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April 7, 2009 1:59 PM   Subscribe

FrugalFilter: I used to do _____, but now I use _____ on the internet for free! Examples and ...

Here are some of my favorite things to do on-line that used to cost money in the real world:

I used to pay for long-distance calls, but now I use Skype.

I used to buy stamps to mail my bills, but now I've discovered online bill pay at my bank's web site. I still can't believe that they mail out the check for me, to anyone in the US!

I once thought of paying for satellite radio (Sirius, XM), but now just listen to Pandora.

I used to buy blank CD's to back up my data, but now I use the 2GB free storage/backup system at Mozy.

Anyways, I'm sure that there's more to discover. What's your favorite way to save money with the internet?
posted by math to Work & Money (41 answers total) 258 users marked this as a favorite
I used to buy newspapers/magazines, now I get all my news and print entertainment online.
posted by Eicats at 2:03 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I thought about buying a Kindle, but now they have a free app for the iPhone.
posted by GaelFC at 2:04 PM on April 7, 2009

posted by box at 2:05 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to rent movies, but now I watch Hulu.
posted by jbickers at 2:14 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to pay for cable, now I watch TV on the internet for free.
posted by leapfrog at 2:28 PM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

My parents used to pay travel agents, now I use Travelocity/Expedia/Southwest/Orbitz/etc

Folks used to go to used car dealers, now I go to craigslist
posted by jcruelty at 2:31 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to buy music. Now I Google "".
posted by Joe Beese at 2:38 PM on April 7, 2009 [9 favorites]

Just to be a little bit contrarian, I used to use a paid desktop RSS application, then I used Google Reader, and then I went back to using a paid (but now free; is that confusing enough?) RSS application because it's better.

Also, a variation on leapfrog's: I used to watch TV on a schedule; now I watch it on my computer whenever I have time and am about to cancel cable TV service.

Taking a broader definition of "saving money" (i.e., preserving my health and emotional well-being), I used to order crap food when I had to get delivery; now I order real food via Zifty (pepsiblue disclaimer). It's slightly more expensive than your average pizza place, but the quality of life improvement (and health improvement) is worth it.

I used to buy USB storage thingies, but then I started emailing stuff I need to myself via gmail.
posted by socratic at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to buy CDs and DVDs and pay for cable TV, now I...

Um, this is an anonymous answer right?
posted by rokusan at 2:50 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to sell things at consignment stores, now I use Craigslist.

I used to use floppy disks/CDs/flash drive, now I use Gmail/GoogleDocs.

I used to go to the doctor/therapist/dentist, now I use Metafilter (just kidding!).
posted by fructose at 3:01 PM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

Just thought of another one:
I used to buy cookbooks, now I use AllRecipes, and various other websites for recipe ideas.
posted by fructose at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to go shopping at supermarkets, now I do my grocery shopping online and at local fruit/veggie markets.
posted by jedrek at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to fail to ever get a database working in MS Access, now I use Zoho Creator.

I used to use Outlook. Guess what I use now!

I used to buy the Guardian, now I read the Guardian.

I used to go to the library (but that was free anyway! Doh!)
posted by Glum at 3:12 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

i used to buy CDs to get new music but now i browse's rather large free mp3 collection (obviously, best for when you just want to get new music and don't mind exploring, as opposed to trying to find specific artists).
posted by skaye at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to haul around files on thumbdrives, but now I use Dropbox.
posted by ConstantineXVI at 3:30 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to use a four track recorder, I got rid of it after installing ardour. The open source movement's lifeblood is the internet. Similarly, I used to play ad&d, now I mud or play nethack, (not a networked game per-se, the net in the name refers to the fact that its development team collaborated via internet). I used to design and build analog audio circuits, thanks to the wide availability of tutorials, open source audio applications, and open source audio environments like PD, I make virtual instruments and plugins for free, and don't risk burns from the soldering iron any more.
posted by idiopath at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to pay for my dinner on my birthday and now I search online for restaurants that give you a free dinner on you birthday with ID. (This year had dinner at the local casino.)
posted by cda at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2009 [16 favorites]

I used to argue sports/politics/religion in I can do it from the comfort and safety of my own home.
posted by lobstah at 3:42 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to go out and socialise, but now there's MetaTalk on the internet for free!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to pay for Family Tree Maker genealogy software, now I use Geni
I used to buy Microsoft Office, now I use Open Office and Thunderbird
I used to buy entire albums on CD for one song, now I use Hypemachine, LastFM, Pandora, and Skreemr
I used to use FrontPage to create websites, now I use Wordpress and Drupal
I used to pay for Norton Internet Security, now I use Comodo Internet Security
I used to buy road atlases for traveling by car, now I use Google Maps and Google Earth
I used to subscribe to the Consumer Reports magazine, now I use Google and myriad consumer report websites
posted by gemmy at 4:11 PM on April 7, 2009 [16 favorites]

I used to buy camera film, pay to have my photos developed, and buy extra copies for friends and family. Now I post them on facebook.

I used to stand in line overnight to buy concert tickets for my favorite bands, now I use Ticketmaster (but I hate it and it's not cheaper!)
posted by raisingsand at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to stand in line overnight to buy concert tickets for my favorite bands, but now I wait for the hype to die down and check out Craigslist (you can often save money on lesser-known acts, and even some shows where people intend to scalp tickets, but over-estimate the demand).

I used to use the phone, but now I send instant messages.

I used to have a rolodex / address book, but now I use social networking sites (esp. with more family members joining, which is still a bit odd).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:26 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to pay full price for things I order online, but now I google for coupon codes! (Not free. But cheaper.)

Also, don't forget the WB and ABC websites in addition to Hulu for the free timeshifted video stuff. (Not everything's available on Hulu.)
posted by NoraReed at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

quicken :
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 4:47 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to pay for pornography...
posted by surenoproblem at 4:54 PM on April 7, 2009 [8 favorites]

In addition to the others...

Bookstore (when not urgent or needed to be new) -> Addall (I still love my bookstore though)
International long distance plan/calling card -> Onesuit (not free, but sometimes Skype isn't what you want)
Buying the paper for coupons -> RetailMeNot
Guidebooks for major US metros -> Yelp (I am still running into internet-using young-ish adults who have never heard of it) + Chowhound + Wikitravel + here + etc.
Dover clip art books ->
Art & web design how-to books -> free tutorials at DeviantArt and tons of other blogs; see my Delicious tags below.

425 more things tagged "free" in my Delicious account. Y'might want to use the Related Tags there to narrow those down a bit.

I'm sure there must be other things, but they're hard to think of because they're probably not things I ever paid for in the first place. I regularly hear radio ads or some relative's plans or something and think "But why would you pay for that?" Eheh.

Oddly enough, for recipes I've recently returned to cookbooks--I really like Mark Bittman's two Everything books more than any random pile of recipes online (which tend not to mesh well with my eating philosophy anymore, being full of processed-gunk shortcuts and other goo), but two recipe sources I do still bookmark often are Just Hungry and Just Bento.

(These days, it's more interesting to me to see what I will pay for when it comes to software, services, and media.)
posted by wintersweet at 5:13 PM on April 7, 2009 [13 favorites]

Oh, it's only 184 free things. I've ripped you off. (And that's Onesuite up there, not Onesuit, but at least the link is correct.)

I'll add something else so this isn't a total waste: like a lot of other women I know, I used to, with a great deal of embarrassment, periodically insult my feminist ideals by buying a trashy fashion magazine for the eye candy. Then I'd accidentally read some of the horrible articles and feel awful about having given those people my money. So...

Stupid fashion magazines -> Tokyo Street Style, Haute Macabre, Foto Decadent, etc.
posted by wintersweet at 5:22 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used to be content with my cell phone, and now I blow all my money on the iPhone store and apps.

Oh. I think I did it wrong.
posted by SirStan at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2009 [7 favorites]

I used to have a regular writing schedule, an exciting social life, a handful of old friends I kept in touch with via postal mail, a normal bedtime, the ability to focus and concentrate on something for more than 5 minutes, clean laundry on a regular basis, but now I have... Metafilter!

(Sorry for the piggyback, SirStan!)
posted by soviet sleepover at 6:09 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to drive over to the library or the stock broker's to research stock information by cracking open books or subscription reports, now I simply use Yahoo Finance.
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:34 PM on April 7, 2009

I used to yearn for a $300+ Garmin Forerunner and software to calculate my running mileage and track my workouts. Now I can get close enough for free using the Google maps pedometer application and an account at
posted by dr. boludo at 8:34 PM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

My Mum used to pay a few hundred for her prescription glasses, now I get her glasses off goggle4u.

For myself...
I use BansheeScreamer instead of an alarm, have no TV or non-computer soundsystem, use the intarwebs for my:
phonebook, timetables (with journey planners that are far more accurate than my guesstimates!), maps,
I can read books off a computer screen, many people dislike it, I also get reminded to return my library books by LibraryElf (since my library use was not formerly 'free' ;P). I get tickets online, freecycle, find out about free & non-free events/gigs/festivals etc, no longer walk into music stores humming lyrics and hoping they know what song I mean, send notice for parties, arrange to get free rides. I keep wondering if I should sign up for the supermarket food delivery like some friends of mine, as it'd save me a cab fare.
I realised I very seldomly need hard copies of pictures, I just want to view them, so flickr etc for personal albums accessibly anywhere is so, much, better.

Basically, my life falls over when our net is down, but, meh.
posted by Elysum at 9:54 PM on April 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

I used to write letters and post them in the mail, now I write electronic letters for free!
posted by alchemist at 1:13 AM on April 8, 2009

I used to go to the doctor, now I self-diagnose on MayoClinic or Symptom Checker!

Okay, I still go to the doctor and you should too.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:58 AM on April 8, 2009

Sometimes I bought books and CDs. Now I trade them using PaperBackSwap and SecondSpin. You pay for shipping and if you're too lazy to take them to the post office, a reasonable convenience fee for printing postage. Otherwise you trade out your old crap you don't want and get new stuff you do want.

I used to buy the newspaper just for coupons. I still do that but I can also print off tons of savings on SmartSource and RedPlum. Some stores won't take internet coupons, though...

People used to have encyclopedias. Now they have Wikis.
posted by AquaAmber at 7:19 AM on April 8, 2009

I used to use a big paper book to look up phone numbers, now I use google or one of many free directory sites.

I used to keep paper menus or use the phonebook for takeout menus, now I look online.

paper maps:
ask for directions/get lost:

See also: Amazon reviews, recipes on many sites, instructables and youtube for how-tos
posted by theora55 at 8:55 AM on April 8, 2009

I get paid $1 for filling out surveys (mostly public policy only things) for Angus Reid (Sorry, Canada only). Hello $50 cheque!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to pay for a dedicated fax line but now I use (Not free but close)
I used to skip coupons because it was too much work but now I use couponmom and it's easy.
I used to keep paper copies of my kids' game schedules, which was a mess and always out of date, but now I check their schedules online.
I used to pay lots for my landlines but now I use AT&T Callvantage
I used to pay for newspaper classified ads to sell stuff but now I use craigslist.

This is fun!
posted by Breav at 1:47 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to print CDs for distribution, now I distribute for free on Popcuts and Amie Street. [Warning, self-promotion]

I used to keep a paper organizer, now everything's in Google Calendar and the like.
posted by blinks at 9:38 AM on April 10, 2009

I was used to save bills and receipts in boxes wasting space on my house, now I scan everything and store on Evernote. It's very useful and you can see them online (web browser), on desktop (win or mac) and iPhone, which make it accessible anywhere you are.
Ah, and if you don't know about that, your images are scanned on their servers looking for text, then you can search text included in your images.

I bought a Clarifi iPhone case to get better macro photos and legible texts to use that feature. So I can shoot anything anywhere and store directly on my evernote account.

I also use Checkvist to keep track of tasks and organize data outlined. I've replaced OmniOutliner by this web-based free tool.

Until a year ago I was sending printed bills to my clients, now I use FreshBooks which sends it by email or post mail. Not free, but cheap and it saves me a lot of money in printing + shipping costs. And allow recurring sending.

I removed premium channels from my cable tv, now I download tv shows directly from the internet (possibly not legal, but I can watch the shows on time, instead of wait months until the show come to my country).

I also use Dropbox to sync files between computers (linux mac win).

I record screencasts with Jing, which is free and hosts your screencasts in their server, so you shoot and get a link to share with your clients or contacts.

I admin my remote computers with LogMeIn, which allows me to access to the computers directly from the browser at good speed and usability. TeamViewer is also good, but requires user intervention in the remote computer (it's good to provide support to your remote family/friends).

I test sites in different OS/Browsers using virtual machines in VirtualBox (ok, it's not a web service online, but you can get virtual appliances for testing online).

Another website to test in different browsers is CrossBrowserTesting, but I haven't tested it too much, I've used it 5 mins and worked fine.

For mind maps I use MindMeister, it's great and the collaborative part is awesome! We create almost all the sitemaps for all the company projects.

Mibbit for instant IRC access. If you don't want to load your IRC client, or you have anyone installed. Also Meebo for the same purpose but for instant messaging.

And Yammer for the company communication. It's like Twitter but private (and SMS works!).

Ok, I'll stop bug you :)
posted by Leech at 10:40 AM on April 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for the great responses! Very helpful.
posted by math at 12:21 PM on May 8, 2009

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