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22 Temporarily Free Apps To Help You Stay Entertained & Fulfilled

Like a lot of you, I’ve found myself going a bit stir crazy with all my extra time at home lately. With everything going on, it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious all the time, even if you don’t have anything that’s actually “going on.” Reality check: Being a person is extremely hard right now. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t seem to be productive. 

That being said, if you’re the kind of person who, like me, feels a little lost without planned activities or a focus, there are a lot of ways to fill up your schedule — even if you’re stuck at home. I’ve been managing my own anxiety by giving myself plenty of distractions. I’ve been getting through my to-be-read list, watching Terrace House with my husband, hanging out with friends on Google Hangouts and Zoom, taking a few online classes, baking, finishing a long-ignored knitting project, doing home pilates workouts, even cyber-participating in my building’s mutual aid group. I miss my friends and family, I’m sad I’ve had to cancel a few trips, and dammit, I cannot wait til I can eat in a restaurant again. But I’m grateful that I’ve managed to fill my time with things that enrich my life, and that I’m able to dedicate more of my time to things I always say I want to do but never seem to get around to doing.

But, of course, activities cost money even if you stay home. For any of us who are lucky enough to still have jobs and no interruptions to our income, I do recommend paying for services that help people who might be more impacted by the pandemic. This could simply be occasionally ordering delivery or buying gift cards from your favorite local restaurants, paying for your exercise studio’s virtual services, or ordering books from your favorite independent bookstore. For everyone else, however, there are tons of ways to entertain yourself or enrich your life that are totally free. There are also many online services that are currently offering free trial periods, so you can start a new fitness routine, a mindfulness journey, or read more books for free. 

In putting this list together, I tried to avoid the big-name services that almost always have a free trial available (Netflix, Audible, etc.). It’s definitely not exhaustive, but it’s a good jumping-off point if you’re looking to fill your days!

Fitness

  • Crunch is offering free access to their online workouts on Crunch Live for 45 days to both members and non-members. (I can also add anecdotally that my Crunch location in NYC has frozen all memberships until the club reopens — great that I don’t have to worry about that payment!)
  • I’ve been using Pilatesology for the past week or so, and I really like it! It is all Pilates workouts and has several different 30-day programs to choose from (I’m currently working through the “intermediate” program), in addition to their many available one-off classes. They have an app, but I’ve found that the website works much better. They are offering 16 days free, after which it is $20 a month.
  • The be.come project is an inclusive workout service that calls itself “body neutral” and features accessible 25-minute workouts meant to be done each day over 7-day periods. It is currently offering a 10-day free trial, after which it is $35 a month.
  • 8fit is a workout and meal planning app that customizes a plan based on your goals. It is currently offering a 14-day free trial and is otherwise $5-10 a month.
  • Groupon is currently offering a free 60-day trial for the Daily Burn app, which would normally cost $39.99.

Online classes

  • Skillshare pretty much always has free trials available, and they’ve expanded those offerings — free two-month memberships to those with .edu and .k12 email addresses, as well as more free two-month memberships based on need. The paid service is between $9 and $19 a month, depending on how frequently you pay.
  • This isn’t technically a special deal, but Coursera has tons of classes available for free (you simply forgo getting a certificate upon completion, which you would have to pay for). I signed myself up for the very popular “The Science of Well-Being” course from Yale, and it’s very enlightening!
  • I’ve heard about The Great Courses Plus on a few podcasts I listen to, and it sounds like a great service to check out if you’re interested in some more “classic” home education. They are currently offering 30 days free, after which plans are $10-20 a month.
  • Our friend Amanda Holden, the voice behind the awesome Dumpster Dog Blog, is offering her stock market volatility class for $10 — and if you can’t afford the fee, you can just email or Instagram DM her for the link! 
  • Be sure to check out your favorite food bloggers on Instagram. So many of them have been streaming themselves cooking/baking, either on Instagram live or other platforms. On my own feed alone, I’ve seen Alison Roman, Smitten Kitchen, and some of my favorite GBBO contestants do this!

Streaming services

  • Acorn TV is a streaming service featuring mainly shows from the U.K. They seem to always have a free 7-day trial, and are currently offering 30-day trials with the code FREE30. After that, the service is around $6 a month.
  • CBS All Access is offering free 30-day trials through April 23, with the promo code GIFT. The service usually ranges from $6-10 a month depending on if you want to watch with ads or without.
  • The music streaming service Tidal is offering a free trial period, as well as a longer promo that gives you 4 months of access for $4 a month.
  • You can get one month free of Hulu (highly recommend checking out the show Pen15 if you haven’t!), after which memberships range from $6-13 a month.
  • If you have a Verizon Wireless unlimited cell phone plan, you can get a free year of Disney+.
  • Showtime is offering a free 30-day trial, after which it is $11 a month.
  • Sundance Now, an indie movie and series streaming service owned by AMC, always offers a 7-day free trial, and you can currently get 30 days free with the code SUNDANCENOW30.

Other

  • Headspace, the popular guided meditation and mindfulness app, is now totally free for people who work in healthcare through the end of 2020.
  • The Kitchenista has made her appetizer recipes eBook free to download! It’s normally around $5.
  • Literary magazine Kirkus has made all their digital subscriptions free, which includes access to their back issues!
  • Scribd, a subscription e-reading and audiobook service, is offering a free 30-day trial to use their services, which are normally $8.99 a month. But also, I can’t in good conscience put together a list like this without giving a shoutout to my beloved New York Public Library, and specifically the Libby app, which, yes, is always free. But if you’re tight on cash and have a smartphone, it’s one of the best resources I can personally recommend. You don’t even have to have an e-reader to be able to enjoy ebooks — you can simply download an e-reading app (like Kindle for iPhone or Android) and get books there. If your library is closed and you never registered for a card, see if you can register online; NYPL is currently offering that option, and I bet your local library might be, too. (Also, I don’t necessarily want to endorse Amazon currently, but if you have an Amazon Prime account, you already have access to the Prime Reading library — worth checking out.)
  • The Satire & Humor Festival is offering free live-streamed events since their in-person festival had to be canceled. If you’re able, you can give a donation to their partner Caveat in support.
  • I listen to several book-centric podcasts, and I’ve noticed that several of them have started virtual book tours! Check out the Stay At Home Book Tour from Modern Mrs. Darcy, hosted on Zoom, and The Stacks’ “Quarantour” book tour on Instagram Live.

I’m sure I missed a ton of free offerings, but this feels like a good start. If you have recommendations I didn’t include, please shout them out in the comments!

Image via @nineteenphoto

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