Content Updated on January 9, 2008
Here are some awesome free services that can save you from wasting hours of your life.
Free Services for Your Mobile Phone and Mobile Devices
I started using TellMe back when it first came out (years ago), and it just kept getting better. Just call 1-800-555-TELL, and tell the system what you want. You can also check news, sports scores, weather, stocks quotes, and movie times. You can even get driving directions. If you don’t want to write it all down, you can tell it to send the information as a text message to your phone. You can also get information by sending a text message to 83556 (TELLM), or you can download the TellMe program to your phone for even more interactivity. TellMe is great when you want to get information while you’re on the road (such as when you’re driving… and using a hands-free speaker phone, of course).
Goog411 is Google’s free directory service. Just call 1-800-GOOG-411, and tell Google what you want (like “Mexican food” or “post office”) and where, and Google will give you local listings and connect you for free. Goog411 is perfect for getting in contact with businesses without having to take time to look them up.
Whenever we need a map while we’re on the road, Google Maps is where we go.
Jott lets you send email over the phone. You first have to sign up online, register your phone, and then call 1-866-JOTT-123. Tell the system who you want to Jott, then leave a message (up to 30 seconds long, and make sure you speak clearly). The system will transcribe your voice message and email a text copy to the recipient. (Don’t worry. It also sends a link to the audio message just in case they need to listen to it for clarification.) You can leave reminders for yourself by sending a message to “myself.” You can import your contact lists (via their website) and send the messages to one or more of your contacts. You can even send messages to services like Twitter, Blogger, online to-do lists, Google Calendar, etc.
Free (and not so free) Errands Services
Automated Prescription Filling
If you often need prescriptions filled, you can save time by having the name, address, and phone number of your favorite pharmacy with you when you visit the doctor. That way, they can just call your prescription into the pharmacy, and it will probably be ready for pick-up by the time you get there.
If you often need prescriptions re-filled, use your pharmacy’s automated online or phone refill service. And to save even more time, try using a pharmacy that delivers your prescription right to your front door. Some will even ship them for free.
No more waiting in lines at the post office. Buy stamps, print out shipping labels, and schedule pickups all online.
Your State’s DMV Website
Most DMVs now let you do most routine activities on the Internet. No more waiting in line to just turn in a form or sitting on hold for hours. Just go to your favorite search engine and search for [your state] dmv. For example, I live in Oregon (proud resident), so I would search for Oregon DMV.
If your state DMV’s website isn’t very helpful, then try DMV.org. They’re not affiliated with any DMV office, but they do have lots of helpful information.
Your Library’s Website
Most libraries let you reserve books, renew checkouts, and search their inventory online. Some libraries even have accounts with online book, magazine, and audio services, so you can download these items directly to your computer and read them just as if you had driven to the library, searched for them, and waited in line to check them out.
Your School’s Website
Many schools have schedules, events, etc. posted online, but every year, more schools are switching to automating other services, like paying for lunches, notifying parents by cell phone or email of school closures, etc. Unfortunately, these services only work if your school subscribes to them, so find out if your school offers them, and if they don’t, let the school principal know that you would like the school to start using such services.
Before you plan your driving route, head to traffic.com and avoid the rush hour jam and construction sites. They can even send you alerts to let you know when there’s a problem on your typical route.
Your Local Grocery Store Website
Many grocery stores post their coupons, sales, etc. on their websites. Some even let you shop online then go to the grocery store where your items are already bagged, paid for, and nicely packed into a shopping cart. Some local grocery stores also offer delivery. There are even grocery companies (often affiliated with local farming communities) that exclusively deliver their products to your front door.
Free Ways to Get Rid of Your Junk (umm.. I mean gently used items)
Your Local Charities
Call your local thrift stores and ask them if they will do a pick up. While you’re at it, also call non-profit organization, like homeless shelters, safe houses, etc. to find out if they would be willing to have any of your old stuff and pick it up. You can even contact your nearest schools to let teachers know that if they need any of the stuff you’ve got, they can come get it. (Teachers often use misc. supplies for art projects and such, and preschool and kindergarten teachers can use old household items as props in dramatic play areas, like play kitchens.)
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people say, “I’d like to get rid of my [clutter, old dresser, leftover wall paper, etc.], but I don’t have [a car, a truck, time, etc.] to drop it off at a thrift store, and I hate having yard sales.” Well, Freecycle it! Sign up with your local Freecycle, let people know that you have stuff you’re giving away for free, and you’re sure to find at least a few people who are willing to take it off your hands. Most of them will even drive to your home to pick it up, or they’ll pay for shipping.
Free Price Comparison Tools
When I need to hire somebody to do a project at my house, I now head to Service Magic first. You fill out the data, tell them what you need, and 3 to 4 contractors will call you to give you a quote. No more hunting through the phone book for contractors (unless you want to call more than 4 contractors).
Don’t go from website to website to compare prices. Just head to PriceGrabber, search for what you want, and look and prices, shipping rates, availability, reviews, product information, and store reputations.
Amazon.com has a huge selection of products and is a market place for lots of different merchants, including individuals trying to sell their own used-but-like-new stuff. Most of the best deals I’ve found have been at Amazon.com.
If you want to compare airline prices, check out this website first. It allows you to enter your information once, then quickly compare prices at major online travel sites. No more entering your information a dozen times.
This is my favorite site for comparing shipping rates for multiple shipping services. Their site is easiest to navigate, asks you all the right questions, and gives you an accurate estimate. No more hopping from site to site to compare rates.
If you want to compare credit card rates, loan rates, checking account fees, savings account returns, or investments, this is the place to go. No more site hopping to compare rates.
When you’re shopping for a new cell phone service, home phone service, satellite TV service, Internet service, etc. MyRatePlan.com can make life easier by showing you great deals all in one place. No more hunting for the lowest prices.
Free Financial Tools
Your Bank’s Online Bill Pay Service
Many banks now offer free online bill paying. No more envelopes or stamps. No more writing checks and freaking out when you run out of blank checks. No trying to figure out how many days in advance you need to mail your payment. Just get online and complete the process in a matter of seconds.
If your bank doesn’t offer free bill pay, then try MyCheckFree instead. Get your bills and pay them all from one time-saving site.
Paypal isn’t just for shopping (although it does make shopping at auctions a breeze). You can also use it to send money to your Grandma for her electricity bill or to your nephew as his birthday gift. You can even send money using your mobile phone or with Skype.
If you need some information about taxes, go to the IRS website rather than sitting on the phone listening to bad hold music. You can also download tax forms, booklets, and guides. Plus, you might even be able to prepare and file your taxes electronically for free with Free File.