Friday, September 2, 2011

Living Big on a Small Budget - If It’s Free it’s Me – or is it?

The following is a guest post from Pamela Olsen. Pamela is a stay-at-home mom with three boys and a girl all six years and under. She is the owner of The Busy Woman’s Guide to Surviving Motherhood, a blog filled with all sorts of information intended to make life as a women and mother easier in some small way. Her hobbies include blogging, couponing, scrapbooking, reading, gardening, writing and volunteering. When people ask her when she has the time for all that she simply says “I am a planner!”

There are lots of money saving faux pas we all make. One is thinking something is a great deal just because it’s free. I am sure you have heard the expression “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” The concept to grasp is that you always have to forfeit something to get something else. You may not have to pay for the meal but you do have to eat what they give you, and spend your time to get there, be there, and get back. The whole point behind the expression is to have people think beyond the dollar amount of the “free” item to the actual cost.

A lot of marketing uses the word “free” to entice you to show up. They get you in the door hoping you will find at least one other thing to buy. Really think about the slogan – BUY one GET one free. That means you have to spend money to get the free one, and this is something that somehow doesn’t always occur to people. The marketers are banking on that fact. You always need to think twice before jumping on a “free” deal. Sometimes you have to perform a service or task – say a survey or taste-test. So it really isn’t free – you are working for it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when five minutes of your time filling in tiny bubbles on a survey is worth a free full-sized bottle of shampoo but think twice about 10 minutes for a small sample of a product. I once spent an entire afternoon standing in lines at a Safety Fair to get bicycle helmets, life jackets and rain slickers all for free for all four of my kids. I felt it was time well spent because the quality of the items was high – all name brands. A friend of mine disagreed, which is fine. You have to make the judgment for your self.

The message I am trying to get across to you is that you need to keep an eye out for the hidden cost. Sometimes it will be that you are indebted to the giver of the free item. I am sure you know some person that will bring up those free dishes they gave you every chance they get. Sometimes you sacrifice your norm to get something free – forcing your children to eat gluten-free cracker when no one has a gluten issue just cause they were free. Sometimes you put in time and energy. Sometimes you use the gas in your car. This is a simple matter of checks and balances – do the costs outweigh the booty at the end of the day??