Why are people so obsessed with cheap stuff when there are so many freebies to be found? Free is so much less expensive than cheap. So don't settle; quit your bargain hunting and embrace these no-cost goodies.
"All the boys got really jealous," says Nina, an organizer of the Mud Spot café's seasonal NAKED LADIES PARTY (Mud Spot, 307 East 9th Street, 212-228-9074). This free, nudity-optional clothing swap employs bouncers to keep men out. Girls dump bags full of unwanted clothes onto a pile in the middle of the room. Chaos ensues as the ladies dig for finds. A party like this could get nasty like the Barney's Co-op sale, but "You go, girl!" gregariousness prevails. It doesn't matter what or if you bringjust take whatever you want and be sure to play nice.
Classy drunks should proceed to UNION SQUARE WINES AND LIQUORS (33 Union Square West, 212-675-8100, unionsquarewines.com) on Saturday afternoons for their highly civilized "mega-tastings," when 18-30 different wines are uncorked for sampling, or the less frequent "hyper-tastings," when the whole store is given over to 80 different pours.
CRAIGSLIST (newyork.craigslist.org) keeps you off the streets with its Free Stuff message board, on which users post notes putting their unwanted furniture and appliances up for grabs, so if you're on a minimal budget you don't need to sift through the bedbug-infested items abandoned curbside. Disturbingly similar is the Casual Encounters personals page, where you can pick someone up for an anonymous quickie in the same way you might snag an outdated printer or a wobbly end table.
If the idea of swimming in the Hudson doesn't deter you, go kayaking all summer courtesy of the New York City DOWNTOWN BOATHOUSE (on the Hudson River at Pier 26 between Chambers and Canal streets, Pier 66A at West 26th Street, and at West 72nd Street, downtownboathouse.org). Downtown Boathouse's entirely free programs at its three locations include "walk-up kayaking" in front of the boathouse, introductory classes, kayak polo, and three-hour guided trips on the river.
The samples at KIEHL'S (109 Third Avenue, 212-677-3171) used to be a lot bigger, but the store's still tossing 'em out aplenty. These little plastic tubes of lotions, aftershave, and other heavenly skin-care products are too slight to create addictions but riveting enough to make requesting them at the store worth your while.
The NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (212-427-5120, nyc.gov/html/doh/html/std/stdfree.html) provides free, confidential STD and HIV testing in all five boroughs. There's always free pregnancy testing and counseling at Planned Parenthood locations (212-965-7000, ppnyc.org), and they also schedule days of free HIV testing and events like the upcoming Free Pap Smear Day.
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