Apr 22, 2016 at 20:35 o\clock

23 surprising things you can get for free

(RealSimple.com) -- Sometimes you get what you don't pay for. Here are nearly two dozen of the best freebies and -- most important -- how to score them.

Free education

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Get your geek on: MIT offers a far more comprehensive selection of free online courses than other universities -- nearly its entire undergraduate and graduate curriculum. Downloading materials takes minutes. A newsletter highlights new offerings, from Quantum Physics to American Women Authors.

What's the Catch? Users can't enroll, take classes on campus, or earn degrees.

Find Out More: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html

BBC, FrenchPodClass. The BBC offers top-notch online and MP3 lessons in languages familiar and obscure, including French, German, Portuguese, Mandarin, Greek, and Urdu. FrenchPodClass has easy-to-use, enjoyable podcasts that allow you to learn French while you do errands or go for a run.

What's the Catch? Classes are one size fits all, which fast learners may find sluggish (and slow learners may find difficult).

Find Out More: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html, http://www.frenchpodclass.com/

Free classes

U.S. Small Business Administration. Learn how to write a business plan, register your company, and deal with the tax details of running a home business at your local Women's Business Center evening classes (men are welcome, too).

What's the Catch? Novices and more advanced learners share the same classroom.

Find Out More: http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html (click on "Local Resources" for a nearby center and for financial and marketing information).

Apple Stores. Apple gives excellent classes on business and entertainment software, music programs, and computer basics, all remarkably free of sales pitches. There are also classes on how to use Apple hardware, like iPods. Most of the company's stores -- there are more than 170 -- offer several classes a day.

What's the Catch? All classes relate to (often pricey) Apple products.

Find Out More: http://www.apple.com/retail/ (click on "Visit an Apple store").

Free culture

Museum visits. While some museums don't charge an admission fee, others can cost $20 and up (more than a movie!). Take advantage of free days, half days, and nights that take place weekly or monthly at various institutions throughout the United States.

What's the Catch? The free-admission times tend to attract large crowds; expect long lines and less of an opportunity to get up close and personal with a Czanne.

Find Out More: Check out the Web sites of your local museums.

Music Together, Music for Aardvarks, Gymboree. These three companies all offer a complimentary peek at exactly what baby music classes entail (hint: plenty of drumbeating, rattle shaking, and scarf throwing). It's a great way to introduce your little one to the experience before shelling out $135 to $255 for a full term (generally 10 to 12 weeks).

What's the Catch? Many parents have been taking classes together for a while, so they can be quite chummy. As an observer, you might feel left out and too shy to participate fully.

Find Out More: http://www.musictogether.com/ClassLocator.aspx, http://www.musictogether.com/ClassLocator.aspx, http://www.musictogether.com/ClassLocator.aspx.

Kids' Night on Broadway. Once a year (this year it was in late January), children ages 6 to 18 can experience the Great White Way for free with a full-paying adult. There are also Kids' Nights for nationally touring shows throughout the year.

What's the Catch? Tickets go very fast, especially for the most popular shows.

Find Out More: http://www.kidsnightonbroadway.com/kids.php.

Tip: To find out about free movies and concerts in your area, go to Yahoo or Google and type in the kind of entertainment, "free," and the name of your city.

Free gyms

Health-club trials. LA Fitness, Bally Total Fitness, the Sports Club/LA, and Gold's Gym have a range of free-trial offers, from one day to two weeks, for prospective members, as do many other gyms throughout the country. Rules vary.

What's the Catch? You often have to tour the health club with a sales representative, which sometimes takes as long as an hour. Some gym companies may require you to prove nearby residence with a driver's license.

Find Out More: Go to the gyms for details.

Free photos

Adorama, Dotphoto, Kodak, Snapfish. In addition to photo sharing and online albums, these popular services provide 15 to 50 free prints when you sign up.

What's the Catch? You have to pay for shipping, which usually isn't more than a few dollars.

Find Out More: https://www.dotphoto.com/join.asp http://www.snapfish.com/registration

Free pets

Craigslist Community Pet Listings, Petfinder.com. Unlike shelters, most of which charge a small adoption fee, these sites feature numerous free-pet notices posted by owners, usually as a result of an impending move or an allergic family member.

What's the Catch? Not all the owners who post notices are as honest as you'd wish. Out-of-control animals can be listed as "friendly and calm."

Find Out More: www.craigslist.org (click on your city, then on "Pets"), www.craigslist.org (click on "Classified Ads").

Free phone services

The Popularity Dialer. Want to flee that meeting? Get out of lunch after an hour? The Web-based Popularity Dialer can place one of five fake calls: the boss call, the cousin-in-need call, the male-friend call, the female-friend call, or the affirmation call (reminding you that you're wonderful). Each recording includes convenient pauses for your side of the conversation.

What's the Catch? You need to know beforehand that you'll want rescuing and you have to be willing to break social graces by taking a phone call in the middle of a meeting or lunch.

Find Out More: www.popularitydialer.com.

800-FREE-411. Instead of dialing 411 and being charged 50 cents to $1.50, call this service, from a cell or a landline, for free nationwide directory assistance.

What's the Catch? You have to listen to a 20- second ad before receiving your number.

Find Out More: 800-373-3411 (800-FREE-411).

Skype. Download and install free Skype software and call other Skype users, computer to computer, at no charge, anywhere in the world. If you have a webcam, you can see whom you're chatting with, too.

What's the Catch? If you don't have DSL or a cable modem, it may be more cost-effective (money- and sanity-wise) to dial up the old-fashioned way.

Find Out More: www.skype.com.

Free e-mail reminders

Memo to Me. Avoid visits to the "belated birthday" or "so sorry I missed our anniversary" section of your local card store. Memo to Me reminds you before the event. Just plug in your e-mail, choose a password, and program the events you need to be reminded of and when you need the reminders. Whether it's Grandma's 80th or your own anniversary, no one wants to be the one who forgets.

What's the Catch? There's some innocuous advertising on the Web site.

Find Out More: www.memotome.com.

Tip: E-cards have gotten less corny. You can find witty and well-designed cards at www.hipstercards.com, vintage ones at www.cardcow.com, and photographic ones at ecard.digiart.ee.

Free ice cream

Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day. On one day every year (this year, April 17), all of the more than 600 Ben & Jerry's stores worldwide offer free cones, with no limit -- eat all the Cherry Garcia you'd like.

What's the Catch? There are often long lines, and popular flavors, like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, run out early.

Find Out More: www.benandjerrys.com for stores.

Free used books

PaperBackSwap.com, TitleTrader. List the books that you'd like to get rid of, then wait for someone to request one, which can take as little as eight minutes. Mail your book to the person and you'll receive a credit to choose your own book. PaperBackSwap.com involves only paperbacks, which keeps shipping cheap, usually about $1.60 per book. TitleTrader also lists DVDs, CDs, and VHS cassettes and can rack up higher costs with heavy hardbacks, though shipping rarely tops $4 at the book rate.

What's the Catch? Popular fiction moves fast, while classic and esoteric titles may stay put for months.

Find Out More: www.paperbackswap.com, www.titletrader.com.

Free household items

The Freecycle Network. This nonprofit community group with an environmental mission lets users "recycle" unwanted items by posting ads on local online bulletin boards. If you see a chair or a computer that you'd like, respond to the ad. The site is a great way to acquire a perfectly good coffeemaker or piano while doing your part to reduce waste.

What's the Catch? You're responsible for getting the stuff home.

Find Out More: www.freecycle.org to find a group.

Free (and worth it) samples

Many free-product programs come with hidden costs. The ones below are legit. Sign up for one and your in-box may be inundated, but there's also an outside chance you'll end up with a flat-screen TV.

Start Sampling (www.startsampling.com) connects manufacturers with consumers who test products. Type in your demographic information and you'll see a screen listing your free-sample options -- everything from cleaning products to Harlequin romance novels to toiletries.

Kiehl's (800-543-4572) hands out samples of every product it sells approximately 10 million giveaways a year. Request samples at a Kiehl's store (where the selection is usually larger) or a Kiehl's counter in a department store. Or call Kiehl's and tell the operator what you'd like to try and the company will send you up to three samples.

Programs from American Consumer Opinion and E-Poll (www.acop.com, www.epoll.com) allow users to take product surveys to get cash ($4 to $25 per survey), samples (ranging from pizza sauce to even the rare flat-screen TV), or points (which can be redeemed for gift cards from retailers such as Amazon.com and Target).

Oil of Olay's sample program (www.olay.com; click on "Samples & Offers") gives away small sizes of its newest products.

Sephora stores (www.sephora.com for locations) offer generous samples from the more than 150 cosmetics lines they carry. Just ask and a salesperson will hand you a packaged sample or fill jars with requested products for free.

Procter & Gamble's Home Made Simple and Tide e-newsletters (www.homemadesimple.com, www.tide.com) entitle you to discount coupons and new-product samples. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Get a FREE TRIAL issue of Real Simple - CLICK HERE !

Copyright 2007 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

All About Personal Finance Financial Planning National Economy

Apr 22, 2016 at 07:18 o\clock

Free guns program launches in Houston neighborhood

HOUSTON Houston resident Cheryl Strain's inexperience with guns was apparent as she struggled to load shells into a 20-gauge shotgun.

Over the piercing blasts of gunfire in the shooting range, Strain's instructor, Dan Blackford, patiently directed her on how to use her thumb to shove a shell all the way inside the barrel and feel it click.

"Now we got a round in the chamber ready to go," Blackford said as he positioned her body on the right way to hold the shotgun. "Look down your sight, put that BB right in the middle of your target and press the trigger."

Strain's northwest Houston community of Oak Forest is the first neighborhood in the country being trained and equipped by the Armed Citizen Project, a Houston nonprofit that is giving away free shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates.

While many cities have tried gun buy-backs and other tactics in the ongoing national debate on gun control, the nonprofit and its supporters say gun giveaways to responsible owners are actually a better way to deter crime. The organization, which plans to offer training classes in Dallas, San Antonio, and Tucson, Ariz., in the next few weeks, is working to expand its giveaways to 15 cities by the end of the year, including Chicago and New York.

But others in Houston, while expressing support for Second Amendment rights, question whether more guns will result in more gun-related deaths rather than less crime.

Residents of Oak Forest say their neighborhood, made up of older one-story houses and a growing number of new townhomes, has experienced a recent rash of driveway robberies and home burglaries. On a recent Sunday afternoon, a group of 10 residents, including Strain, went through training at Shiloh Shooting, a northwest Houston gun range.

Kyle Coplen, the project's 29-year-old founder said his group expects to train at least 50 Oak Forest residents and put up signs saying the neighborhood is armed.

"When we have a crime wave, we don't just say let's just increase police and that's all we do. We do multiple things. I see this as one aspect of what we can do," said Coplen, who graduated from the University of Houston with a master's degree in public administration.

It costs the organization about $300 to arm and train an individual and about $20,000 for an entire neighborhood. All costs are paid through donations, said Coplen, though he declined to say how much his organization has raised so far.

While some residents in the neighborhood are supportive, several officials have mixed feelings about it.

Sandra Keller, Strain's neighbor, said she is participating in part because of the helplessness she felt after her furniture store was robbed a couple of years ago.

"If you don't have a gun, you're just a walking victim. You're just waiting for somebody to take advantage of you and your property," said Keller, 64, after practicing at the shooting range.

But Houston City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, who represents Oak Forest, said, "I have serious concerns about more guns in homes."

Cohen said she supports Second Amendment rights and believes that such a responsibility should include proper training and background checks.

David Hemenway, a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health who has - - written about firearms and health, said studies suggesting gun ownership deters crime have been refuted by many others that say the opposite.

"Mostly what guns seem to do is make situations more lethal because most crime has nothing to do with guns," he said. "When there is a gun in the mix, there is much more likely to be somebody dying or somebody incredibly hurt."

Proponents of increased gun ownership point to a variety of statistics to support their argument, including ones showing that some cities with strict gun control laws, like Chicago, still have high murder rates.

Blackford, the firearm instructor in the Oak Forest training, said the group is teaching residents not only how to handle and store a weapon but also when to use deadly force.

"The sad part is most people think if you're pro-gun, that you've got this gunslinger attitude, that you are walking around looking for a gun fight to get into and that is so far from the truth," said Blackford, a former Secret Service agent.

Harris County Precinct One Constable Alan Rosen, whose deputies patrol Oak Forest, said that while he believes the best deterrent to crime is effective neighborhood watch programs, he believes people should have the right to protect themselves.

"In terms of having a shotgun, after you've been properly trained on it, to have that in your home to protect your home, I'm for it," he said.

Strain, 46, a single mother who has never owned a gun, said she was nervous firing the shotgun but that more training will help. She also had her 12-year-old son Rory practice firing the shotgun so "if God forbid something happens, he could be prepared as well."

2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Apr 21, 2016 at 07:28 o\clock

6 Items You Can Invest in to Make Money-Saving Weekends at Home More Fun

When I was a kid, I was never at home. My teenage years in Singapore were filled with nights that melted into mornings walking from Orchard Road to the Esplanade, playing cards at Newton Circus Hawker Centre at 5am and cycling in the middle of the road late at night in the knowledge that there would be hardly any cars.

I might be revealing my age by saying this, but those were the days when I didnt have to worry about paying a ton of money for cab fares. The night rider buses used to run until 5am, and the price of taking a taxi home after midnight was a mere fraction of what it is today.

Maybe thats why the older I get, the more appealing I find the idea of inviting friends over to my home, or chilling out at theirs, especially since a peaceful evening out in town can now easily cost over $50.

Having your friends over might save you money, but youve got to have something going for you other than your sparkling wit if your place is going to be your crews designated hangout. Here are six things to invest in to make your pad the place to be:

1. Cocktail shaker

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.12.42 AM

Cocktail shakers might not exactly be something you can buy for two bucks at Daiso, but the fact that cocktails in Singapore are so overpriced makes them a worthwhile investment. A basic $20 cocktail shaker is cheaper than a single cocktail at many bars.

Some friends of mine actually went so far as to buy a home bar complete with giant beer dispenser, but you dont have to go that far. The internet is a huge repository of not only cat videos but also cocktail recipes and instructional videos. Try to get all your booze from duty free as Singapore prices are just not acceptable!

2. Steamboat machine

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.14.25 AM

Okay, I have to admit I really want one of these things. Not all of us are capable of whipping up edible dinners for six people on short notice, and with a steamboat machine, youll never have to. The best thing is that steamboat dinners are always fun and social. Whether youre helping the person beside you locate his lost fishball or being the bad guy who stuffs all the vegetables into the pot, you can feel pleased that youre not paying $20 per head to enjoy the same experience elsewhere.

3. Mahjong set

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.16.13 AM

The guy who owns the mahjong set is always the one whose house all the mahjong kakis gather at for their regular games. If youre sick of having to spend all your your winnings to take a cab back home after a mahjong game, youd benefit from buying your own set. Before you purchase your set and table, do your research, as prices can vary greatlyyou should be able to get the whole shebang for about $50 to $70.

4. Board and card games

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.17.57 AM

Not everyone is a board game geek, but even if the last game your friends played was Snakes and Ladders, its a good idea to have some games at your disposal. Unless your friends are gaming freaks, its a good idea to steer clear of games that are hard to pick up or confusing. Games like Card Against Humanity, Dixit and Telestrations are perfect as theyre super easily to learn, dont require too much strategising and are high in entertainment value.

5. Karaoke microphone

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.20.16 AM

All of us have seen that middle aged man who goes to KTV pubs alone and then hogs the mike all night long, torturing the other customers with his renditions of Wa Meng Ti. If that sounds like you, instead of subjecting the rest of the world to your warbling, you might want to consider investing in a karaoke machine instead. Considering an evening of KTV usually costs at least $25 to $35 per person, youre saving your posse quite a bit of money. Youll see sets going for more than $1,000, but since most videos are available on YouTube anyway, buy a bunch of $10-$20 microphones instead and an HDMI cable so you can hook your laptop up to the TV.

6. Nintendo Wii

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 2.24.59 AM

Most consoles lack the mass appeal that the Wii has. Thanks to games like Rock Band, Just Dance and Wii Sports, the Wii can be the perfect party host/hostess that you most certainly arent. Just make sure the hardcore gamers dont hijack the set. While game consoles are never cheap, now that Wii U is out the Wii has gotten considerably cheaper, and you might be able to get a new one for $200+, while second hand sets can go for as low as $100+.

Image credits: Robert S. Donovan, momo, Alan Yeh, Joe Bain, He JiaWei, Enrique Dans

Do you own any of the above items? Share your experiences in the comments!

The post 6 Items You Can Invest in to Make Money-Saving Weekends at Home More Fun appeared first on the MoneySmart blog.

MoneySmart.sg helps you maximize your money. Like us on Facebook to keep up to date with our latest news and articles.

Compare and shop for the best deals on Loans, Insurance and Credit Cards on our site now!

More From MoneySmart

Apr 20, 2016 at 10:55 o\clock

16,000 Attend La Feria de la Familia (Family Fest)

Doris Irizarry, a northerner who easily adapted to her new Florida home, accidently started writing for a newspaper when an editor asked if she'd be interested in taking photos at a concert. She provided photos as well as a review and surprisingly both were published, from which Doris gained her own entertainment writing column. Doris commenced as a local Examiner -- Tampa Cultural Examiner and now on the national level as a Latin Music Examiner. She's covered the Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, the Billboard Latin Awards in Miami and many other important events. Apart from being an Examiner, shes an income tax preparer manager and her past times are gardening, selling, volunteering, and interior decorating - - including being a handy 'gal.' Contact: treasureworld247@aol.com

Apr 20, 2016 at 09:09 o\clock

Easy Ways to Make Money From Home

A job is never really appreciated, unless and until it gives you its worth. And if you are just idle at home and thinking on what to do, then you have more reasons to be happy as there are innumerable ways to keep oneself busy and at the same time, earn money. And when it comes to teenagers and kids, it is the dream of every parent to see their kids understand their responsibilities at a tender age and it doesn't get better than this, when you and your kids both have some easy ways to make money from home.

10 Simple Ways to Earn from Home

Money making is a talent in itself and devising new ideas for it requires creativity. Besides, before opting for a job which you would like to do from home, make sure it is something close to your heart. Passion driven hobbies make excellent jobs and they make working absolute fun. Here are some of the good money making tips, applicable across all the age groups.


Freelance content writing is one of the best ways to make money from home. Such writing jobs come as contracts, where the person may be hired on a project basis to write the content as desired. This is one of the best jobs for people who have a flare for writing on myriad topics. But before you earn your coveted pocket money, make sure that you are thorough with the copyright laws and the employee agreement annexures of the project you have opted to work for. In certain cases, some rights may also be offered to you for selling the piece of information, which happens to be your indigenous write up.

Do Research

Many websites today are in dearth of people who can research well, because researching requires a lot of patience and diligence to assimilate information on a particular topic. Of course, this is a good start for people who are extremely net savvy and enjoy Internet surfing a lot. For this, however, one must be knowledgeable in web programming and HTML tags. Also, an Internet researcher must be well versed about Internet terminology and other aspects like search engine optimization. To start from home, all you need is your own website with your own DBA. Once done with the setup, there are a lot of free homepage services that will provide other design tools, web space, and email as needed. Start your job by marking the presence of the site on the Internet.

Merchandise Shopping

This is a new concept in itself. If you have gone through many online retail review stores telling you what to buy and what not to, it is because it hires people as merchandise or mystery shoppers to evaluate a store's performance. The merchandising is inclusive of retail and grocery stores as well, where you may be required to follow the planogram to do the assessment for the firm. A planogram is nothing but a descriptive version of the products, on how they must be installed, stacked, restocked, and maintained. The same kind of a procedure can be followed for restaurants, where parameters like customer service, food service, and management can be taken into consideration for the assessment. The best aspect of this job is that, one can choose it at convenience, including the place. The same concept can be used for e-shopping as well.

Try Hands at Craft

If your kid has a good hand at craft work like origami, then nothing like it! Making greeting cards with the most innovative designs, or Christmas lanterns with beautiful patterns, or making exquisite paper bag puppets can fetch your child a bounty. Making designs for Halloween costumes or whitewashing the neighbor's fence can add on to your piggy bank.


Blogging is a place where the passion to write can be combined with the urge to earn. It is the best way of doing business at home. With minimal start up costs, one can gain a loyal and an impressive readership that can add on to your daily income. Depending on the network traffic, its ranking, and the way it is advertised, it sure is a tangible source of income for you. This is a good option for the teen crowd who are very much interested in Internet advertising of their blogs.

Culinary Skill at its Best

Trying out new recipes and advertising them, is not a new concept but is not easy either. If one knows the right way of advertising his or her culinary skills, one can really make a fortune. Try out some simple recipes and demonstrate it in front of a crowd, and it is bound to get your talents rolling back in the form of money.

Stocks, Bonds, and Affiliate Marketing

Stocks and funds is another good option to consider. But before one enters into this domain, he or she has to do a thorough study on the working of the stock market. Another good choice is Internet affiliate marketing. If you are good on this subject, minting money on eBay and other similar online shopping stores will be fun.


All children at some point in their life nurture a passion for dancing, and a few are born with the talent which shows out in the crowd. Teens who are passionate about dancing can start off with a dance class. The resources needed are bare minimal. All one needs is to rent a large room depending on the number of students, and a music system.


Teaching happens to be the noblest of all the professions. One of the best means to earn from home, it is also a liberating experience for those, who have a passion to teach. It also happens to be one of the best ways for teens.

Go Designer

If you have an uncanny art at designing clothes, then you might as well like to give a try at starting a clothes boutique at home. This may also give you further ideas for starting a clothing line in future.