Free Stuff is Still Stuff
If you read my post about my cosmetic obsession, you won’t find it hard to believe that I used to love free make-up specials. “Spend $29.95 and receive a lipstick that is not your color, a mascara in case you lose the other two, perfume you will never wear, and a shiny bag to carry your new stuff that you will never use.” I bought so many things that I didn’t want, so I could get free things that I didn’t need. And I thought I was getting a deal.
Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it won’t cost you. Time and attention are some of your most valuable resources. Even if something isn’t costing you money, you are gonna pay.
You’ve heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” and it’s true. Free stuff steals all of the things you have been trying to protect with a simpler lifestyle. Sometimes, free stuff seems appealing, especially if you are trying to save money, but if you didn’t need it in the first place, free stuff is still stuff.
3 free things we pay for:
Let’s be honest. You don’t treat free stuff the same way you treat things you buy. If you have a junk drawer, look in it. I bet there is some free stuff at the back of the drawer. Where does your free stuff come from and why are you holding onto it? Maybe you attended a trade show and got free stuff. Perhaps you got a goodie bag at a party, or worse, you brought home something from an office party gift swap.
All of that stuff you got for free is distracting you from the stuff you love. Not to mention, you have to dust it, display it, hide it or store it. All of those things require effort on your part. You do have a choice. You can stop taking home the free stuff. Now, about that junk drawer…
2. Rewards Programs
I just started my Christmas shopping this week and noticed that everyone wants me on their rewards program so they can email me special offers all year long. I wanted to respond this way:
I do not want more email.
I do not want special offers.
I do not want what you are selling.
Not even if it’s free.
When someone asks you for your email address, I recommend the response I actually went with, “No Thank You.”
3. Ebooks and Other Digital Products
Read the whole paragraph before you get upset that I am bashing e-books. I love e-books. I am writing e-books. I recommend e-books. I pay for e-books when they apply to my life. I even download free e-books, when I think they will be useful.
I am a vegetarian, so why would I download an e-book about beef stew? Because it’s free? Uh, no. Not even if it’s free. Especially because it’s free. Because it’s not. I would spend time downloading the free e-book. Then I would spend time reading it. Next thing you know, I am giving attention to beef stew, and I don’t eat meat. What a waste of time and energy. That free e-book really cost me.
I know that a vegetarian downloading a book about beef stew is an outrageous example, but think about what you are downloading. If you aren’t going sky diving, do you need a book about the best parachutes. If you’ve cleared the clutter, do you need an e-book about decluttering? Put value on your time and attention, and you will choose more wisely.
In addition to e-books, pay attention to online forums, clubs, seminars and other digital products. Spend your money, time and attention on things you truly care about, on things that really speak to your life.
Pretending that free stuff isn’t clutter and doesn’t cost you, is like believing that cookies don’t have calories during the holidays. So please, leave the free pens, coffee mugs and lipstick. Walk away from the buy one, get one deals, so you don’t end up with two of something you don’t want. We are talking about your time, your space, your attention–your life. When you invest your heart and soul, there is no point in gambling. Even when it’s free.
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