As a frugal living blogger, I’ve shared many freebies over the years. These freebies have ranged from smallish samples you can request by mail to refrigerators. When people use the expression, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” I sometimes beg to differ. (I’ve had quite a few free lunches in my day!)
However, there is some measure of truth to that statement. Usually, businesses aren’t offering freebies out of the goodness of their hearts – they are hoping for something in return. Today I thought I’d share a few kinds of freebies that may not truly be free. These are the kind of freebies that you should proceed with caution before accepting.
#1: “Trial Period” Freebies.
Some subscription-type services offer a free trial period or discounted rate to get you in the door. Often, these freebies will require you to input a credit card and when you read the fine print, you’ll see that you’ll automatically be billed unless you cancel. Are these freebies worth it? Maybe. I have personally done these types of freebies many times, and without incident. Before proceeding, ask yourself if you can be organized about cancelling before the trial period ends. I also like to make sure it’s a service I’d be interested in regardless of the free trial period. If the website/business seems new or poorly put together, I may check out their Facebook page or online reviews to see if people have had trouble with cancelling.
#2: Free with Over-Priced Shipping Costs.
You’ve probably seen these before! FREE – just pay $XXX in shipping costs. Sometimes the shipping may be more than what you’d ordinarily expect to pay, in which case this might not even a good deal at all! In these cases, you may need to get past the “FREE” verbiage and just do the math. Is this a deal that makes good sense to you? Is it a product you would’ve purchased otherwise? Could you get a comparable product without high shipping costs? Math matters!
#3: Freebies with Strings Attached.
I have a number of friends that sell different products as part of MLMs and sometimes, they’ll share on Facebook that they are giving away freebies. I personally shy away from these, because I sense there may be strings attached to them. You’ve basically opened yourself up as someone that’s willing to be contacted in the future about said products. When accepting freebies from friends or businesses like this, I think it’s always fair to be upfront and ask what the expectation is by having you accept the freebie. And, if you’re truly not interested, simply don’t accept. Let your friends give them to people who may genuinely want to learn more.
Here’s a short, but related story. Several years ago at the mall, a gentleman working at a kiosk was handing out some sort of hair care samples. I reached to take one, and as I did, he grabbed my arm and tried to get me to sit in the chair! Before I knew it, he was getting ready to straighten my hair with the iron he was hoping to sell me. This is kind of an extreme example, but it illustrates my point. Some freebies may be used to entice you in with an intent to upsell you.
I have done many free-after-rebate offers without a hitch and will continue to promote them on my blog (for example, the small kitchen appliances Kohl’s usually offers free-after-rebate around the holidays). But when are these items not free? When you forget to mail in and/or redeem the rebate! These offers require some measure of attention to detail and follow through.
Also included in this category are “Catalina coupons” or coupons that you receive at checkout good on your next purchase. Don’t lose these – and definitely use them by the expiration date. Otherwise, you’ve negated the good deal you just got!
#5: Freebies In Exchange for Your Information.
Many freebies (or even coupons) require you to provide personal information, such as an address, email, or access to your Facebook information. In some cases, what the company gains may be more valuable than the freebie they are providing! I definitely do share and take advantage of freebies like these, but do so judiciously. Be smart. If the company looks at all sketchy or is a product you’re not really interested in (you just want something for free), it might be better to sit it out.
After this post, you might think I’m against all freebies. Quite the contrary! I love getting stuff for free – even if it means I pay the occasional shipping, or have to set a reminder to myself to submit a rebate or cancel a trial period. The key is deciding if the freebie is worth the cost of time and effort to me. Am I willing to jump through the hoops to get it? Stay organized to mind dates and requirements? We’ll continue to share a wide range of freebies on this blog, and I trust you’ll be able to discern which ones are worth the cost to you to pursue, too.
Now it’s your turn: I’d love to hear your “freebie” stories! When did a “freebie” cost you more than you expected? What other types of freebies do you think consumers should be wary of? Please leave a comment below!