Free trials and tribulations

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Free. The best four letters in the English language combined to make a word that is truly orgasmic. Anybody who tells you “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” is lying. Don’t believe them. I’ve had a free lunch (Yates’ do a free cheeseburger and chips if you print a voucher – but you’ll have to travel to Glasgow to claim it) and it was awesome. Lots of businesses offer free trials or samples of their products to entice new customers. If you’re wily (coyote) enough, you can take advantage of all of these trials and offers to live it up without paying a penny.

Three general rules for free trials

  1. Don’t forget to cancel: If you’re signing up to a subscription service then set yourself a reminder on your phone, because you WILL forget. That’s partly why they offer you a free trial, hoping that either you enjoy the product so much that you’ll carry on subscribing or that you’ll simply forget that you’re paying for it. Look to see if there’s an auto-subscribe button and unclick it. Amazon and Spotify certainly offer this, and it means you can enjoy your free trial in full with out the fear of an unexpected bill.
  2. Do your homework: Some free trials are better than others, and some might include hidden costs that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, Graze offers a free half price box on its website, but you can get multiple free boxes if you look on various student discount websites.
  3. Don’t buy dog food: If you don’t have a dog, you don’t need a free packet of dog food. This may sound obvious, but free stuff can become addictive. If it is no use to you, don’t use your precious time ordering it (even if it is for free).

Below are our top picks for free trials. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s definitely worth checking out the competition to see whether they offer similar free trials.

Graze

The healthy snack food company will deliver boxes to your door filled with yummy treats that won’t add to your ‘freshman 15’. It has a great website to indicate your preferences and there are lots snacks to choose from. Boxes normally cost £3.89 each, including delivery, but new customers can get their first and fifth box free if they have a voucher.

Spotify Premium

This music streaming service beats iTunes with a stick. Unlimited music on your computer, tablet and phone that means you can listen to all your favourite songs and discover new ones without shelling out close to £1/song or worrying about threatening letters from your internet service provider. Spotify offers a 30-day free trial and if you choose to continue, you can get a 50% student discount (Google it) that
makes this service a bargain at under £5/month.

Audible

An Amazon company (cue booing and hissing from angry tax payers) that offers tons of audio books on a subscription basis. If you can’t take any more hours staring at page after page of Jane Austen, then let the soothing voice of Emilia Fox (star of Silent Witness and Ballet Shoes) wash over you as you sleep, taking in everything you need to know by the incredibly scientific process of audio osmosis. Audible will give you an audio book for free with a one month trial, and there are a range of different membership options if you’d like to stay with them.

Photobox

Staring at photos on Facebook just isn’t the same as having them all nicely printed out in your room, is it? Call me old fashioned, nostalgic or a technophobe, but there’s something romantic about an actual photo-board. Photobox offers 40 free prints for signing up, as long as you pay P&P (only £1.50). Other similar companies also offer free prints.

Tastecard

An essential component of any money-saving toolkit, this dining scheme offers 2-for-1 or 50% off on a huge range of restaurants. Restaurant participation is always changing, but at time of print Zizzi, Pizza Express and Balaka all accept the card at various times throughout the week. If you live elsewhere in the UK, particularly near a big city, then this card is a must. The advertised price is a hefty £79.95 for the year but the company offers a non-subscription-based 30-day free trial (you don’t even need your debit/ credit card to sign up). After this it usually offers you the annual membership at over a 50% discount. They have been known to offer three-month free trials too, so watch out for these as well.

Netflix

An amazing service for anybody who finds that BBC iPlayer and 4OD don’t quench their TV thirsts. The free trial lasts for 30 days and offers you unlimited access to its entire TV and film library. The movies selection is fairly limited though expanding all the time, but the TV selection is fantastic and includes all genres from both sides of the Atlantic. After the free trial it is available for £5.99/month. One account can be used by multiple people, with each able to create their own profile and taste preferences.

Amazon Prime

This one is slightly different from the others. The 30-day free trial means that you can get unlimited next day delivery on thousands of Amazon products, and, if you have a Kindle, access to a free lending library with thousands of titles. This service is particularly convenient for living in St Andrews, with out access to a wide variety of shops; it means you can order anything from a pair of swimming goggles to your course textbooks and have them delivered to your door the next day. Membership is otherwise £49/year and you can share your membership with up to three people.

If you are so inclined (although we don’t officially condone this), it is possible to sign up for these trials using multiple debit cards, email Accounts and postal addresses. Free trials are just the beginning. If you are really committed to the pursuit of freebies, make sure you regularly look online for giveaways. This can be a great way of trying new things out for free, be they unusual types of tea, beauty products or books. Signing up to regular emails from companies and money saving websites can be a great way to keep up to date with the latest offers and giveaways, but they also have the annoying habit of cluttering up your inbox, so make sure you unsubscribe from the ones that give you nothing but hassle.

Another tip, as simple as it sounds, is to write to companies you like telling them how much you have enjoyed their product or service. While this is might be time-consuming, the rewards (a whole box of Haribo, for example) can be great. And, as students and therefore expert procrastinators, why not procrastinate and get free stuff at the same time? The general rule applies; if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

In life, it is important to strike a balance. Always remember, companies give things away for free in their own interest. Freebies may give you something for nothing, but more often than not, you get what you pay for.

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