Next to the TV, DVD, flushing toilet, hot shower, computer and properly working automatic garage door, the internet is one of the best inventions ever. In fact, living in the desert as I do, I couldn’t get along without the internet. Even with the rising cost of internet service, the number of things it allows me to do makes it totally worth the cost and actually helps me to save money. Here I will share over 30 links to my favorite websites that provide free products or services. I will also include my favorite shopping sites for saving money. (Note: All links open in a new window.)
- Check out one of my earlier posts Save Hundreds with Open Source Software for a list of open source applications with short descriptions of their functions and links to the websites for free downloads. These are not free trials but completely free programs that stay free and upgrade for free.
- Google Calendar is a handy online calendar that can send alerts to you by email or pop-up reminders. The program allows you to share your calendar with friends and family who also use Google Calendar so you can coordinate schedules with each other.
- ZoneAlarm Free Firewall can filter all traffic in and out of your computer. The most secure setting will warn you of even legitimate access to the internet and of every attempt by a program installed on your computer to access the internet to check for updates, etc.
- ZoneAlarm Spy Blocker Toolbar protects you from spyware while surfing the net.
- McAfee SiteAdvisor warns you of bad sites and has profiles for each tested site with details on downloads, spam email count, and user reviews. It also shows the safety rating for web search results with a small icon next to each link: green for safe, red for unsafe, yellow for caution, and gray for untested (you can submit a test request for gray sites).
- Skype allows you to make free computer to computer video and voice calls, and calls to phones for a small charge. We use the free computer to computer calls to talk to our overseas relatives
- If you use Hotmail, you can also use Windows Live Messenger for voice and video chat sessions with your contacts. You can also send mobile text messages to contacts in your address book.
- Gmail is my favorite free web based email program because, not only does it give you ever increasing storage (6.76 GBs as of this writing and counting), but it lets you forward your email to a desktop email client such as Outlook or Thunderbird. If you access your mail online, it has a nice filtering tool to help you sort your mail and also has a built in chat program, Google Talk, that allows you to chat with your online contacts without having to download anything.
- Hulu has an ever growing collection of new and old television programs and movies which you can watch for free online with a very reasonable amount of advertisements. The commercial breaks are shorter than you would have to sit through (15 or 30 secs) when watching a show on TV. For some newer shows, only the last 5 or 6 episodes are available, but there are also full seasons and full series of episodes for some shows.
- Network channels all have websites that let you watch the last 5 or 6 episodes of their current shows online. Here is a list of links to the home pages:
- SHOUTcast is a free internet radio site that has a large selection of genres and stations and good sound quality.
- Joost is a player that allows you to watch thousands of TV shows and movies on your computer.
- Wikipedia. If you’ve performed a web search on the net, you’ve probably already stumbled across Wikipedia, which is a free, open encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It may or may not be 100% accurate, but it is convenient and has a great collection of articles and images on just about any topic, person or place including cities, actors and operas. Wikipedia is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Dutch and Italian. (Time Saving Tip: To search for something straight from your Google toolbar or search, just type the keyword and the word “wiki”, i.e. “horse wiki” and the link to the entry will most likely show up first in your search result.)
- High Beam Encyclopedia is a collation of articles from Britannica, Oxford University Press, Columbia Encyclopedia as well as other published newspaper and magazine articles.
- Google Translate provides fair (though not the greatest) translations for 23 languages. It can translate typed/pasted in sections or entire webpages. This allows you to make use of websites you otherwise might not understand or save you time where you already know the language but take longer to read. It also has a dictionary for looking up words from those 23 languages.
- Reference.com has links to a host of reference tools including atlases, almanacs, a dictionary, thesaurus, literature and more. (Time Saving Tip: To look up a definition of a word, for example, “antithesis”, type “definition antithesis” in your search window. To look up synonyms (thesaurus) of the word “simile”, type “synonym simile”, and the search results will link you to the page of the entry.)
- The Gutenberg Project is a digital library of works that have fallen into public domain through expired copyright. The library includes fiction and non-fiction literature, audiobooks, sheet music and more.
- Google Calculator is a handy tool that lets you type in a formula or question in your search window and it will calculate and show you the answer. For example: type “1+5” in your search bar and it will give you “1 + 5 = 6”. It can multiply, divide, add, subtract as well as calculate units of measurement such as miles, kilometers, megabytes, grams, degrees, pi, currency exchange rates and much more. Check out this great Google Calculator Demo at the Learn Google Search blog.
- Download.com has a large collection of safe, free and trusted software downloads with editor and user reviews.
- Softpedia also has a large collection of downloads.
- Mozilla, home of the Firefox browser has a large number of great open source software including web browsers, html editors, email and calendar programs. Be sure to also check out the list of Mozilla-Based Applications which include other interesting and useful programs.
- Firefox Browser Add-ons: If there is a function you wish your Firefox browser could perform, chances are someone has already had the same thought and created an add-on for it.
- Google Pack includes the following (you can select which items you want):
- Google Earth: a map program that lets you look at satellite, terrain and street level images. Includes driving directions and businesses
- Norton Security Scan for viruses
- Google Desktop to help organize your files, pictures and web history
- Mozilla Firefox Browser with Google Toolbar
- Adobe Reader
- Star Office word processing, spread sheet, presentation and other office programs
- Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer (helps block pop-ups)
- Spyware Doctor (starter edition)
- Picasa for editing and organizing your photos
- Google Photos Screensaver to create slideshows with your photos
- Google Talk for chatting online or by voice and sharing files
- Real Player for playing media and transferring music to iPods or other players
- Amazon.com is our favorite shopping site for almost everything we can’t get at our local grocery and drug stores. The Free Super Saver Shipping for orders over $25 allows you to spend your money on things rather than shipping charges. We also have the Chase Amazon Visa Card that gives us 3 points for every dollar spent at Amazon.com and 1 point everywhere else, and a $25 gift certificate when we reach 2,500 points.
- We occasionally shop at Overstock.com when the price is considerably less than can be had from Amazon. In our experience, their service is just as good, if not better, than Amazon’s due to the online customer service chat and faster shipping time, because Amazon’s free shipping takes an additional 4-5 business days before leaving their warehouse. They offer flat $2.95 shipping on all orders, and cheaper media shipping for 1 or 2 media item (books, music and DVDs).
- Save Hundreds with Open Source Software
- The Frugal Literate’s Guide to Affordable Reading
- Public Domain Music: Music You Already Own