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Seven Sneaky Ways to Score Free Stuff Online

Stealing hotel soap and religiously clipping cereal boxes isn't the only way to find free stuff anymore. Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of easy ways you can get complimentary goodies with nothing more than your laptop and a little ingenuity. Since we want you to save your cash for cool things that will always cost money—like a limited edition Prada bag or black Chanel jacket—we've listed seven sneaky methods for scoring freebies online:

1. If a brand you like has a rewards program, join it. If you regularly spend money somewhere, why not capitalize on your spending? Companies like American Eagle, DSW and Fresh Cosmetics all offer no-strings-attached incentives for shopping with them, like gift cards and free merchandise. (To read a list of our favorite customer rewards programs, click here.)

2. Always make an account on your favorite e-commerce sites. Creating a log in shouldn't require you to save your credit card number or sign up for spam. Usually a user name, password, email address and date of birth will suffice—just enough information to receive a discount or present on your birthday. Also, if the company has a blowout sale or gift with purchase promotion, you'll be automatically notified.

3. Buy from beauty stores that give good samples. Every time you need to refill an item is chance to stock up on cosmetic freebies. Sephora.com, Kiehls.com and Bluemercury.com all offer three complementary samples with every purchase, so always coordinate your order with products you'd like to try.

4. Join a Beachmint club—or all of them! Since all the branches—Stylemint, Jewelmint, Beautymint, Shoemint and soon, HomeMint—of this monthly subscription program belong to the same company, they're constantly holding cross-promotional giveaways, which include pieces from the other lines and mystery "grab-bags."

5. Trade your old books/DVDs/CDs for new ones. Before you spend an unnecessarily large chunk of your summer shopping budget on iTunes and Amazon.com, sign up for Paperbackswap.com. Upon joining, you can list your old novels, movies and audio books for other people to order. When someone requests one of your items, you'll receive a credit in your account for sending it to them. Each transaction is a "trade," which allows you to order anything listed for yourself—and there are millions of titles to choose from—without paying a penny.

6. You can almost always avoid shipping charges. Sites that don't already offer complimentary delivery (see our top 17 favorites, here) usually have a order minimum that allows for it. So instead of placing your orders piecemeal, try to plan them so you always exceed the minimum purchase. Also, if you're buying a common item from a well-known brand, do some research to see which online shop has the best shipping policy.

7. Dig through your local Craigslist site. If you're searching for furniture or home items, the online classifieds are usually your best bet—especially in urban areas where people move a lot. There also are always a couple of wildcards—we've seen everything from old magazines to computers listed on the "free stuff" forum, so it's worth checking regularly. However, if you do plan on taking someone's cast-offs be sure to handle the transaction wisely: don't give out your personal information and pick up the items in a public place.

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shopping tips