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Uncovering the True Value of Free

  • Mary Hunt Debt-Proof Living
  • 2011 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Uncovering the True Value of Free

I received an interesting letter from reader Liz P., who works for a non-profit organization called Spreckels Organ Society in San Diego, Calif. She shared with me her pet peeve: people do not appreciate things that are free. She wrote, "The Spreckels Organ Society provides free concerts every Sunday afternoon, and in the summer we produce an International Organ Festival on Monday nights that is absolutely FREE, and completely under appreciated. I know your readers are different. But what is it about the psyche of the general public that makes us not value what is free?"

I've been thinking a lot about Liz's letter. There is something psychological about the word FREE that stirs a variety of emotions.

We are suspicious. The concept of "free" has become a big marketing tool in our society. Who among us hasn't believed something would be free, only to find out we got sucked into an expensive proposition, whether it was for a gym membership, book club or other kind of service because of that annoying fine print!

We are realistic. It is human nature to give little value to something that is totally free. In our hearts, we believe that we get what we pay for. No one would be drawn to an investment newsletter that costs $1.99 a year. Surely it would be filled with useless information. Change that price to $199 a year, and all of a sudden we assume it contains really great information. We equate value with cost and, even if we cannot afford it, something that is expensive demands our respect.

It's only a sample. Trial offers and sample bites may indeed be free, but they aren't the real deal. We expect samples to be free but we don't go out of our way to be appreciative of them. We think of a free sample as we would a commercial or an advertisement in a magazine. It's bait designed to get us to go for the real thing.

It's not really free. I can't help but think about the infamous "FREE Puppy!" The initial acquisition might be free, but it will turn into a costly venture once you consider the trip to the vet, shots, food, leash, toys and grooming. A free stay at a resort might require transportation to get there, attendance at a sales presentation followed by a hard-sell pitch to buy a membership. There are times when the cost of free is just way too expensive.

As for The Spreckels Organ Society's free concerts and summer Festival, I am intrigued, if not surprised that they do not draw huge crowds. I happen to love organ music. Perhaps not everyone does.

Why do you think the free concerts are so poorly attended? Is it one of the reasons above or perhaps something else? Where do you weigh in on getting something for free? Visit my blog at MoneyRulesDebtStinks.com and let us know! Perhaps we can help Liz and the Spreckels organization boost their attendance this summer!


Originally posted May 24, 2010.

©Copyright 2010 Mary Hunt. Everyday Cheapskate is a Registered Trademark

Check out Mary's recently released revised and expanded edition of The Financially Confident Woman (DPL Press, 2008).

Debt-Proof Living was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "Debt-Proof Living" is read by close to 100,000 cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe. Also, you can receive Mary's free daily e-mail "Everyday Cheapskate" by signing up at EverydayCheapskate.com