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Discussion: Making the Most of FREE Samples!

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Anel, a reader, emailed with a great question:

“I wanted to ask the readers about creative ways to store samples.”

This is a great topic to discuss! Getting samples in the mail is so much fun, but sometimes coming up with creative ways to store them and use them is the difficult part!

One way I make the most of free samples is by using them as little gifts for friends and family. Whenever I send out thank you cards or any other greeting type card I almost always throw in a little sample. Whether it be a coupon for a product I know the person likes or a sample I think they might use… anything really. I just think it’s so great to know they’ll have a little surprise when they open the card.

Another thing I do with FREE magazine subscriptions, besides reading and clipping all the great coupons inside, is flip through each magazine and tear out all the perfume samples. In the last issue of Cosmo I literally found over five free perfume samples and I usually find at least one or two in other magazines as well. In my bathroom I have a drawer that’s just stuffed to the brim with free perfume samples. I love it! I get to wear a new fragrance everyday! As you can see, I NEVER buy perfume, unless of course I’m snagging it for free!

Alright, so what are your ideas for storing and getting the most out of your FREE samples?

Collin founded Hip2Save in 2008 and has over 10 years experience as a deals and lifestyle editor, strategist, and creative copywriter. She is debt-free and has been featured in Parents Magazine, Today.com and MSNBC. Connect with Collin on LinkedIn

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Comments 46

  1. Anonymous

    I have a bsket in my bathroom full of shampoos and conditioners. I leave some in the guest bathroom so when people come they feel like they are getting hotel service.

  2. Julie P.

    One thing I’d recommend with the free magazine subscriptions is ordering them for your local library. Esp. in these hard economic times, your public library would probably welcome a free magazine subscription for patrons! I work at a public library and often get the free mag subscriptions for our readers! You might call your library to see if they currently subscribe to a particular mag before ordering it though, to avoid duplication.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Collin! I think I may be the first to comment, 🙂 BTW, I LOVE your website/link the most I think! It is always so informative and helpful. I am not necessarily new to couponing, but am new to all the new and different ways to save. I am just getting started and am very excited! I tried watching the videos last night of Follow Me Monday, but the sound was very hard for me to hear, but I could not mistake your smile or your savings once the trip was done. So, thanks! Now to the original question, (lol) I would use samples in many different ways…you can always make up a basket or bag for a new Mom, or someone who has just come home from the hospital…(besides, when does the Mom get pampered?! 😉 Samples are great for like you said, little teachers gifts, your pastor’s wife, school counselors, your family at Christmas. Even your favorite waitress at your favorite restaurant might like a little surprise next time you go in. You never know how that could turn out for you either, not that you are doing it to try and ‘get’ something all the time. 🙂 Samples are also great to put in little baskets if you have overnight company and they forgot something..or just a little something of you and from you for them to take home w/them. There are tons of organizations and needy families all around you..and w/the holidays coming up what a better time to give to those who can’t do for themselves. My kids and I plan on visiting the children’s ward at the hospital starting next month and we are taking toys/puzzles for the kids, and maybe by then I’ll have enough samples that I can gift them to the nurses station. Just my take on it. Thanks again for all your wonderful ideas and help! Have a blessed day! -V

  4. Anonymous

    I like the idea of keeping the samples in the basket. I have two teenagers who always have friends over and their friends know that if they have forgotten anything there is a good supply of whatever they need here!

  5. Anonymous

    You can put together a travel pack and give it as gifts. We use our samples whenever we’re spending the night somewhere else… so if you have too much samples (is there such a thing? LOL), get a small bag at the dollar store and fill it up. -MIA-

  6. LilKim

    My mother runs the county volunteer organization, and they are running a drive for these “samples” to pack into 5 gallon buckets and distribute to the local homeless population. If you’re in Central Florida (Crystal River/Lecanto/Inverness) area, and would like details on how to donate, please send me an email!!

  7. Anonymous

    I store all of ours in the $1 clear plastic bins from Target. They are all labeled and stacked in the basement with my surplus items. I have one for deodorants, oral care, shampoos/conditioners, and misc. I also use the bins for all the back to school freebies . As for how I use them, we travel a bunch, so I usually use them myself!

  8. Anonymous

    I use the perfume samples from magazines by putting them in my undergarment drawer, so they smell extra special when I put them on! 🙂

  9. FlapJack

    One thing I’ve begun doing is packing a gallon ZipLoc bag (which I got for FREE!) with an assortment like this: travel size shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razor, lotion, bar soap with an extra zippie to store it in, toothbrush, tooth paste, bottle of water, couple granola bars, and some cash. I keep a couple of these in my car and when I come across a homeless person on a street corner, I always stop and see if they would like one of my bags. I figure these essentials are always welcome, and the response I have gotten from these individuals is amazing. I just make sure I pack a roll-on deodorant so it wont melt being in the car, and keep the heat in mind when packing granola bars…no chocolate. Most of these things I have gotten for free at CVS/Wags or from free samples in the mail. Feels good to pass it on!!

  10. Samantha

    I have alot of little samples packed away in a toiletries bag that we use for travelling (we vacation usually at least twice a year). I haven’t had to pay for travel size toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, lotion or floss for YEARS!!!

    Other than that, I have a bin that I stash them all away in and it fits really nicely in the cabinet where I keep my Health & Beauty stockpile. Although it’s getting a little full!

  11. CouponClary

    Great idea FlapJack!

    I donate all of my health/toiletry type samples to our local co-op. The Tide & All laundry 1 or 2 load trial sizes are also great for donating!

  12. Tina

    I keep many of mine on our camper and then bring these into the shower house with me….alot easier then balancing full size items in a small shower stall

  13. Anonymous

    LOVE that idea Flap jack! I always want to do something but don’t always want to give cash or I don’t ever have cash on me! Thanks!

  14. Baker Tribe

    Wow FlapJack! I really love your idea!! I never get the free roll ons (mostly b/c I don’t use them nor do my friends)…but I’m so going to do that now …what a great idea!!

  15. Anonymous

    Idea 1: I have a clear over-the-door shoe organizer hanging on the inside of my bathroom door. All my free samples are organized by item. Then I place a “help yourself” sign from it. Whether I have house guests for a week that don’t pack personal items, or if I just have friends over for coffee, the back of the door is fare game for anyone. A lot of times it even turns into a conversation piece when we all discuss which products we like and use.:)
    Idea 2: When my supply is overflowing, I hide all the bottles in the shower, forcing my husband and I to use some of the many samples.
    Idea 3: I love using the one-use samples for traveling. They can be packed anywhere, and I can throw them away as I go.

  16. Kelley

    I haven’t built up a big supply of samples yet, because those things that I will use, I use right away, and the things I won’t, I give away. I put the one load laundry detergents on my washer to use before my big bottle so they won’t pile up. The shampoo and conditioner samples go right into the shower when they come for the same reason. I also set aside special goodies for stocking stuffers in my Christmas cupboard. I’m getting prepared. 🙂

  17. Andrea

    Flap Jack I love your idea. I am glad to hear people giving out of a need. I say that because a lot of us couponers don’t have a lot of spare cash to give. By filling out freebies an “buying” stuff for free we can give.

    Off topic. I am getting all the toy coupons on here even though my little one is 13 and WAY to mature for toys. I am going to use a few for angel tree. My son has been doing this for years. The rest I am going to save for after christmas clearance shopping. My limit is going to be $2 and item. Then I will have toys saved up for baby showers as well as for next year for toys for tots and things like that. It’s a great way to give when you have little resources to give.

  18. Courtney

    Our family donates free samples and all the free travel size items i get to the USO! My husband is active duty military and we’ve had to use the USO benefit a few times so we always like to give back to them. 🙂 I hope everyone would consider doing this in their town. It’s always nice to give back to the military men & Women!

  19. The Hansen Family

    Oh my goodness, your readers have some awesome ideas! My friend and I were thinking about giving to a women’s shelter for the holidays, because there is no way we could use all our free samples.

    One of the great things about couponing and deal shopping is being able to give back. Our family doesn’t have a lot of extra money and I know sometimes, things like this can mean a lot more.

    Thanks to everyone for their great ideas and Hip, you have some great readers!

  20. News From the Inside

    I save up all my shampoo samples and when my church sends out a missions trip somewhere I send along my samples. They are easy to pass out and don’t take up a lot of luggage space. Since there are so many there are enough to go around when they are passing them out which is very important so everyone can get one.

  21. Bonnie

    I use empty wipe containers to sort them by type and my favorite way to use up conditioner samples is to put them in a spray bottle with water and use this mix as a de-tangler for my little girls when I brush their hair. Also so many samples are great for donating. I like to add to my Christmas shoe boxes with stickers, candy/gum, and chapstick samples and other cool freebies that I find.

  22. Anonymous

    I store the soap & lotion samples in a glass canister in my bathroom.
    If I don’t use them, I either donate them to my DD’s school for a Mother’s Day raffle basket that they do each year or to the Church’s food bank. Also, many shelter’s will divy up shampoo, etc into pill bottles for single uses, since samples are already ‘divy’d’ up they are perfect for that.

  23. Donna

    I will be playing bingo at my family get togethers this year, and using my samples and my overstock as the prizes.

  24. Anonymous

    A homeless shelter by my apartment loves the free samples I take them… they say that this is the best donation they could receive because the homeless folks can easily carry the samples with them to wherever they’re going that day… be it a soap sample or a little box of cereal.

  25. Mom TenBestBarbers

    I collect everything free and when I get together with my cousins to “SPA” together. (really means board games and talk) We use them as prizes and favors.

  26. Stephanie

    I fill a nice basket with lotion, shampoo, conditioner, lint brush, sewing kit, etc. (See picture with link below). I find it especially helpful since a lot of people are traveling with just a carry on.


    A local shelter will also take any samples that I will be unable to use. They especially like individual soaps.

  27. I'm So Pretty

    We use a lot of the samples for traveling, plus it’s fun to give to guests who’ve forgotten to bring their toiletries along. And then twice a year, I include a whole mess of samples in with all the food and other things I donate during the food bank drive that the local Boy Scouts do.

  28. Anonymous

    My favorite is to use them for travel. They are small and it’s fun to use new products in a new place.

  29. Lynne

    Wonderful ideas! It is so nice to hear about so many giving back, I hope some of the authors of negative comments are reading this discussion! I just wanted to mention that Toiletry samples and hotel shampoos, etc. are usually welcome at most Nursing facilities, I just call ahead first. Making up little inexpensive gift bags at Christmastime, etc. These little things mean a lot to the elderly and disabled.

  30. Amber

    I do a lot of the things that people have already mentioned plus a couple more.

    I use samples (and trial sizes) for my 72 hour kits. I rotate the items every 6 months and will either use or donate the items that I pull out. I usually put in duplicates of items because you never know how many people will be caught off guard in an emergency without a 72 hour kit.

    I use my sample and trial size laundry detergent for hand washing my bras etc. I keep the detergent right in the bathroom, where I hand wash stuff. It’s very convenient.

  31. Tina

    Amber what is a 72 hour kit??

  32. Angela

    I am allergic to almost all perfumes, so I just leave the samples in the magazine and recycle.

    I would be willing to tear them out if I knew that they would go to use!

  33. Anonymous

    Send them off to the troops! They can use the small sample sizes and this ellimiates them having to buy these items. Also donate them to a shelter.

  34. Anonymous

    AWESOME ideas!
    Amber, what’s a 72 hour kit?!

  35. mnmom

    I am new to this but I hope to gather up the samples and make little bags for the battered women’s shelter. I also order $1 books from Scholastic book orders and give those to the shelter for the kids. Our shelter also collects old cell phones for the women to carry if they need to call 911.
    I love all the ideas! I am wondering what a 72 hour kit is too!!!

  36. Andrea

    72 hour kit is a 3 day emergency supply kit. You can buy them but it is a lot cheaper to make them. A lot of people have them around here for hurricane emergency kits.

  37. Joanne

    I donate some freebies to our local food pantry and to an organization that sends care packages to our troops.

    So great to pass it on and help others without hitting my budget too hard.

  38. Michelle

    We are donating our samples this year to Operation Christmas Child. Making boxes for kids from war torn countries and teaching our kids that we have an abundance and God has blessed us and because He loves us we should give to others.

  39. Elise

    I take my free magazines to my book club and share them with the other members.

  40. Anonymous

    Samples, and any size Freebies.
    At work we adopt “Angels” every year. I was able to make male and female basket of full size (free personal care items) to be auctioned off, all money going to purchase the Christmas gifts. I fill a laundry basket every year for my sister and her family for Christmas filled with all kinds of household and personal care items. While the basket isn’t free, it’s makes things much easier to carry. I also donate any free items to our local battered/homeless women’s shelter. I couldn’t believe the amazing response i got the first time I did this, not to mention the amazing feeling it gave me. If it’s free I get it….someone needs it.

  41. Audra

    I have a nice basket of samples in our guest room. It makes the room feel a little more like a hotel room than a spare bedroom.

  42. snbjork

    I want to clarify the 72 hour kit a bit more. Basically, it’s a backpack, bucket, or some type of recepticle filled with enough food, water, clothing, and other necessities for 72 hours. Just a backup in case of any type of emergency that might cause you to have to leave your home in a hurry. Here’s a very inclusive list of what you could put in your kit. But, you can just pick and choose what you feel would be most important for your family.


  43. Miss Bargainista

    I save my beauty product samples for overnight trips and vacations. Otherwise, they’re perfect for backup, and to throw in your purse when you have a hot date! I also use them for stocking stuffers, but I really should look into donating some to charity.

  44. Anonymous

    I love all the free samples and travel sized stuff, I do end uo using alot of it myself, I try to allways keep something in the car for the people on the corner holding up signs, lately i’ve been handing out travel sized toothpaste. I’ve gotten a lot of puzzeled looks from that, one man told me only had 3 teeth but that he supposed he could brush those,others have been genuinely suprised and happy to recieve these because they would not smell so bad when looking for work.

  45. mamamia

    I save them up until I get a bunch and then donate them to the Woman’s Shelter in town. They always appreciate it.
    If you have a Hospice Center near you it would be great to donate there as well. I remember when my dad was in the hospice in Indianapolis that they had showers and laundry facilities for the family members who were keeping vigil. These areas were stocked with supplies in the form of samples and the small hotel version of shampoos and soaps. It was definitely a blessing.

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