We’ve all heard the cliche that some things are too good to be true. In the case of “free”, sometimes there’s a much higher cost than anyone expects. In our consumer culture, the notion of free shows up in a lot of ways. Sample day at Sam’s Club (the horror!). Mail-in rebates. Buy one, get one free. Free gifts with purchase. Free trial subscriptions. Vouchers for free lotions from Bath & Body Works, underwear from Victoria’s Secret, haircuts from a new Great Clips. But sometimes we get–or give up–more than we bargain for with these screaming good deals.
Don’t Trade Your Time
True confession time. I love redeeming those Bath & Body Works lotion vouchers for travel size lotions. I grocery shop in close proximity to one location that offers the lotions. The bottles make perfect add-on gifts for coworkers, neighbors, and friends. And they’re free. The other night, I flipped a freebie card over that had been sitting next to my computer for weeks and finally examined the expiration date. The deadline? The very next day. I mentally started rearranging my schedule, replotting my errand route, and then I promptly got up and tossed the card in the recycle.
Sure, I could have saved myself five dollars and added to my gift box*. But between time spent and gasoline wasted, I wasn’t saving anything. In fact, that free bottle of lotion would have cost me invaluable minutes of a weekday that I could have spent on more productive things like
grading blogging watching The Big Bang Theory. All that stress over 3 ounces of lotion? No thanks.
Don’t Swap Your Space
One of my very dear friends has a sickness. She collects freebies and roadside finds like no one’s business. I am all for saving a buck, but she lives in a studio apartment and has broken a seemingly endless stream of closet organizers because she has too much stuff. Not only that, but she often complains about having a dearth of space. While it seems simple to suggest she just shirk some of the excess, sometimes these brag-worthy bargains seem too noble, and it becomes exceptionally hard to part with them. An even simpler solution that I’ve tried to adopt is if I don’t have an immediate use for something and a place to store it, I don’t want it–free or not.
Don’t Waste Resources
Sample day at Sam’s Club, I hate to love you and love to hate you. Samples can be a great way to try out new items without the burden of purchasing something, tasting it, wondering why in the world anyone thought mango-flavored kale chips were a good idea, and tossing it. However, in my experience the amount of napkins, plastic cups, flimsy spoons, and other sample-size necessities make sample day an exercise in waste. Not to mention the number of children and adults who take one sniff, grimace and toss the food before trying it. The same goes for sample cosmetics. The amount of plastic used in making those teeny tubes and tiny vials certainly does not justify the one-time use in my mind. Sometimes there are costs other than financial factors that are worth considering.
Don’t Betray Your Principles
I’ve written at length about my extremely stupid couponing habit, but what I haven’t touched on is another sad realization that hit me about a month into my stockpiling frenzy. I was so impressed with myself for being able to follow the tips on couponing blogs, track down the right coupons, and beat all the other coupon queens in my area to the good deals that I completely overlooked the fact that I was buying brands that I didn’t truly support. Even though I wasn’t actually spending money on the toothpastes or the soaps, I was promoting the sale of products that test on animals, use harmful ingredients, or rely on other questionable methods that I normally object to all because of the overexcitement surrounding free. In this modern society, how we spend our money is one of the single most persuasive tools we possess. No free toiletry is worth that swap.
*Preparedness is next to frugalness, folks.
So Tell Me…Has the notion of free ever cost you big time? What freebie finds are you most proud of?