PHILLIPS: Freebies make your life a little easier, lighter

PHILLIPS: Freebies make your life a little easier, lighter

February 26th, 2011 by By Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

I ran across an article online that talks about what should be free but often isn't and how to receive these things gratis, some of which I already knew. Hopefully, some or all will become bargains for my readers in the following situations.

• Corkage fees-While many restaurants don't allow you to bring in your own bottle of wine, others do yet charge for the privilege of uncorking your bottle. Check to find either free corkage or just plain cheap.

• Phone information charges-Unless you're in a hurry (and don't mind paying a fee), avoid calling 411. Instead, try freebies. For instance, call 1-800-GGGG-411 (from Google), state your location and type of business desired; they'll connect you for free. Also, to obtain a business, government, or personal listing, call free yellow (or white) pages at 1-800-935-5697. While you'll have to hang up and call the number yourself, the service is still a bargain.

• Movie rental-If you prefer staying home with your movies, your choice is Blockbuster, Net-flix or Redbox. Competition obviously isn't fierce enough, as Redbox outweighs the other two by a mile. Go to where it lists free promo codes each week if you're a registered user. (In our area, the redbox alternative is found at local Bi-Los.)

• Toothbrushes-OK, so they're already pretty cheap, but isn't free better (and you take care of your teeth at the same time). Each visit to the dentist, ask for a free toothbrush; most already offer this service, as well as dental floss, but speak up if they don't make the offer.

• Books-Yep, they're expensive. Hardbacks average anywhere from 26 bucks down to $7.99 for paperbacks. Even if you own a Kindle or Nook, you normally fork out about $10 for a good read. While you can visit McKay or Grumpy's for used book bargains, unless someone gives you the Great American novel once he's read it, what to do for freebies? Join your local public library.

Whether as a "real" book to read or an e-book, you'll enjoy worlds of current or past best sellers.

• College tuition-Although I've written about the best-or even free-ways to get a college education, some info bears rementioning. Students who plan to go into law, education, medicine, the ministry or those who have severe economic hardships can have their student loans forgiven under certain circumstances.

For example, if you practice medicine or teach in the inner city or on a Native American reservation, among other situations for a few years, your bills can be paid by the lender, often Uncle Sam.

Not only do you obtain a free education, but you're also helping those who might not otherwise get the assistance they desperately need.

Tax Tip: According to my tax expert, the employee-only portion of the Social Security tax (6.2 percent) is reduced to 4.2 percent of the first $106,800 in 2011. The maximum dollar reduction in Social Security is $2,136, which applies only to the employee portion. This is a payroll tax provision only, not income, and has no effect on tax withholding or estimated tax payments related to income liabilities.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. E-mail her at