show.
Other Things to Try
My Points is a great way to earn points and therefore dollars and gift cards. I read a lot of their emails, but buy very little. I can exchange the points I get for reading the emails for gift cards to places like Target or Amazon. I sure don’t mind getting money in exchange for reading a few emails!
Do you have a lot of books that you would like to get rid of? Maybe you’re interested in swapping your old reads and ‘already seens’ for someone elses’. Try posting an ad on your local Craig’s List– ads are free, and you can’t lose anything but a few minutes of your time.
What did I miss? How do you get books, movies and music for free?