J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy shared a frugal tip from a reader who needed $1 to get something notarized. The place accepted only cash and the reader had zero money, “not even change in my cupholders.” Paying a $3 ATM fee for a $1 errand was just too irritating to contemplate.
The solution: Hit the drugstore for an 89-cent soda and a $20 cashback.
This is how I get all my walking-around money. I don’t like waiting in bank lines. I like ATMs even less, because I’m paranoid about muggers or card skimmers.
Since a real frugalist hates to pay for anything unnecessary, I always buy for something I’ll eventually use. My fallback purchases are a $1 box of dried fruit from Walgreens or a pound of carrots at the Asian market.
In the blog’s comments section I pointed out that the reader might not have needed to go to all that trouble. Many banks and credit unions will notarize a customer’s documents for free.
And that got me thinking: What other services can you get for nothing?
Stamps and tires
I started a thread on the Smart Spending message board and a few ideas floated in.
Financial planning: One woman’s credit union provides help from a certified financial planner, free of charge.
Mailing: What with online bill pay, e-mail and e-greeting cards, it’s possible to do without snail-mail postage altogether. “I haven’t bought a book of stamps in almost two years,” one contributor noted.
Coin counting: Companies like Coinstar charge a fee. Some banks and credit unions have free counting machines. Or they may be willing to pour a mayonnaise jar full of specie into the behind-the-counter counter. (Note: Coinstar et al. may not charge you if you take the total in certain gift cards.)
Jewelry cleaning: A reader and her husband take their wedding rings to the shop where they bought them for a little re-sparkling. I don’t know if this would work for non-customers – although, come to think of it, I have sometimes heard jewelers offer free cleanings to browsers.
Auto check: Back when the Earth was still cooling, service stations would check your car’s fluids. These days you may luck into a garage that will do this. One reader noticed a low tire so she went to a local tire dealership that advertises free pressure checks (and brake checks, too). A slow leak was discovered and the $7 she paid beat the heck out of discovering a flat the next morning. Free popcorn in the waiting room, too.
Ask and ye shall receive (maybe)
Sometimes free service finds you. Once while vacationing I lost a screw from my glasses. I walked into an optical shop and explained my dilemma. The woman behind the counter fixed my specs and declined my offer to pay.
Sometimes you just have to ask. A friend needed to cushion a small souvenir for the trip home. She went into a Fed Ex/Kinko’s and asked if there was any stray bubble wrap to be had. An employee gave her a handful of pieces and lent her a tape dispenser to secure the wrap.
How about it, readers: What services do you never have to pay for?
Please don’t answer “sex.” I’ve already thought of that one. Besides, in the long run it can sometimes be cheaper just to buy it.