GREENSBORO -- In my continued search to save you time and money, I've compiled a list of ten things many of us pay for that we could otherwise get for free. If you're looking for a deal or have a money-related question, follow @MattGranite on Twitter. I'll be Tweeting the biggest deals in the country.
1. Music Downloads: These days it doesn't make sense to spend your hard-earned cash on just one song or an album where you can legally get an entire catalogue of music for the price of one album or stream for free. Websites like Spotify are a better way to spend money in my opinion. Other options like GrooveShark, Slacker Radio and Pandora stream great personalized tunes for $0.00
2. ATM Fees: If you find yourself paying more than $5 per year in ATM fees, I highly recommend switching banks. There's no excuse these days for a bank to impose yet another fee for you to access the money you've earned. Check outFindABetterBank.com if you need a suggestion in your area.
3. Audio Books / E-Books: While there are some exceptions, libraries throughout our region have incredible under-utilized E-Book and Audio book collections. We have these tremendous resources right here in our community that are constantly overlooked, often offering a great collection of digital and audio reading material.
4. Bottled Water: You likely don't need me to tell you that we waste an inordinate amount of cash every year on filtered water that is not far off from what we'd find if we turned on our own tap and filled up a bottle. If you don't like the way our tap water tastes, you can get a Brita pitcher for around $20 and re-usable bottles that can easily replace all that over-priced disposable plastic.
5. Pens: This is a weird one and something my wife thought I should add to the list. And I think she has a point. I have yet to encounter a business, sales rep or store that does not want you to have their pen! You get ink, they get free advertising. The next time you find yourself shelling out $5 for three pens at an office store, think of every establishment you frequent where they actually want you to take some pens.
6. Movies: This rule of mine only refers to non new-release films. If you're not looking for the most current flick on the market, and want to enjoy some other great older film, there are tremendous legal and free ways to watch. Before you pay iTunes, Amazon or some other service to rent a movie that's not brand new, consider Crackle or a subscription to Netflix or Hulu rather than paying per download.
7. Wifi: Almost every coffee shop, diner, chain restaurant and hotel lobby in the country has free Wifi. If that does not provide enough free Wifi for you and you find yourself at an airport that wants to charge you (Hello LaGuardia), consider tethering your smartphone to your laptop or tablet. Sharing that connection to send off a few emails might be all you need before you shell out $14. If that's not an option, consider a HotSpot subscription through your phone provider which is always much cheaper.
8. Food For Kids At Restaurants: There is no shortage of restaurants in our region that will gladly provide a child with a free meal accompanied by a paying adult. While there are exceptions, you could easily make sure when your family goes out to eat, its youngest members aren't charged for attending.
9. Single Magazine Purchases: For the price of one magazine from a newsstand, you can pretty much enjoy an entire year's subscription. Before that impulse magazine purchase, check out this huge magazine sale where you can get a year of your favorite magazine with prices starting at $5.
10. Condiments / Straws / Napkins: While I'm not exactly advising taking every straw, napkin and ketchup packet in sight, most of us just need a handful of these extras in our desk drawer at work. The next time you find yourself spending $5 on a latte at your favorite coffee shop, my bet is they won't mind if you take a couple of extra straws or napkins. If you need to supply a whole household, I don't recommend this method but grabbing a few extras here and there is rarely problem at larger businesses.