The Quick Report

20 Things People Pay for Even Though They’re Free

People paying for something they could’ve gotten free happens more often than you think. This can add up significantly over time. If you’re looking to cut expenses, here are 20 things to stop paying for that you can get for free.

20. Advice

woman in blue sweater using white earbuds
Photo by Joyce Busola

People pay for advice through books, courses, consulting, or coaches. However, practically anything you want to learn can be found on the Internet. Countless videos and blogs offer the same information for free. You can use ChatGPT to guide you to sources of information or get advice straight from ChatGPT (but be sure to fact-check).

19. TV

a flat screen tv sitting on top of a white cabinet
Photo by Oscar Nord

The average TV cable bill runs approximately $217 per month and even the minimum seems to cost no less than $100. There are more free broadcast channels than ever and you’ll likely get them all if you live in a metro area. If you’re more rural, you may need to install an antenna and amplifier, but it’s a one-time cost.

18. Education

woman in black long sleeve shirt sitting in front of silver macbook
Photo by Annie Spratt

Public schools, colleges, and other institutions are increasing the number of available free online courses. Some of these can help you avoid the cost of private school, trade school, or paid courses. For example, learn to program for free, and quickly land an entry-level job without an expensive college degree. More companies are prioritizing skills and experience over a degree.

17. Movies


With theater prices around $15 per ticket, you can save a bundle of cash if you don’t need to see movies right when they’re released. Borrow movies from public libraries for free. An increasing number of free streaming apps have a huge selection of free movies if you can handle commercials. Some offer classic films you can’t find elsewhere.

16. Water


Save money on bottled water by filling up your reusable container or jug for free at a public water source, which is perfectly safe. Invest in a filtered pitcher to improve the taste if desired. For a few bucks, install a $15 filter on your kitchen sink to improve the clarity and taste of water at home.

15. Music

black ipad beside white portable speaker
Photo by Alvaro Reyes

Purchasing albums or monthly subscriptions for music can really add up. But you can find and listen to almost any music artist that exists or ever existed on YouTube for free. Radio is still a free source of music. There are also free music streaming platforms with millions of songs.

14. Recipes and Cookbooks


Cookbooks continue to be popular bestsellers with a typical cost of $20 to $40 per book. However, most recipes, of any style, can be found online for free. Amazon and other places offer a huge number of free cookbooks as e-books. You can also watch free cooking videos on YouTube and other sites.

13. Video Games


The average new video game costs $60. Video games can be borrowed free from public libraries. Many sources of free video games exist online. Visit the PlayStation, Microsoft, or Nintendo stores. Visit sites such as Steam or Classic Reload. Lots of developers release free demos of new games before their release. Check out Reddit for sources at /r/FreeGameFindings and /r/freegames.

12. Dirt


Some people purchase topsoil or a dump truck of dirt. But you can find free dirt with a little effort. Listings for free dirt are on Craigslist all the time. If you only need a little dirt for your garden, you may find it elsewhere on your property or nearby natural areas. 

11. Books


People still buy books although there are many resources available. A new book runs anywhere from $15 to $25 on average. However, you can still read books for free from your local library. You can check out an extensive collection of books. Many sources of free electronic books exist online. Amazon offers free e-books in every category.

10. Rocks and Stones


Unless you’re looking for rocks of equal size and color, there’s no need to spend money on rocks and stones for landscaping. Free rocks can be found in your own backyard or nearby areas. It takes a little time and effort, but you can find the right rocks and stones to create the look you want.

9. Maps


While many people use digital maps these days, such as Google Maps or Maps on iPhone, some folks still prefer purchasing physical paper maps. Some people pay for GPS device subscriptions. But if you insist on paper, and have a printer, you can access free maps from Google, Bing, or MapQuest and still print out paper directions.

8. Mulch


Mulch can run from $5 a bag to $24 a bag for organic. However, you can make your own mulch for free by saving your yard waste such as fallen leaves, wood chips, and other organic materials. Many municipalities also give away free mulch (you don’t have to live in their city).

7. Software


Software can range between $30 to $500 for a license. Most software now uses subscription-based plans that run $100 annually or more. However, people often overlook open-source and freeware programs that perform many, if not all of, the same functions as their paid counterparts. Many of these free programs focus on providing the key features needed for a particular task.

6. Sand


The cost of construction sand runs between $15 to $40 per ton depending on the quality you require. Purchasing sand at a big box hardware store runs about $7 for a 50-pound bag. But if you live near a beach, desert, or other sandy areas, free sand is in abundance. You may have to sift out some small rocks.

5. Home Repairs

black and red tool box
Photo by Tekton

Many people still pay a repair person to do a home repair. Not only are these expensive, but often they’re something a homeowner could easily do themselves. Countless free articles and tutorial videos will show you what you need and everything you need to do, step-by-step, to repair something.

person holding pencil near laptop computer
Photo by Scott Graham

Many legal matters don’t require an attorney, but people will still pay an exorbitant price to have a lawyer provide them with a legal document. There are many sources of free templates online and at public libraries of standard legal forms. They do require careful reading of instructions. However, you can find guides for completing most forms free online.

3. News


With more people abandoning traditional newspapers and magazines, major news companies have shifted to online paywalls for access to their stories. Apple has Apple+. However, if you simply want to stay informed about the most important stories, it’s easy to find free news sources that will give you the latest headlines and trending stories.

Read More: 10 Things Kids Don’t Have at School Anymore

2. Clothing


Clothing can run from $20-$100 per item on the low end. There are many ways to find clothing for free. Thrift stores sometimes do free giveaways. Check listings on Craigslist, the Freecycle Network, Free Stuff Finder, Freebies, Get It Free, and other sites. You can even run a free ad asking for hand-me-downs or offer clothing swaps.

Read More: 15 Things We Miss About Going to the Mall

1. Running

woman jogging near wire fence
Photo by Andrew Tanglao

People pay to run at a gym or other location for many reasons. It might be a weather-free environment with heating or air conditioning, safety, or convenience. However, there are numerous places you can run safely for free outdoors. Schools, parks, public facilities, and even some law enforcement training facilities offer free access to their tracks, paths, and trails.

Read More: 20 Affordable Vacation Ideas