Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Lure of Free

This is a "thinking out loud" kind of post, so it's a bit rambly. My apologies. 

Do you download free e-books? Take free samples at the store? What is it about "free" stuff that makes us so giddy?

I was reminded this week that sometimes you get what you pay for. Free e-books are a big draw for me. I download several a week. Yesterday I started reading one and couldn't make it past the third page. It was pretty clear that the author had rushed the book to self-publication without having it edited by, well, anyone. It switched back and forth from past to present tense, the name of one of the characters changed, and in general the book was a bit hapless.

So I downloaded a different free book.

What makes the word "free" such a draw for us? I am so guilty of picking things up just because they were free, even though I didn't need them, want them, or have any use for them. They were free, so I took them. Just in case.

I sometimes think it's the laziness that makes us want something for nothing, until I see people willing to stand in line for hours to get the free gift for the first 100 customers at an after Thanksgiving sale. Most of the time if you divide the value of the item by the number of hours spent waiting or working for it, the person made less than minimum wage.

But it was free.

Or was it? I think we need to adjust our gauge of what is "free". Too many of us think about only the money aspect. Do we value our time so little? Our friendships?

I have friends that I have hidden on Facebook because they were constantly bombarding me with requests from little Facebook games to come join in the play. If you haven't ever played one of these games, to advance you have to collect certain items - a cow, paint, whatever - and you can either buy these items or get them for free by sending friend requests to people.

So the virtual item is free at the expense of driving your friends insane with more Facebook game requests.

I challenge you to adjust your definition of "free". Will it clutter up your home, stealing your peace of mind and comfort? Will it distract you from what you really enjoy? Will it require you to invest large amounts of time for a reward you don't really want? (Like Free Puppies. That sign always makes me laugh. That puppy is anything but free!)

Remember that more things in life have value than just money.

What is something you got for free that was more hassle than it was worth?


  1. haha that is a marvelous question--i will have to give it some thought--wonderful point!

  2. My biggest one is clothes. I've gotten tons, possibly literally, of children's hand me downs. It's an enormous blessing because I haven't had to buy more than a special occasion outfit in five years. However, the clothes are also a major hassle. Twice a year I have to take a whole day to sort through and manage all the clothes. It has taken two days before and that's with my mom coming up to help.