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The best free stuff while you’re stuck at home

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

In recent days, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in how communities are responding to the coronavirus. With schools, stores, restaurants and theaters closed — and a top contender for Merriam-Webster’s word of the year to be “social distancing” — we all need lots of ways to entertain ourselves. And since we’ll all be spending a lot of time at home going forward — and money is already growing increasingly tight for millions — the less that entertainment costs, the better. Thankfully, there’s a plethora of free content available online. We’ve rounded up everything we can find below, from video streaming to distance learning to gaming and more. And we’ll be expanding this list as we find more options.

And if you’re asking “What’s the catch?” — it’s basically twofold. Firstly, many of these services are ad-supported — just like good old-fashioned commercial TV. And secondly, like everything else online, they’re undoubtedly harvesting data from you. So before you sign up and dive in, just keep those two things in mind.

Free video 

There’s nothing like streaming video to help you weather the storm. And while Netflix, HBO, Hulu and all the rest cost a pretty penny, these 10 free video streaming services are absolutely gratis. Just bring a working broadband plan and a tolerance for commercials — and you should be golden.

Read more: Netflix alternatives: The 10 best free movie streaming services

Free ebooks and magazines

Why spend cold, hard cash buying books and magazines — which you generally only read once and then don’t need to see ever again — when there’s a really good chance you can borrow them from the library instead — without actually having to go to the library. It might sound weird to check out digital media from the library, but many local libraries have modernized a lot since the days of card catalogs and microfiche readers. Exactly what you can check out from your local library depends on, well, what your local library offers. Nonetheless, here’s how to get started:

And once you’ve explored what your library has to offer, there’s no need to stop there, because you can find a wealth of resources for getting your hands on free ebooks online. For the whole scoop, check out 10 ways to download and read books online for free.

Read more: How to get free ebooks, magazines, movies and TV shows from your library

Free games

Now that we’re all spending a lot more time at home, there’s a lot more time to play video games. Then only problem? Games are expensive. Rather than empty your wallet on video games at retail prices, you might want to grab some free games — there are always a few around. These games are all available for PC, and some are also available on PS4, Xbox and even the Switch and mobile platforms.

Read more: Free entertainment to help you survive coronavirus social distancing

Free video conferencing

Perhaps the worst part of the pandemic for many of us is the isolation that comes from social distancing. We’re working from home, not seeing friends in the evening, and generally trying to “air gap” ourselves to stay healthy. One way to stay connected despite the quarantines is using these free videoconferencing and video chat tools that have been around for years, but you might have had little reason to try. (Some have paid versions when being used for business/corporate accounts.)

Read more: 7 free video chat apps to use if you’re social distancing

Free audio

One of the first signs that businesses were starting to take the coronavirus seriously was when public events started getting postponed and canceled. Sporting events, music concerts, stage shows and live podcast tapings were just some of the entertainment options that disappeared overnight. That was a bummer, but there’s a bright side. You can stock up on free audio to fill that hole in your soul.

Free distance learning solutions and educational resources

Thanks to the pandemic, schools across the US are closing, sending students home for an uncertain future — and in most cases, it’s unclear if studies will resume at all this academic year. Of course, most institutions are falling back to some form of online instruction, but if you’re a parent looking for a way to keep your kids engaged academically during this very challenging time, there are many tools you can try. 

Read more: Coronavirus closed schools. Here are online education classes for every age and grade

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