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Basics and Beyond: How to Get Things You Need For Free

get things you need for free

The U.S. economy is growing, and unemployment is at an historic low, but plenty of Americans are still struggling to cover just the basics.

A 2018 study from the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group, found that nearly 40 percent of adults report that they or their families had trouble meeting at least one basic need for food, health care, housing or utilities in 2017. While those troubles are most common in lower income families, households with higher incomes face similar hardships as well.

And if they’re having trouble paying for one basic, the study found, it’s likely they can’t cover the cost for others. Among those reporting at least once material hardship, 60 percent reported two or more hardships and 35 percent reported three or more.

So, for the many families out there who have trouble putting food on the table, it’s next to impossible to carve out the cash required to pay for a teeth cleaning or a haircut. Meanwhile, splurges like a night at the movies or a new outfit for a special event are out of the question.

Luckily, there are groups, businesses and nonprofits out there who offer up their services and time for free. Here’s where to find them.

How to get things you need for free

How to get a free haircut

The average cost of a haircut is $43 for women and $28 for men, according to the Professional Beauty Association. But you often don’t have to shell out any cash if you head to a cosmetology school or salon training center for a trim.

Suupercuts Training Studios with locations in Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Washington offer free haircuts and colorings to the public on specific days and times each month, according to Supercuts’ website. At the studios, stylists get advanced training on a regular basis, so they can keep their skills up to date.

Other salon chains and beauty schools also offer free and reduced priced services. In New York, for example, New York Magazine found six top salons that give their services out for free or a discount. Check out the Beauty School Directory for details about programs in your area.

How to get a free teeth cleaning

Both dental schools and dental hygiene schools offer dental care for free or a reduced cost. There, you’ll get your teeth cleaned by a student under the watchful eye of an instructor.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation lists all of the accredited dental school programs in the United States. And the American Dental Association lists dental hygienist programs. Find one near you and contact them to determine what programs are offered.

Local health departments and federally-funded community health centers also offer free or reduced-cost health services that may include dental care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

How to get a free prom dress

A prom dress is not a basic need but going to the prom can be an all-important rite of passage for a teenager. And that’s why there are programs across the country that distribute free prom dresses and accessories to girls in need.

Those groups include Becca’s Closet, Cinderella’s Closet and Operation Prom, which all have chapters and locations across the country. But it’s also worth checking for local programs at churches and other nonprofits near you.

How to see a movie for free

If you have kids, you might be familiar with free summer movie programs at theaters that offer second-run, family-friendly flicks on the big screen for no charge during the summer. But theaters also offer year-round opportunities to see new movies for free even before they are released to the public. The Balance has a full list of websites that make it easy to find free advanced screenings near you.

These free programs do come at a cost, so to speak. They can take up more of your time.

You likely will spend more time getting a free haircut or dental cleaning because a student is doing the work. You also may need to wait in line to find the perfect free prom dress or get to that advanced screening to see it for free. But that price of a bit more of your time may be well worth it if money is tight.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. ​Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.


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