LIBRARIES Free ISPs are not the only way of accessing the Net for no money. Most public libraries offer free Net access to library members, or at a very nominal cost (e.g., $1 per hour). The disadvantage is that you are often limited to an hour or less at a time and you cannot often run non-Web programs like ICQ and FTP. Oh, and you aren't at home, of course, so late-night Web surfing in your PJs is pretty much out of the question.
COLLEGES Somewhere else you can get on the Net for free (and where nobody will bat an eyelid if you show up in your PJs) is your local TAFE, college or university. The catch is that you will probably have to study something, at least part-time, to use the facilities. Universities, especially geeky ones, often have very high-speed access to the Net, so surfing in the computer labs can be good fun. Given a university's limited resources, though, actually getting on a PC can be difficult. Nevertheless, if you are studying or planning to study, find out what your education establishment has to offer. Some even offer free or cheap dial-in Net access from home.
PC DEALS Another avenue worth exploring is buying a new PC. Most of the big PC retailers now offer some free Net access when you buy a new PC (e.g., 200 hours with Dell/Big Pond) and even a smaller retailer may be able to cut you a deal. Most of the big paid ISPs also offer free online time initially, to entice you to their services.