If you're wondering what "the catch" is, well, there are a few. Firstly, many of these services are ad-supported -- just like good old-fashioned commercial TV. Secondly, like everything else online, they're undoubtedly harvesting data from you. So before you sign up and dive in, just keep those two things in mind. And thirdly, some of these are limited-time deals. If it's a subscription service that's giving you a taste for free and you decide you don't want to stay with it, remember to cancel before the regular billing kicks in.
Finally, here's some much-needed joy in a bag. Wendy's is now giving away one free Jr. Frosty with every drive-thru order. Just tell them whether you want vanilla or chocolate, and you'll get something delicious for free.
There's nothing like streaming video to help you weather the storm. And while Netflix, HBO, Hulu and all the rest cost a pretty penny, these free video
are absolutely gratis. Just bring a working broadband plan and a tolerance for commercials -- and you should be golden.
Comcast update: If you're a Comcast Xfinity X1 or Flex customer, you have a slew of new free programming options. Comcast is making on-demand programming from more than two dozen entertainment networks and subscription services available for free. To see your options, you can say "free" into your Xfinity Voice remote. The new content -- much of it drawing on diverse channels like Afro, Aspire TV, Black News Channel, Filipino On Demand, CBeebies and Cinelatino -- joins channels like Showtime, Epix, CuriosityStream, History and Dog TV, which are already free during the pandemic.
Why spend cold, hard cash buying books and magazines -- especially if you only read them once and then don't need to see them ever again -- when there's a really good chance you could borrow them from the library instead, without actually having to go to the library? It might sound weird to check out digital media from the library, but many local libraries have modernized a lot since the days of card catalogs and microfiche readers. Some libraries offer TV shows and movies as well as books, magazines and comics in digital formats. It all depends on what your local library offers, so check it out. Here's how to get started:
And once you've explored what your library has to offer, there's no need to stop there: You can find a wealth of resources on how to (legally) get your hands on free ebooks online. For the whole scoop, check out 10 ways to download and read books online for free.
Now that many of us are spending a lot more time at home, some of us have a lot more time to play
. One big problem? Games can be expensive. Rather than empty your wallet on new video games at retail prices, you might want to grab some free games -- there are always a few around. These games are all available for PC, and some are also available on PS4, Xbox and even the Switch and mobile platforms.
Update: And there are more -- 7,000 more, in fact. Head to the Internet Archive to play thousands of MS-DOS games that have been saved from oblivion. Getting started is pretty simple, but for the full rundown, check out the Internet Archive games how-to that CNET's Clifford Colby wrote when the archive was first released.
Perhaps the worst part of the pandemic for many of us is the isolation that comes from social distancing. We're working from home, not seeing friends in the evening and generally trying to "air gap" ourselves to stay healthy. One way to stay connected despite the quarantines is using these free videoconferencing and video chat tools that have been around for years, but you might have had little reason to try them. (Some have paid versions for business and corporate accounts.)
One of the first signs that businesses were starting to take the coronavirus seriously was when public events started getting postponed and canceled. Sporting events, music concerts, stage shows and live podcast tapings were just some of the entertainment options that disappeared overnight. That was a bummer, but you can stock up on free audio to fill that hole in your soul.
Tidal (4 months free, then discounted monthly subscription)
Free distance-learning services and educational resources
Thanks to the pandemic, schools across the US are closing, sending students home for an uncertain future -- and in most cases, it's unclear if studies will resume at all this academic year. Of course, most institutions are falling back to some form of online instruction, but if you're a parent looking for a way to keep your kids engaged academically during this very challenging time, there are many tools you can try.