I’m writing this post as an extension of the Deciphering the Deals: OOP post from last week. I’d like to address a few misconceptions regarding ‘free items’. I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliche’ that nothing is ever free, and you’re out to prove otherwise by couponing, taking surverys, playing sweeps, etc. The sad thing is, many of the free deals aren’t really free. There, I said it. I know that goes against all of my principles, but it’s true.
The hard definition of free (made up entirely by me) is: getting something for no cost without accumulating additional expense.
If you regularly purchase a Sunday newspaper, your store doesn’t charge sales tax on the pre-coupon amount, and you pick up the items needed on your regular shopping trip, sure it was completely free! But, if you purchase extra newspapers or make a special trip after them, order coupons, or make additional trips to the store, you do have a cost associated with each item.
Because we live in a very small town, it’s pretty common for people to drive 20 miles to a Walmart or Walgreens, and 40 to Target or Kroger. I hear frequently from those who made a special trip to Walgreens to pick up $5 worth of ‘FREE’ items. I’m not sure about you, but if I have to pay $10 in gas to pick up my $5 in unnecessary items, they weren’t really free. However, if I am doing this in place of a more costly hobby, it might still be cheaper.
Don’t forget about the additional expenses that rack up while you’re out shopping. I am always tempted to buy something or pick up lunch. It seems that I can’t make it to town without spending $50 on who knows what!
Of course, getting your stuff for pennies on the dollar is still awesome, but it’s not quite free, is it? Always, always, always, weigh your expense to purchase the item versus the discount in order to determine if it’s a great deal.
I’ve seen a few bloggers that are saving for a totally free Christmas and are documenting their savings. How are they planning on getting a free Christmas? By doing online jobs, completing surveys, and other odds and ends. I’m not sure how that’s considered a FREE Christmas. When you get paid to take a survey, it is a form of income. You had to work in order to receive payment. It might not be difficult work, but it can be time consuming. I’ve had surveys take 45 minutes with my slow internet! That sounds strangely like work to me. I’m devoting a portion of my time to perform a service for someone else and receiving compensation for it. That doesn’t seem like free money to me. If that were the case, is your weekly paycheck free money?
Why am I pointing all of this out? Because I don’t want anyone to be confused as to how deals work and how they will impact your family. Everyone has a different situation and a different mindset when it comes to finances. Some will snag anything they feel is free (even if it’s not) and overextend themselves. Others may see that you can get a ‘free’ Christmas and spend countless hours clicking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bullets.