Kim Komando | Special to USA TODAY
There's always something new to spend money on when it comes to tech. Here's a secret that these companies don't want you to know: There's a lot you can get without spending a dime.
Take photo storage. Are you using the free space you can get from Apple, Google, and Amazon? Tap or click here for the best ways to store the photos and videos on your phone.
Speaking of money, I hear from people all the time who want to cut Netflix, Hulu, and other expensive streaming services. Here’s a list of 15 sites you can find movies to watch for free. Some services include ads, but you won’t run into illegal downloads or malware.
Storage and movies aren’t the only things you can get for free. Here are 15 freebies you can thank me for later:
1. Photo editing software
Photoshop is the program synonymous with photo editing, but the software subscription is expensive. Here are a few free ways to crop, brighten and otherwise adjust your photos:
• Canva: This user-friendly browser and app-based editing software is ideal for creating presentations, social media graphics, marketing materials, posters, and anything else you can dream up.
• Pixlr X: This tool runs in your browser; no download is required. It has advanced features like photo filters and drawing options, but it really shines with simple-to-use cropping and resizing tools.
• GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program: This professional-grade photo editor works similarly to Photoshop. Unlike Photoshop, GIMP is free to download.
Photoshop is also testing a free, browser-based version of its photo editing software. Right now, you need an Adobe account to access it. Tap or click here for more details and a direct link to try it.
2. Video editing software
This is one of those things that you don’t need until you really need it. Maybe you were tasked with putting together a video for a wedding or class reunion, or you finally want to start a YouTube channel.
Most dependable video editing programs cost an arm and a leg. Notice I said most. When it comes to free options, DaVinci Resolve takes the cake. Tap or click here to see how it makes editing easy.
If you have a Mac or iPhone, you’ll be glad to know Apple iMovie is a surprisingly good video editor. Tap or click to see how to turn your clips and photos into a masterpiece with iMovie.
3. Word processing software
When it comes to productivity software, Microsoft Office is the gold standard. Of course, it’s pricey. I have recommended LibreOffice for years. It’s an open-source software suite that works much like the apps in Microsoft Office.
It also saves new files in Office formats, so you don't have to worry about file conversions. Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide to downloading LibreOffice.
Already using Google Docs? Tap or click for a simple trick that makes starting a new document a snap.
4. Freeze your credit
Freezing your credit is free. If you ever get prompted to pay, you’re on the wrong site, clicked a shady ad, or spoke to a scammer.
The trick is knowing the spots to freeze your credit. It’s not just one place. Tap or click for the steps you need to take. This page is worth bookmarking for the next time you get an alert that your personal info was exposed in a data breach.
5. Burner email addresses
Do you want a coupon code but not the spammy emails that come with it? Use a burner email address.
You can use a free disposable email service like 10-Minute Mail. It’s easy to create a temporary email address to ensure your security, so you don’t have to give away your personal and work email addresses.
Use an iPhone? The Hide My Email feature is powerful, easy to use, and requires no additional downloads. Tap or click for a simple way to protect your inbox privacy.
6. Brush up on your college Spanish
Duolingo is a top-rated language-learning app and for good reasons. It's easy to use, engaging, and surprisingly easy.
Duolingo offers 37 languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Latin, Korean, Scottish Gaelic, Ukrainian, Italian, and Chinese. Have trouble staying committed? Duolingo offers daily reminders that hold you accountable each day.
7. E-books for your summer vacation
Digital books can add up, especially if you're a voracious reader. OpenLibrary.org lets you browse thousands of books to find your next favorite. Sign up, verify your email, and you're good to go. You can start browsing in just a few minutes.
Trying to get a side business or freelance career off the ground? I have a new e-book you should read to maximize your profits: “Guide to Successful Online Freelancing.”
8. Audiobooks for listening on your walks
Prefer to listen to your reading list? Audiobooks can make chores like yard work and cooking a lot more interesting and liven up long walks or road trips.
9. Internet speed tests
Free internet speed tests can help determine whether you’re genuinely getting your advertised rates. One of the most reliable free speed tests around is Speedtest.net. This site will measure various statistics like the ping time, download speed and upload speed of your internet connection.
If you're a streaming video buff, try Netflix's free internet speed test, Fast.com.
If your internet speed turns out to be lower than expected, there are ways to improve it. Tap or click for tips to boost your Wi-Fi speeds.
10. Low-cost or free internet
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides up to $50 a month for broadband service. To qualify, you must meet one of five criteria, one of them being an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
12. Shipping materials
Here’s some good news for small business owners who work from home. Actually, this freebie is helpful for anyone who wants to stop spending so much money on their mail. Thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, you can score free envelopes and boxes.
It’s not just one or two, either. You can get a pack of 50 Priority Mail Express packages at no cost. You can get medium boxes, shoe boxes and a lot more.
13. Update your passport photo
Don’t wait in a long line to have someone take your picture for your passport. Just head to ePassportPhoto.com and follow a few steps to take the perfect picture. It’s pretty easy, and the site tells you exactly what to do.
14. Magazines to read on the beach
Have an Amazon Prime account? You can get free access to a rotating library of popular magazines free for 30 days. Check them out here. The Prime Reading perk is a terrific way to save money you’d otherwise spend on expensive monthly subscriptions.
Titles include Wired, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home and more.
15. Weekend project ideas for you and the kids
If you or someone you know loves to sew, check out FreeNeedle. It includes step-by-step tutorials, sewing and crochet patterns, and helpful articles.
Instructables.com has a stellar library of projects for all ages and skill levels for those who are more into crafts and woodworking. There's something for everyone. Here are some of my favorites:
• Make a 3D-printed lamp
• Craft a college loft bed
• Learn astrophotography
• Build a spaceship-shaped chicken coop
• Design a custom fighting game controller
16. Bonus Freebie
I’ve been helping countless millions use tech for over twenty years. I put together hidden tricks and handy features you won’t find in a user manual as a free downloadable guide. Whether you’re using Windows or Mac, you’re bound to learn a few you’ll use again and again.
Here’s a short list of what you’ll learn in my free guides:
• Search tricks to find your files and programs in a snap
• Keyboard shortcuts to boost your productivity – and show off a little
• Quick photo editing without downloading any extra programs
• Messaging shortcuts to get your texts right on your computer
• Handy free safe downloads for Windows and macOS
Bad news: Google Meet will now rat on you if you're late for a meeting. On the bright side, Google Workspace lets you work offline with Microsoft Office files. Plus, a simple way to get $20 from Amazon. Time is running out, so listen now to snag free money in about 60 seconds.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.