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Get these holiday gifts for free! (Well, almost)

Nothing makes a Christmas grinch grimace more than the holidays. Robyn Moreno, an editor with Woman's Day magazine, was invited on the “Today” show to discuss a few free or nearly free gift ideas for everyone on your list.

You don’t have to break the bank this year buying holiday gifts for friends and family.  Woman’s Day editor Robyn Moreno searched high and low and found a number of free or nearly free gift ideas. Among them:

Trade your old DVDs for new titles you can give as gifts with Peerflix.com.  Used DVDs now have a second life as tradable currency on a year-old Web site called Peerflix.  Users make lists of the DVDs they want and DVDs they want to get rid of, then Peerflix matches the “wants” with the “haves” for 99 cents a trade (consumers can try it out for free with a complimentary trial membership).  Each movie title is assigned between one and three “Peerbux,” based on their desirability.  Users rack up Peerbux each time they ship a movie, and can then use their loot to purchase movies from other users.  The company provides a mailing label with a tracking number and shipping envelopes.  Users must pay postage.  The site has more than 40,000 users and there are 65,000 DVDs available for trade.

Trade in your used coffee machine and give a new Senseo machine as a gift.  Out with the old and in with the new.  Senseo is traveling all over the country — from New York to Los Angeles — with their “Drop the Drip” event.  Participants can trade in their used drip coffeemaker for a free Senseo machine (retail value $69.99) by visiting senseo.com/dropthedrip or by attending a “Drop the Drip” event on the ground as they travel to 10 select cities nationwide.  The events offer consumers the chance to sample Senseo’s coffee and partake in product demonstrations in a fun and interactive outdoor café setting.  To date over 2,500 drip machines have been dropped.  Senseo’s “Drop the Drip” campaign also supports America’s Second Harvest, a leading hunger-relief organization in the U.S., for each coffeemaker received Senseo will donate $1 to hurricane relief efforts.

Give the gift of music, 100 free music downloads from E-music with a Boomer Coalition voucher.  Register at the Boomer Coalition Web site, boomercoalition.org, and receive 100 free song downloads by clicking the link and registering with eMusic.com.  After you download songs you can create a personal mix for those on your holiday list or you can give them the 100 free downloads by simply emailing them the link. At the time of registration, you will be asked for a credit card — but the songs do not cost anything.  If you just want the 100 songs, download them and then just deactivate the membership. No strings attached. No catch, the songs are yours.  You will only be billed if you want to remain a member after your 30-day trial.  After you register at the Boomer Coalition web site you get also receive information about how to prevent cardiovascular disease including a personal report card and health tips on prevention.

Bad gift boycott — Get a lousy gift and trade it in for a Sam Goody gift card.  Go to the Sam Goody in the Mall of America and throw your bad gift in the dumpster and receive a gift card worth between $2 and $500.  All gifts will be donated to the American Heart Association’s Annual Garage Sale.

Give the gift that can reach thousands of miles away, free internet calls from Skype.  Skype’s complimentary software allows you to make free calls to your friends all over the world.  Go to skype.com and download the software, register, install, plug in your headset, speakers or USB phone and start calling your friends.  The calls have good sound quality and are highly secure with end-to-end encryption.  Works on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and PDAs using Pocket PC.  

Give beauty product samples from LUSH.  LUSH is known for their hand-made approach to bath, body, skin and haircare products by using fresh and organic fruits and vegetables and minimal preservatives.   LUSH not only encourages customers to sample its beauty products, they provide samples based on each person’s individual needs.  All LUSH stores also host parties every month that focus on seasonal themes and offer a limited quantity of free goody bags for those register in advance at lush.com.  Lush, the self-proclaimed beauty grocer, has designed 24 stores nationwide that mimic beauty delis with blocks of soaps piled high to represent exotic cheeses, bath bombs piled high like bushels of apples, pay by weight prices, and the best customer service a shop can offer.  Go to lush.com to register for a party or to find a store near you. And, why not make your own gift by attending a demo at one of the following stores:

Attend a free craft demonstration at a Jo-Ann Store near you and create a craft you can give to friends and family. Craft items are a great gift for friends or family, and creating them provides a rewarding way for co-workers to have some fun together.  During the month of December, Jo-Ann superstores nationwide will hold a number of free craft demonstrations where kids and adults can make last minute holiday gifts, holiday baskets, and holiday decorations.  Jo-Ann superstores also hosts a number of classes where you can learn to create more elaborate gifts, such as handbags and afghans, for a fee ranging from $5 to $40. Check your local Jo-Ann store or joann.com for a demonstration or class near you.

Attend a free craft demonstration at one of Micahels Stores and create a craft you can give to family and friends. During the month of December, Michaels Stores will hold various free craft demonstrations where kids and adults can make unique hand-made gifts, including teacher gifts, knitted items and jewelry sets. Michael Stores can be found in 48 states and Canada.  Check your local Michaels or michaels.com to find  a demonstration near you.

Let your kids attend a free Kids’ Clinic at Lowe’s and they can make a snowman ornament to give to someone special.  Lowe’s offers free “How To” clinics designed to teach you how to tackle any home improvement project. Check your local Lowe’s store or lowes.com for a class near you.

Create custom-made crafts for free with HP’s online activity center — The HP Activity Center has great projects, gifts and more for the holidays and beyond.  You can create personalized photo calendars, puzzles, holiday ornaments and cards, and wrapping paper designed by celebrity party planner Preston Bailey.  The activity center includes additional projects and decorations such as invitations, party kits, picture frames, Halloween masks and more.  Go to hp.com/projects to download FREE templates and get started.

Consumer Privacy Protection Tip: Remember nothing is ever really completely free.  Most businesses will require you to register for a free product or service.  By doing this you are giving the company the permission to send you marketing materials such as solicitations by mail, phone and or email.

Information excerpted from Woman's Day magazine. Copyright ©2005 by Woman's Day magazine. All rights reserved.

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