10 Things I Used to Buy That I Now Get For Practically Free

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The following contribution is from DJ at MyMoneyDesign.com.

Technology is a crazy thing.  Two decades ago, you used to have to “buy hours” to use the Internet. (Remember AOL?)  Now with most plans, you can use it for virtually as long as you want at the same price.

We were trying to explain this concept to our kids and it blew their minds that you used to have to pay by the hour to use the Internet.  This got us thinking about a whole bunch of other things that we used to spend way too much for that are now virtually free.

1. Music

Long gone are the times when I used to fork over $15 to Best Buy for a CD or download music from iTunes.  These days when I’m in the mood for some good tunes, I simply turn on one of my music apps like Pandora or Spotify.  If you can stomach the occasional ad or two, then it’s completely free to listen to just about any artist I want.  Plus these apps are a really good way to discover a lot of other music that I would have never heard of before.

2. Capturing Memories

It wasn’t that long ago when we used to lug a digital camera and camcorder to nearly every special event or family gathering we went to.  Now, thanks to all the advancements in optics and capacity with smartphones, we just use our iPhones instead.  Not only is the picture and video quality great, but it’s way more convenient.

Plus, if I want to share any of these memories with friends and family, I no longer have to print them out or put them on a blank disc.  Social media sharing has made it so that instantly anyone can see them.

3. Movies

I was never a big fan of going to the video store.  In fact, I kinda hated Blockbuster.  Not only were they always out of the movie I wanted to see, but then you also got slapped with late fees if you forgot to return them on time.

For a movie buff like myself, I take in a lot of new material in a variety of ways:

  • Netflix. Even though it costs a small monthly fee for the streaming service, with everything that becomes available, it feels like pennies on the dollar.
  • YouTube. Believe it or not, you can find a wealth of free, full-length movies on YouTube.  Do a quick search and you will see what I mean.
  • Redbox. The coupons Redbox sends me by email are incredible.  Often I’ll get “$1.25 off” when a basic DVD only costs $1.50 to rent.  Should I watch some new release for $0.25?  Sounds good to me!
  • The Library. Even the local library is on board with having new releases and more recent movie titles available to check out for free.

4. Office Software

For decades now, we’ve all become slaves of Microsoft Office and its $200 price tag.  I’ve resented that fact so much that we’ve used the same version for about the past 15 years.  But now, thanks to Google Docs, that’s no longer going to be an issue.  Google Docs is an all-in-one program that’s got the same look and feel as what you’re used to with Office, but it costs you nothing.  In addition to a few nice bells and whistles, since it’s web-based, this makes it super easy to share and collaborate on projects.

5. Banking

Two things that used to annoy me about banking: Actually going to the bank and fees.  Now, thanks to modern technology once again, both are no longer an issue.

If I want to deposit a check, make a transfer, or open a new account, all I have to do is use the app on my phone or PC.  Within a few seconds, the transaction is complete!

With all the competition brick-and-mortar banks get from awesome online ones, there’s no reason at all to ever pay fees or put up with minimum holdings.  You can save a ton of money this way.  Plus, earning a higher level of interest with the online banks isn’t too bad either!

6. Investing

Banks aren’t the only thing to have evolved with the times.  Calling up a broker to make an investment has literally become a thing of the past.  Anytime I want to change my funds, make a deposit or trade, I can hop online to my account and move my money around for little or nothing.  There’s no longer any middle-man or broker to pay out a commission to, which means more money for me.

7. Workouts

Even though there is still a huge market ($264.5 billion) for exercise training products like P90X and others, I can tell you that with everything just like that’s on YouTube and completely free to watch, I will never pay for one of those types of videos ever again.  There are literally of thousands of incredible, well-produced workout videos that you can watch anytime you want.  We like to use the app on our Smart TV and follow along on the big screen.

Related: Is a Gym Membership Worth it?

8. Books

I like books.  I gain a lot from them.  But let’s be honest: When you’re done with them, what do we really do with them?

Nowadays to bypass buying books altogether, I simply get them from the library (either physical copy or digital).  Just like we mentioned with the movies, libraries do a much better job these days getting recent titles.  And with the ability to check them out online and sent to my iPad, that makes everything even simpler.

Sometimes I’ll also use sites like Amazon or BookBub to get new ebooks for free.  They’ve got lots of deals going all the time where new books are temporarily discounted to free.  It’s a good way to stock up on reading material!

 9. Vacations

Are vacations free?  They are if you use the tricks I know …

About a year ago, I got into the world of “travel hacking” and started opening up multiple credit cards specifically to take advantage of their big introductory offers where they give away thousands of rewards points.

As it turns out, that strategy works really well!  We’ve personally scored free flights, hotel stays, and rental cars that would have totaled thousands of dollars out of pocket.  As long you keep using your credit cards responsibility, it’s a great way to exploit this savings trick to the fullest.

10. Advice

This is by far the greatest thing available that has become free.

Advice and information on nearly any topic in the world can be discovered at the click of a search button.  Thanks to the Internet and all the free content that people have created, you can find help on just about anything you want to know more about.  I’ve taught myself a wealth of topics on everything from investing, blogging, writing, travel, exercise, nutrition, and so much more.  It really is incredible how easily you can learn something new if you’re ambitious enough to go looking for it.

Readers – What do you get for free (or nearly free) that you used to have to pay for?

Author bio: DJ is the author of the book Save BETTER!.  He is also the creator of the websites My Money Design and 1,000 Ways to Save, two places where you can learn a ton about how to creatively spend less, have more fun, and achieve financial freedom along the way.  Connect with him on Pinterest.

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6 responses to “10 Things I Used to Buy That I Now Get For Practically Free”

  1. MyMoneyDesign says:

    Hi Deacon,
    Thanks again for letting me contribute! My son was just laughing again the other day about my stories of the “old days” when we used to buy for use of the internet by the hour. He thought it was totally ridiculous! The funny thing is that I did too – most of your time was spent just waiting for the page load because everything was so slow back then!

  2. Jeff | VTX Capital says:

    I’m certainly happy with the advances in picture taking these days. These kids will never know the struggle of going to a picture store (not wal-mart) with your disposable camera and having to wait to see if there were “ghosts” in your picture.

    • Deacon Hayes says:

      Haha, I remember taking in my disposable camera to the store and many of the pictures didn’t turn out. Those days are long gone because now we can just delete and retake them instantly. Man, how technology has changed over the past 20 years!

  3. Adriana @MoneyJourney says:

    I remember the old days both fondly…and less so.
    I remember using the dial-up way past my bedtime, because during the day we had a fixed allowed schedule (boy, did dial-up cost back then!)

    I guess if I had to pick a favorite, though, it would be education. The fact that nowadays you can learn just about anything with the help of the internet is priceless. Knowing that the information you’re interested in is just a few clicks away is amazing.

    • Deacon Hayes says:

      Yeah, dial up was brutal. I agree with you on the education piece. It is far easier to learn anything with the access we have via the internet.

  4. Centsai says:

    Isn’t technology a wonderful (but slightly scary) place? With everything we get free now, imagine what else will be free in years to come! Great article, Deacon!

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