By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan: There’s only one thing better than a bargain, and that’s a freebie! The July 2014 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, highlights more than a dozen sites great for grabbing free personal care and beauty items, stuff for pets and the home, digital downloads and more.

“There are tons of ways to score free stuff,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “But you do want to watch out for some gotchas. For example, be cautious about providing a lot of personal information. And sometimes the stuff you order takes weeks to show up–or doesn’t show up at all.”

Where to Go for Giveaways

ShopSmart has uncovered dozens and dozens of ways to score free stuff. They gave us a sample of some sites that track free offers and giveaways and try out the ordering process so consumers can feel confident that they will receive their freebies: is a great place to start a search for personal-care item giveaways. Most of the freebies ShopSmart received came from this site. Sign up for text alerts to be among the first to hear about new offers; watch for giveaways of good stuff such as Macy’s gift cards and Michael Kors wristlets. does a great job of marking expired offers making all available freebies are up-to-date. Click “Birthday Freebies” for an extensive, frequently updated list of all the places that will hook consumers up on their big day. is best for fast and easy ordering. The survey is long but worth it; membership on this site nets consumers offers targeted to their interests. Check e-mail often to pounce on new samples.

Freebie Do’s & Don’ts

Free stuff is awesome, but ShopSmart advises consumers to proceed with caution to get it. Here are some good rules to follow when signing up for giveaways:

DO set up a separate e-mail address for ordering freebies so that your everyday account won’t be inundated with spam.
DON’T share credit-card info.
DO look for coupons for free full-sized food products.
DON’T give brands too much info. Feel free to fudge details such as birthdate and health info.
DO manage expectations; lots of freebies are no-shows.
DON’T give up on a desired item is marked as “expired.” Consumers still may be able to score a coupon.

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