It's FREE.....Hurry up and buy it!

I love to save money! Getting something for free is even better, right? Well, not always. I spent the last year relearning how to shop and save money. I spent a lot of time reading books, blogs, and saving coupons. As a result, I was able to cut our household spending in half! I thought I was doing the right thing.

I signed up for all sorts of free samples and bought things at the store because they were "free". Then one day I realized....something wasn't right.

Just because it was free, didn't mean I needed it, wanted it, or should be using it in the first place. A few of my main moral principles were being violated. Namely, to strive for good health, to be environmentally responsible, and to use my time wisely.

One of the tricks to getting things for free is to use coupons to buy trial sized items. This results in a free item, but you may have to run back to the store multiple times to buy these items. Driving to the store wastes time and money. Clipping the coupons, storing them, hunting for them, and remembering to use them, all wastes time. And using a smaller sized container is usually more wasteful. I think it's a good idea when you want to try a new item for the first time or you need a travel sized item for vacation. But it's extremely wasteful in all other regards. It may save you 50 cents or one dollar each time, but are you really saving anything if it costs you more than that in time, money, or sanity?

I used to play the drugstore games as well. I would buy antacids, shampoos, toothpaste, diet pills, whatever they had for sale that was "free". Why not, it was free. Well, I don't need diet pills. I don't need antacids or cough syrup. And I have more than enough shampoo, toothpaste, and soap for years. So, I've been saving my time lately and not going to the drugstores. Free or not, I just don't need it. I offer toothpaste, shampoo, and makeup to my family members when they visit. I bring bags of toiletries to the food pantry. And we are still not going to need to buy any of those items for at least another year.

I also signed up for numerous free items. Why? Because they were free. I still register for items I genuinely use, but I've stopped ordering all other freebies. I don't like clutter in my life and I don't like contributing to a landfill.

The number one freebie problem we've run into is unhealthy foods and snacks. Let's be honest, most of the coupons available are for junk food. It's true. Recently, some organic products have come up with their own coupons and occasionally, stores will run their own coupons for produce or dairy. But most of the time, the best deals and best coupons are for things we shouldn't be eating at all. And the deals require you to buy so much of the products to get "the deal". I recently bought 20 boxes of sugar-loaded cereal because it was free. Do I really want my kids eating that type of cereal? Of course not. I donated the boxes to our church food pantry. Is it right to give unhealthy food to the pantry? I struggle with this, but I realize that not everyone looks at food the same way I do and most likely someone shopping at the pantry will be grateful for the food they are offered.

It's fun to get free things in the mail. It's nice to get groceries for free (when that happens), but it's more important to spend your time wisely, eat what is good for you (not what is cheapest or free), and be mindful of what you really use and what you end up wasting. Wasting is never frugal and never wise.


Emelie said...

I'm struggling with this right now. It's good have someone who's been there give me some advice that helps. Ever since watching "the story of stuff" I've felt morally and ethically responsible for each item I purchase. I also love free stuff, so balancng the clutter in my life, the want for free things, and the moral responsibility has given me a ball of stress that sometimes manifests in ugly ways, like shooing my children off to watch a show or getting frustrated at them for making a mess they don't intend to clean up, or getting angry with them for just "hanging around" my room.'s all too Peter Walsh would agree.

Laura said...

Well said! This is something I definitely needed to read. (And yes, I realize you wrote this a while ago, but it's still good!)

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