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Free things to do

Having fun doesn’t need to be expensive. This article provides lots of inspiration for planning fun, inexpensive things to do on a budget.

  • Cinema tickets: Sign up to SeeFilmFirstMomentum Screenings. They’ll send you emails about upcoming previews, inviting you to apply for free tickets on a first come, first served basis. You’ll get the chance to see some films before they officially open in cinemas. Some mobile phone providers provide offers to their customers for cheap or 2 for 1 deals to the cinemas or the theatre.
  • Haircuts: Trainees need someone to practice on, so a lot of salons offer free or super-cheap cuts in return. If you’re up for being a guinea-pig, ask at salons, barbers or colleges that run hairdressing courses.
  • Internet access: Libraries will often let you spend 30 minutes or an hour online for free, especially if you’re job-hunting, but you may have to book in advance. For free wireless internet, find local hotspots by doing a postcode search on the Cloud website - you’ll find it on offer in many local cafes and pubs.
  • Songs and music videos: There are loads of legal songs available to download free on Last.fm, an internet radio website that recommends artists based on your tastes. You can also play music and make playlists via free streaming service Spotify, but you’ll need an invite from someone who already uses it to sign up.
  • Be part of a TV audience: You don’t need to pay to watch TV shows like The Apprentice: You’re Fired, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and 8 Out of 10 Cats. Tickets to be in the audience are free and sometimes they’ll even give you cash for travel expenses. To find out about upcoming shows and request tickets, sign up to Applause Store, TV Recordings, SRO Audiences, BBC Tickets and Lost in TV.
  • Computer software: If you need to edit documents or spreadsheets but can’t (or won’t) pay for Microsoft Office, check out Open Office instead. This free, legal alternative can work with Microsoft files and the programs are so similar, you may not even notice the difference. If you have a Google account you can also make use of Google Docs, a free file sharing and management tool, which is very handy if you use lots of different computers as it stores all your files securely online.
  • Leisure and sport passes: Lots of local authorities provide a discount card scheme for residents, often with a name like “Leisure Card” or “Passport to Leisure”. Check your local council website to see what’s available. You may have to pay a small amount for the card, but the discounts and perks make it worth it. Many of these schemes will allow you cheap or free access to local leisure facilities, particularly for students or those who are on benefits.
  • Language courses: The BBC’s Languages website is giving away free 12-week courses in French, Spanish, German and Italian. You can also download free language-learning podcasts, for example from iTunes, where you’ll find them in the Podcasts and iTunes U sections.
  • Book lending and swapping: Swap a book you’ve read for one you haven’t, all for the price of a stamp - if that. Read It Swap It and Book Crossing are just two of the free websites you can use to do this, either by sending books through the post or finding and leaving them in public places. Of course, old-fashioned libraries are also free (providing you take your books back on time) and most have cheap CDs and DVDs to rent too.
  • Clothes swapping: If you can’t afford new clothes, why not swap the ones you don’t want anymore for new ones? They might not be brand new, but they’ll be new to you. Check out Swishing, a website where you can earn credits for clothes you send in and then spend them on new ones. Alternatively, turn it into a social event by inviting friends round for a swap party - then you can swap anything from clothes and books to household items, jewellery and unwanted gifts.
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