The holiday season is upon us, and that means consumers across the country are already scouring the internet and shopping malls in search of the best deals. While there are lots of great offerings at this time of year, money-savvy shoppers know a secret for saving big bucks: free samples.
Whether you’re shopping online or in stores, the free sample tricks listed below can help you save money at places like Sephora and Target while preventing you from buying full-size products you might not end up liking. As an added bonus, you might just find a few stocking stuffers along the way. Take a look at these tips to score free samples with few or no strings attached. Happy sampling!
1. Sephora and ULTA
Beauty products can cost a fortune, especially when money is wasted because you don’t realize until after you’ve purchased a product that it fails to meet your needs. Luckily, many beauty retailers, such as Sephora and ULTA, offer free samples through loyalty programs and online promotion codes.
When you shop online at Sephora.com, you will receive three free samples with each purchase. The site also offers beauty deals, including limited-time markdowns, free products and exclusive offers with the use of promotion codes at checkout. To take advantage of even more free samples, register to become a Beauty Insider and receive free deluxe samples, gifts on your birthday and more. You will also earn points for each purchase and can eventually use those points to receive larger samples and even full-sized products, depending on how many you accumulate.
When you are shopping in-store at Sephora, ask for samples of products you are interested in so that you can try them before you buy. This benefit allows you to test products for allergic reactions and personal preference before committing to a full-size purchase.
Like Sephora, beauty retailer ULTA allows customers to add free samples when making online purchases. You can sign-up for ULTA’s email list to receive special offers, a free birthday gift and bonus point rewards, as well.
2. Target and Walmart
Of course, beauty retailers aren’t the only stores that provide their customers with special deals. Marcy Bonebright, a features writer at the daily deal and coupon site DealNews, said that finding free samples at Target and Walmart requires a bit more patience.
“Generally, you’ll have to fill out a short form about your shopping habits, and then wait three to five weeks for delivery. We typically see samples for grocery and medical items from these stores, so you might have to sift through offers you’re not interested in,” Bonebright said.
According to Target’s Sample Spot page, offerings are usually scooped up quickly, and customers will need to check back often to avoid missing out. To receive a sample, you will have to fill out a survey and provide information about yourself. Examples of free samples available from Target include personal care products, food freebies and cleaning supplies.
Like Target, Walmart requires customers to think fast to score samples. To nab free samples from Walmart, visit the retailer’s Free Samples and Savings page, where you will find the items being offered while supplies last. Examples of free samples from Walmart include cosmetics and personal care products, coffee, food, diapers, greeting cards and medicine.
Related: 10 Best and Worst Deals at Target
3. Macy’s and Nordstrom
Department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom often give out free samples with purchases, especially for cosmetics, fragrances and other beauty products, and particularly around holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
When visiting a department store beauty counter, don’t forget to ask the sales associate or makeup artist for free samples of the products you wish to try. Usually, the salesperson will give you two to three days’ worth of products to try out so you can test for allergic reactions and suitability.
To find free giveaways at Macy’s, visit the department store’s online Deals and Promotions webpage. To find freebies at Nordstrom, visit the retailer’s Gifts with Purchase webpage.
4. Proctor and Gamble, L’Oréal, Gillette and Garnier
Become a Proctor & Gamble BzzAgent to receive and review products and find out what samples are available through the P&G Samples by Mail program. As a BzzAgent or participant in the Samples by Mail program, you will receive free products from P&G brands like Olay, Oral-B, Tide, Pampers, Duracell, Swiffer, Old Spice, Clairol and more, all delivered straight to your mailbox. Several other brands, including Gillette, L’Oréal and Garnier Fructis, have similar free sample and giveaway programs.
Small samples of this type make perfect travel companions. Keep your stash in a clear Ziploc bag and bring it with you the next time you go on vacation. You’ll save time and money by not having to buy the travel-size products needed to meet TSA regulations at the airport.
5. Grocery Stores and Wholesale Retailers
If you’re on your lunch break, consider taking a stroll through grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Along with wholesale retailers such as Costco and Sam’s Club, many grocery stores offer free food samples that are perfect for times when you need a snack.
Trader Joe’s usually has a demo station set up for you to taste-test a promoted beverage, and Whole Foods will allow you to try any prepared food — just ask a store associate. Wholesale retailers Sam’s Club and Costco, along with certain grocery stores, have stations set up throughout the store for customers to taste all kinds of food, from sausages to pre-packaged cookies and gourmet cheeses.
Just don’t go overboard — in 2010, a man in Minnesota was arrested in a grocery store for violating “societal norms and common customer understanding regarding free-sample practices,” according to The Atlantic.
Related: 20 Ways to Pay Less at Costco
Ask for Free Samples at Any Store
If your favorite store or brand wasn’t mentioned on this list, don’t fret. Many retailers offer free samples and, in most cases, all you have to do is ask. Jonathan Ceballos, marketing assistant at USB Memory Direct, said his company gives away free samples to customers who request them.
“We’ve seen it really helps with closing sales, and it gives our customers ease of mind to know exactly what they’re buying,” Ceballos said. “You’ll be surprised how many stores and brands will give you a free sample of their product. They might not advertise that they do, but it doesn’t mean they’re not able to. Some of the best free samples and products you can receive can come from directly contacting a company, too.”
If you’re more of an online shopper, don’t hesitate to use your favorite web retailer’s search function to locate great samples. You can also find free offerings online at websites like All You, Freebies and Sample A Day. All it takes is a little research to start making your free sample dreams realities and your holiday shopping that much simpler.
Related: 31 Best Websites for Free Stuff