10 Good Things Your Town May Give You for Free

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Many municipalities, for instance, offer freebies that go way beyond the occasional refrigerator magnet, key chain, or letter opener. Here's a sampling of useful stuff, from smoke detectors to telescopes, that your local city or town might be giving away to residents.

  1. Rain Barrels

    Free Rain Barrels

    Many communities have programs in place to provide free rain barrels to residents to promote water conservation. The city of Norman, Oklahoma, for example, gave rain barrels to anyone who attended their wise water usage workshops. Akron, Ohio, has experimented with a similar program in an effort to decrease the stress on the city’s sewer system during periods of heavy rainfall.

    Related: 7 Smart Ways to Save Water in the Yard


  2. Mulch

    Free Mulch

    Some municipalities and counties, including DeKalb County in Georgia, give away free mulch to residents. Not only is this a nice perk for homeowners, but it also helps the sanitation department manage the yard waste it collects every year. To get this freebie, you just need to bring your own containers to the pickup site to haul the mulch away. If your town is similarly generous, maybe sweat equity will be all that you'll need to mulch your garden this year!

    Related: 7 Times to Throw Garbage in Your Garden


  3. Trees

    Free Trees

    Planting a tree does wonders to increase your property's curb appeal and value—plus, when placed strategically, trees provide shade that can decrease your cooling bills. Some municipalities are so aware of the value of trees that they give them away free to residents who will plant them on their property. Fort Lauderdale, for instance, runs three separate programs that provide residents with trees free of charge. In addition, many parks and recreation centers administer programs that give away trees every Arbor Day.

    Related: 10 of the Best Trees for Any Backyard


  4. Telescopes

    Free Telescopes

    Imagine what you could see in the night sky if you had free access to a telescope! Thanks to the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, residents can make their celestial ambitions a reality: Libraries all over the state offer loaner telescopes that library patrons can check out and bring to their very own backyard. Similar programs exist in other states, including Missouri, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maine.

    Related: 50 Great Gadgets for a Smarter Home


  5. Maps

    Free Maps

    Head to your local Chamber of Commerce and you may very well be able to pick up free maps of the local area, including parks and recreation centers and bike trails. You may find some other freebies there as well, such as coupon books and info on special deals at local stores and restaurants.

    Related: 7 Ways to Trace Your Home's History


  6. Smoke Detectors

    Free Smoke Detectors

    Fire companies throughout the city of Philadelphia and the entire state of Delaware give out free smoke detectors to residents as part of their fire safety initiatives. Philadelphia will even install them for you!

    Related: 15 Household Items That Could Save Your Life


  7. Flu Shots

    Free Flu Shots

    Many municipalities provide free flu clinics to residents as part of their public health programs. From big cities like Los Angeles to small towns like Wilmington, Massachusetts, free flu shot clinics abound. Call your local public health organization to see what’s available in your county or town.


  8. Firewood

    Free Firewood

    Many municipalities offer free firewood to residents willing to haul it away. Oyster Bay, New York, lets people pick up one free truckload of firewood from the town’s highway yard on the weekends. The wood comes cut but not split, so you do need to put in a little work yourself before it’s ready to burn. Other towns have similar programs, such as the Athol Community Wood Bank in Massachusetts, which converts the trees it cuts down for hazard mitigation and forest management into usable firewood for residents.

    Related: The 21 Most Stunning Fireplaces on the Internet


  9. Books

    Free Books

    It goes without saying that your local town’s library has a wealth of free resources that start (obviously) with books, newspapers, and magazines. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Most libraries also have movies and e-books available for checkout as well as computers, scanners, and 3-D printers for in-library use—all for free. In addition to this typical fare, many libraries have more unusual offerings. The Green Tree Public Library in Pittsburgh rents umbrellas in foul weather, while the public library of Lawrence, Kansas, in partnership with local organizations, offers flower, herb, and vegetable seed packets to residents as part of their green living programming. Inquire at your local library to learn the full range of resources available to you.

    Related: 10 Novel DIYs for a Better Bookshelf


  10. Tax Prep

    Free Tax Prep

    You don’t necessarily have to shell out any cash to get expert help on your taxes. The Youngstown & Mahoning County libraries in Ohio provide free tax prep for qualifying individuals through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Many municipalities across the country run similar programs. Check the IRS website for the location nearest you.

    Related: 21 Money-Saving Tricks That Every Homeowner Needs to Know


  11. Smart Savings

    Smart Savings

    It feels great to save money by snagging a deal or finding a second-hand item in mint condition. But occasionally, you’re better off splurging for that new appliance or car tires than buying cheap ones that you’ll have to replace sooner—thus, opening your wallet again!


  12. Don't Miss!


    Clever project ideas and step-by-step tutorials delivered right to your inbox each and every Saturday morning—sign up today for the Weekend DIY Club newsletter!