My life has undergone a somewhat radical change recently. Not long ago Christmas time would have meant me getting lost among the countless tourists on 5th avenue as I searched for hidden treasures; fancy gifts from fancy stores for friends and family with perhaps a couple for me mixed in as well. It was a process I loved, in part because I love giving things away, but in part for the less admirable reason that I loved spending money. After all, it was only in the spending that money was imbued with enough value to justify the drudgery and soul sucking work that made up the greater part of my life.
As I said, things have changed for me. I now live a life of near complete freedom, but the money for designer Christmas gifts is gone as well. Yet, for my part, I’ve never felt that I’ve had to go without. That’s mainly thanks to escaping my cubicle prison, but also in small part due to the wonderful things that are being given away for free all the time. As a small gift to you, I’d like to share some of the best things I’ve found free online in the hopes they can add a little something to your Christmas as well.
Perhaps my favorite online gift are the courses given by universities like Yale, Oxford and MIT. If you use iTunes you’ll find an amazing collection of free courses under iTunes University otherwise you can find them here. Considering students pay a hundred dollars an hour to sit in these same classes, it’s quite a bargain; MIT is even planning to offer free certification starting next year. For a slightly less demanding, but still educational experience, Ted offers shorter lectures given by famous scholars, authors and professionals on countless topics.
I know I’m a bit of a nerd, but there’s plenty of less academic stuff for free as well. For music lovers, which should be nearly everyone, the resources are almost limitless. Pandora will design a radio station for you for free, Grooveshark lets you pick the songs you want to hear and countless radio stations from around the world will stream music to your computer for nothing at all. Movies and video aren’t far behind music. Youtube still dominates, but other sites often stream longer clips, including full length movies. Try Vimeo, Hulu, Metacafe or Veoh. Even simpler, more and more TV programming is available free directly from the stations. This can save on your cable bill and on how much time you’re forced to sit through commercials.
I could go one forever really. Countless classic books can be read or downloaded to you Kindle free at sites like Project Gutenburg or Free Kindle Books. You can take great quizzes on everything from movie quotes and song lyrics to American Presidents and science at Sporcle, or you can rot your brain with thousands of free games at Shockwave. If you happen to pirate things, well you probably don’t need this list….
I’ve just scratched the surface here and no doubt many of you knew about some or all of these sites already. If that’s the case, we can just take a moment to appreciate how much we have already, even before we open the new Christmas presents. After all happiness comes from appreciating what you have, no getting what you want. Once that’s done we can go about focusing on what’s really important: friends and family. Although come to think of it, isn’t that what Facebook is for?