Family Life


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6 Tech Freebies to Help Save You Money

Family enjoying tech freebies on three devices

The cost of living is all anyone can talk about these days. If you’re looking for ways to make room in your budget, consider these six tech freebies that may be able to help you pinch a few more pennies.

With the rising costs of living putting a strain on many families—not to mention high interest rates affecting your credit card and mortgage payments, mass layoffs and a looming recession—Canadians, understandably, are looking for ways to save.

The good news is, there are things you can get for free that you might otherwise need to budget for.

Granted, there may be a few limitations, such as sitting through a few ads during movie or borrowing (rather than owning) e-books, but you might be surprised about what’s out there to help you keep more money in your pocket.

The library is so much more than books

You know you can check books out of the library, but did you know that your library card also offers you access to e-books and audiobooks for free? Many local library systems have adopted the Libby app, an easy-to-use platform that allows you to borrow thousands of books (even bestsellers and new titles) with just an active library card number.

The app connects book lovers with content in more than 22,000 public libraries and thousands of colleges, universities, corporate libraries and learning centres. There may be a waitlist for the hottest titles and resources, but it’s usually your turn before you even notice you’re still waiting. You can enjoy the book you’re reading or listening to until the due date, but now you don’t need to drive the books back to the library.

You can install Libby on multiple devices, and all your loans, notes, bookmarks and reading progress are synchronized across your devices.

There’s a free way to turn e-books into audiobooks

Here’s a little-known trick iPhone or iPad owners: Turn your e-books into free audiobooks using a built-in accessibility tool called Speak Screen that will read aloud any text on the screen.

Now you can listen while in the car, while closing your eyes on an airplane or even when walking down the street.

To activate it (which is only required once), go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content > Speak Screen. Then, in any app you have open, such as an e-book reading app, swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen for the content to be read to you. This tech freebie also works with emails, messages, web articles, recipes and notes. You can tweak the voice, including gender and language, speaking speed and more.

Speaking of audio, you can also take advantage of tens of thousands of free radio plays—popularized in the ’40s and ’50s—at websites like, or by subscribing to various podcasts, such as Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society and Relic Radio.

Free TV? These apps deliver (with commercials)

Often referred to as AVOD services (“ad-supported video on demand”) or sometimes FAST (“free ad-supported streaming TV”), these networks provide free videos to watch on a smart TV, smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Some of the more popular options include Pluto TV, Tubi, Roku Channel and, of course, YouTube. They each offer thousands of TV show episodes and movies for free. Some have live programming, but most are on-demand.

The catch? You need to sit through some commercials at the start and during the programming.

But hey, free is free.

Get a free second phone number

Having a secondary phone number on your smartphone is super handy for a variety of reasons, but, believe it or not, you don’t actually have to pay for a service.

Instead, tech freebies like the Canadian-based TextNow app can give you a number in your general area, providing your desired area code is available (and if it isn’t, you can choose another city). Both services work on mobile devices (phones, tablets) and computers.

TextNow is free to use over wi-fi, but be aware you’ll incur data charges with your carrier if used over a cellular network.

Like your main number, you can change the ringtone, access voicemail, engage in conference calling and more.

Create a surveillance camera without a subscription

Given how often we update our devices, you might have a spare iPhone, iPad or Android sitting around at home. If you do, you can turn it into a free wireless surveillance camera, a baby monitor on date night, a “nanny” cam (with consent) or a way to keep an eye on your pets while at work.

It’s all handled through an app called Alfred Camera and another called Presence (both for iOS and Android).

After you install (and sign into) the same app on both your current active phone or tablet and your old one, simply place the outdated device somewhere in your home, ensure that it’s plugged in and point the device’s camera in the direction you’d like to monitor Now, wherever life takes you, open the same app on your existing phone or tablet to see what’s happening in real-time at home.

Try free compatible offline productivity tools

While there are some free productivity programs, most require an internet connection to use.

Instead, Apache’s OpenOffice is a downloadable, offline suite of productivity tools for word processing, for creating spreadsheets and presentations, etc. OpenOffice is available in multiple languages and runs on many operating systems, and you can install it on as many computers as you like.

The software suite (so many tech freebies in one!) supports a wide range of file types created by other programs (including Microsoft Office’s .doc, .xls and .ppt).

On a related note, there are many free photo-editing tools, but Gimp might be the most robust of these tech freebies, thanks to its powerful editing features, digital retouching, multiple file support and customizable interface options.

Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman on Twitter or @marcsaltzman on Instagram. Or subscribe to his weekly Tech It Out podcast at

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