25 September 2007

Is it really free?

One of the only classes I ever got a B in while going to college was Economics. The whole concept of opportunity cost always perplexed me. But as I've gotten older and had more life experience, the idea of opportunity cost is becoming clearer to me.

A couple weeks ago the phone rang. It was one of those surveys. The gal wanted to know if anyone in the household smoked, or had allergies, and what kind of vacuum we have. And that I was entered in the weekly drawing.

Then last week, the phone rang again and it was someone telling me that I had won the drawing! My prize was a set of kitchen knives and a free vacation for 2 adults and 2 kids. The catch? I had to let a guy come over for an hour and give me a sales pitch for an air cleaner.

While the renovation is making this house dirtier than ever and I'm doing my best to keep up with the dirt, the thought of sitting for an hour listening to someone try to convince me to part with my money for something I don't have room for that will surely cost something to maintain.

I told the lady on the phone that I wasn't interested.

I wonder how many people turn down their prizes? Some people will take anything that's free, even if they have no need for it nor a place to store it. Other people don't value their time. While I don't profess to be someone who doesn't procrastinate, I certainly know that I don't want to listen to an hour of sales pitch only to decline the offer.

Then this morning on Frugal Hacks, Kim posted a free offer for pearls from Overstock.com. It turns out that you actually have to sign up for the email notification club from Overstock. I happen to own a strand of pearls already that my parents gave me when I graduated from college. So, since I don't need another strand of pearls, and I'd just delete every email that Overstock ever sent me, I didn't sign up. Just because it was free, it doesn't mean it comes without a cost. If I needed a gift for someone or I really liked ordering from Overstock.com, then maybe this would have been a great deal. But for me, trying to cram 6 people and a dog into 1400 square feet in the midst of a remodel, the last thing I need is more stuff to do and more stuff to take care of.

I've noticed that when I don't see the sales flyers from places like Target, I don't see things that I "need" as often. When I'm living my day-to-day life and I notice we're short on tissues, I write it on the shopping list on the fridge. Then, if I happen to be shopping and find a sale on tissue, I stock up. If we run out before I find a sale, I buy one box at a time until I find a better deal. It's dollar-cost-averaging.

Frugal living doesn't just mean finding the cheapest price on anything and everything. It's about deciding what you really need and what you can live without. I can live without a new strand of pearls, and I can live without a set of kitchen knives. I like the knives I have, thank you very much.


Lena said...

Amen to that! That's how I feel about those Entertainment books. A friend was wanting to sell me one for her daughter and told me she uses it all the time to decide where to go out to eat. I just told her we don't go out that much and if I had it it might make us go out more which equals more money spent than saved right? Maybe if we were already going and doing all these fun things in the book, but we aren't, so really it's just $25 down the tube plus whatever else I'd spend using it.

ChelleWeezie said...

UGH.. monique... i got that survey call yesterday during dinner.

I can't wait for the call telling me I won the drawing. I am gonna ask if everyone won the drawing cause it sure seems like it.

I KNOW that they are want to do the presentation for the rediculously high priced Rainbow vacuum and air filter. hello 2400 bucks!

Jennifer @ Fruit of My Hands said...

I hear ya! I'm that way with coupons, 99% of coupons I come across are not products I buy or need. It doesn't save me money if I have to spend money on something I don't need. Likewise, I don't have time to listen to sales pitches, complete surveys etc either.

Jen @ Lords of the Manor

Jenni said...

You said it way better than I could. I turn down those "free" vacations all the time. I have never saved much with coupons either, I just find myself buying things I wouldn't normally buy in order to "save". I occasionally sign up for a freebie, if I know it's something I will use, but it's a rare thing anymore. I just don't have the space:)

christineka said...

I have a separate email address for signing up for free offers. I don't check it.

I learned the hard way not to accept prizes. In college I won subscriptions to about 10 magazines. Fortunately I managed to unsubscribe quickly.