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10 Free Ways to Boost Your Financial Power

Whipping your finances into shape doesn't have to come at a price.

The news lately has been focusing on the money that people are likely to get back as a tax refund from the government as part of the economic stimulus plan.

But plenty of other freebies can spruce up your personal finances.

Here are 10 examples:


Credit Reports


The government allows you to get your credit report free each year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and Transunion -- in one of three ways:


  • 1. Go to and order it online.

  • 2. Call toll-free 877-322-8228 to order it.

  • 3. Request it by regular mail by writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga. 30348-5281.

    This will allow you to confirm that everything in your report is correct, ensuring that you get the best rates if you borrow money. If there are inaccuracies, your can correct them.

    Receiving these reports can also tip you off early to possible identity theft, saving you countless hours of frustration and time that it would take to correct a fraud.


    Tax Filing


    Seventy percent of Americans can do their taxes at no cost.

    If your adjusted gross income was $54,000 or less in 2007, you can use Free File to prepare and e-file your taxes online through the IRS Web site.

    Be sure to use the IRS Web site since it's the only place you can use the tax software and file at no cost. If you go directly to tax-software sites, you will be charged a fee to file.


    Water-Conservation Kits

    Contact your local water and sewer bureau to see if they offer free water-audit kits and water-conservation kits.

    The water-audit kit will help you find areas where you may be wasting water. The water-conservation kit will help reduce your water usage.

    A surprising number of these public-utility companies offer these both free. This saves you money in two ways: you won't need to pay for water-conservation devices and you'll create monthly savings by reducing the amount of water you use.

    Free water-conservation kits usually contain faucet aerators, low flow shower heads, water gauges and shower timers. Here's an example.


    Energy Audit


    Many electric companies offer free energy audits where they will come to your home and evaluate where you may be wasting energy. Then you can see what will bring you the most savings on your energy bill.

    In addition, they may offer free devices such as Energy-efficient light bulbs, weather stripping and caulk to help you save without having to buy these for yourself. Here's an example.

    In addition, some may offer discounts and rebates for the purchase of energy efficient appliances all of which will help you pinpoint waste so you can save money.


    Personal-Finance Education


    More and more colleges are offering free online courses.

    Among the wide variety of classes offered is one from University of California, Irvine, that is a personal-finance course.

    Take it free of charge to help you learn the basics of personal finances or brush up what you have learned on your own.


    Small-Business Education


    If you'd like to boost your income by starting a part-time home business, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers a wide variety of classes at no cost that can help you.

    This includes such information as how to write a business plan and how to register your company. Classes are usually held at locations across the U.S. You can find the classes nearest you through the SBA Local resource finder.

    Language Classes


    One way to improve career prospects is to learn a second language.

    The Web offers a number of free ways to learn a foreign language, including the Foreign Service Institute which were developed by the U.S. government and are in the public domain, or online through flash.


Books and Magazines


A huge number of personal-finance books and magazines cover every aspect of personal finance. You can check these out from your local library at no cost.

Also, you can often find expensive investing newsletters and periodicals free. Best of all, many of these you can access 24/7 from your computer.

Web sites also offer ways to trade your books. Examples include Paper Back Swap and Title Trader.

The concept is simple. If you have books that you no longer want, you can trade them for other books. While the trades are free, it costs money send books to others.

Phone Service


If you have friends and acquaintances around the world, there is no need to spend money to call them. Simply download and install free Skype software and you will be able to talk with any other Skype user in the world free through your computers.

Depending on how often you call others, this can save a lot of money.


Recycled Goods


Do you have something you want free?

Your local Freecycle may be able to provide it for you.

Freecycle is a growing group with the basic mission to keep unwanted items out of landfills. Instead of throwing items out, people list anything they no longer want to an online local community group bulletin board.

If you see something on the list you'd like to have, simply respond to the ad and then drop by to pick it up. You can also list a request to obtain a specific item.

It's a great way to acquire goods in perfect shape that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

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