Now more than ever, it's easy to find things that are free or deeply discounted. You'd think with all of the opportunities to get free items, our finances would be in great shape, but they're not. Inevitably, snagging the latest deal may leave us more in debt or waste our precious time.
I've been a freebie chaser several times, and each time, the freebie cost me something.
Freebies Gone Wrong: When Freebies Cost Money
My son attended a library program when he was little, and after it was over, they gave him a free coupon to Old Country Buffet. I don't really like Old Country Buffet and neither does my husband, but we had a free coupon in our pocket. We went that very night. Sure, my son's meal was free, but we ended up paying close to $20 for our meals.
Some freebie, huh?
This kind of offer is frequently found at fast food chains and may involve getting a free order of fries if you order a burger and a drink. Yes, if you were already planning on going to the restaurant, this might be a good way to save money, but often you go just because you're getting something for free. In that case, you're actually losing money instead of saving money because you're spending money you didn't intend to spend.
Freebies Gone Wrong: When Freebies Cost Time
A few years back, Kentucky Fried Chicken offered a free meal to customers on the Oprah show. I got my free voucher and headed to KFC with my family (even though I don't really like KFC!). Since everyone else in America went to KFC that day, we had to sit through a long, long line only to find out that they had run out of inventory and the deal was off. We waited over 30 minutes for some free food that I don't even really like, and then we didn't get it!
Sometimes freebies can be truly free, but more often than not, they have hidden costs, either to your wallet or your time.
Steps To Take To Protect Your Hard Earned Money And Time
If you would like to avoid the freebie chase, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
1. We are all a bit irrational when it comes to deals. Know this upfront and be aware that it is a human weakness. According to a recent New York Times article, “Most shoppers, coupon collectors or not, want the thrill of getting a great deal, even if it's an illusion.”
We want to feel like we got a deal, even if it's not a deal at all.
2. Stop before you shop. Notice in several of my examples, we ran out to get the freebie immediately. If we would have instead waited a few days, logical thinking may have kicked in. Yes, my son could eat at Old Country Buffet for free, but we couldn't.
I recently saw a blogger advertise a deal for sweaters for only $5. I jumped right over to that site and started filling my shopping cart. Sweaters for $5? Who could resist that deal? And then I went to do something else before I bought the items, which was just enough time for me to realize that I hadn't previously planned to buy any new sweaters. Any money I spent on that site would be wasted money because I didn't NEED sweaters, good deal or not.
3. Only use freebies that are truly free. Another alternative is to only use a freebie if it won't cost you any money. (Birthday freebies are often truly free freebies, and there isn't a mad rush of people snagging the deal on your birthday, so you won't have to spend extra time, either.)
We all like a deal, and freebies are the best deal available, right? Unfortunately, often freebies are expensive, costing both money and time.
Have you ever chased a freebie only to find that it had unintended costs?