Meggie Brennen is a mom with two very active young children, always looking for things to do with them that won't run up a big credit card bill.
So she started a blog and website focusing on free local events for kids -- called Hyde Park Moms -- and in the process uncovered all sorts of free deals for kids, moms, dads and entire families.
The first thing she found was that restaurants love giving out birthday freebies.
"Follow your local Chick-Fil-A; they'll give kids a free cookie on their birthday," she said.
1. Free Food
So Brennan's freebie No. 1 is a free dessert or appetizer at many restaurants on your birthday.
Among them: IHop, Dunkin' Donuts, Panera, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, and more. Thrillist.com has a list of more than a dozen restaurant freebie deals.
Many will ask you to join their rewards program, or download their app, which she says can mean more freebies, even when it is not your birthday. "A lot of restaurants have an app, so if you download their app, they will give you something free," she said.
2. Free makeup samples
Sure, department store makeup counters will give you free samples, but it usually comes with the expectation that you are going to buy $50 or more of makeup at the same time.
But Brennan says if you want cosmetics samples with no sales person pressuring you for a purchase, try Sephora.
"They actually have boxes of samples that you can try something new in the checkout," she said.
While we are talking samples, Brennan suggests checking the freebie sites like FreeSamples.org for lots more trial freebies. Just beware of sites that ask for too much personal information.
3. Free how-to clinics
Many Home Depot and Lowe's locations offer free DIY clinics on weekends, for both parents and young children, who can learn how to build a birdhouse, for instance, free of charge.
Wondering how to install a toilet (OK, probably not)? What about installing a ceiling fan? You'll find all sorts of how-to clinics at your local Lowe's or Home Depot store, free of charge, with no purchase required.
4. Free movies and music
It seems every movie streaming service charges $9 to $15 a month, and that can add up fast if you have several services, like Netflix, Disney Plus, and HBO.
But you can stream hundreds of classic movies free of charge at Sony Crackle.
Stream some shows from Comedy Central, MTV, VH-1, and Nickelodeon at Pluto.TV.
In addition, Verizon Unlimited customers can get one year of Disney Plus free. If you purchase a new iPhone or iPad, you can get Apple Plus free for one year.
Looking for free music? Stream all the music you want free of charge at ad-supported Pandora, or through the iHeart Radio app.
5. Free children's reading hours
"They have story times and lots of activities you can get free, author events and things like that," she said.
Don't have any more bookstores near you? Then try the local library.
"Those are great resources if you are looking to do things with your kids for free," she said.
And don't get her started on the Cincinnati Art Museum, with more kid's activities, and, best of all, free admission for everyone.
6: Free books
These days, many people read books electronically on Kindles and iPads.
If so, check for free e-book downloads from your library or check Project Guttenberg for thousands of downloadable books.
7: Free diapers and baby supplies
New or expecting mom? Brennan says check with your OBGYN office or hospital for diapers, baby wipes and other baby supplies free of charge. You can sign up with Pampers, for instance, and get lots of free coupons for baby products.
And she reminds new moms to always ask for samples at the OBGYN or pediatrician's office.
"Don’t forget to take advantage of the diapers they have, the diaper samples, wipes, take advantage of those," she said.
8. Free credit freeze
Being a busy parent like Brennan leaves little time for monitoring your credit, or regularly pulling credit reports to look for suspicious activity.
So you can now sign up for a credit freeze free of charge at Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, which prevents anyone from opening accounts in your name.
While you are at it, you can check your credit score free at Credit Karma. It is safe, and there are no major catches.
9. Free concerts and park events
Which brings us to Brennan's ninth tip: free concerts, plays and even Shakespeare at local parks all summer long. Just check with your local park's website, such as GreatParks.org in Hamilton County.
Brennan says another park freebie many parents don't think about is the picnic area in many parks, which often comes with swing sets and a playground.
You can reserve them in advance at many parks, and have a kid's birthday party during warm months at no charge, with fewer germs than that popular pizza place.
"How about a free birthday party?" Brennan said. "You can have it at the park!"
Meggie Brennan is amazed at all the free things to do with kids in the Cincinnati area, so that you don't waste your money.
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