Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money

Free Can Mean A Lot Of Things

Free can mean a lot of things. There are the free things that people leave outside their homes with signs that read “Free — Take Me Home.” I see a lot of those things in my subdivision, especially when people want to get rid of basketball hoops, but do not want to disassemble the pole, stand and backboard.

Then there are the things that your friends and family might offer you before they donate them to charity or throw them away. When people give you their junk, it serves two purposes. First, they get to eliminate junk from their home. Second, they know where they can find it if they ever need it again.

You can find free things by the side of the road, on CraigsList or outside of the English Department office at your college. Free things are everywhere.

Then there are the sort-of-free things. Those are far more intriguing, at least to me. For example, I recently went to Office Depot. I needed ink for my printer (always an unpleasant purchase because I print so much) and while I was there I picked up the weekly flyer. I was pleased to find that I could purchase a stapler ($13.99) and a set of magic markers ($7.99) and that both were subject to a full rebate.

Free. Right?

Not really.

Although I might be getting a $13.99 rebate for the stapler, I am still going to have to pay about $1.00 in tax and another fifty cents for postage and an envelope. Accordingly, my “free” stapler will still cost me about a buck fifty. That is still savings of over 90%, and a great deal, but it is not free. That said, I actually needed a stapler so I was eager to purchase the last one on the rack.

A lot of stores now offer “free” items that they advertize in their Sunday circulars. CVS seems to have a few free items every week. Recently, for example, I was able to purchase Right Guard Body Wash for $4 but my receipt, as advertized, included a $4 reward coupon that I could use on my next purchase. I still had to pay for the body wash but I was able to use the $4 reward coupon for something that I otherwise would have had to buy with cash so the effect was almost the same. Of course, I used my $4 coupon to buy another body wash and received, in turn, another $4 coupon. When I was done, I had purchased six packages of body wash for a total of $4 plus the tax on all six packages and I still had a $4 reward coupon to use on my next purchase. So that was almost free, except for the realization that I had still spent $4 plus tax, even though I could use a $4 coupon later on.

Stores use freebies to get buyers in the door. For that reason alone, it is well worth checking out the flyers in your Sunday paper to map all the freebies that you can get at area stores, especially drug stores and office supply stores — stores in which you may not regularly shop. Before you “buy” a free item, ask yourself whether you really need it. Spending $1.50 on a stapler that you will never use is a waste of $1.50, after all. Also, ask yourself if you have the discipline to mail in the rebate forms that you need to complete and to keep track of money saving reward coupons that you might not be able to use right away. If the rebates or the reward coupons expire before you take advantage of them, you may find that you have wasted a lot more money than you expected.

Where do you find freebies at your area stores? Do you take the time to find them each week?

3 thoughts on “Free Can Mean A Lot Of Things

  1. After reading Jeff’s eating on $1 a day series, I started paying much more attention to the CVS ads (which can be viewed on line if you don’t get the paper). I have found some great deals, gotten money back, and have bought all my cereal there for months. Since we also have to fill a lot of prescriptions, it isn’t out of our way to go there either.

  2. Here is one to add to Jeffrey’s thinking ~ Even better, when filling a prescription at CVS use the free pharmacy coupon that will get you a free $25.00 dollar gift card with a new or transfer prescription and than use the gift card for the $4.00 body wash, now that is really free as you were going to get and need that prescription anyway. Pharmacy coupons can be found in the various stores weekly flyers and CVS takes all stores prescription coupons! I LOVE CVS!

  3. Whenever I get an item on discount at Costco, I have noticed that the tax is done on actual cost: not on the discounted one.
    Living in Ontario, it is not fun to pay 13% HST on items….

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