3 Ways Free Stuff Still Costs You A Lot

How stoked would you be for a FREE, brand new Lamborghini? I’ll tell you how stoked- you would crap your pants. That is until the insurance bill came. Then vehicle taxes were due. Oh, and of course you have to keep that beautiful machine spick and span with weekly car-washes. Now if only the darn V-12 engine wouldn’t burn up so much darn gas.

All of a sudden your “free” car isn’t so free.

When I was in sales, there were a lot of prizes for being a top performer. As I got better at my job, I often found myself on the receiving end of “free” stuff. Honorable mentions include an Apple TV, a Bose sound system, and a MacBook Pro.

Off the top of my head I can name 3 ways free stuff still costs you a lot. I am typing this on a three hundred and fifty dollar Dell laptop, even though I was handed a free, thousand dollar MacBook Pro. That’s because when I got the MacBook Pro I sold it immediately. A lot of people would be tickled to be handed a MacBook Pro. I was, too. Because I knew it was worth a lot.

1. Maintenance and Time

The inspiration for this article actually came from an even larger purchase (not free) than a MacBook Pro that someone else made.

One of my friends was buying a house. When you buy a house you have to make it a home. You don’t just get a house, you get a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a bedroom etc. and they all need to be furnished. Flustered, my friend ran through all the stuff he “needed” for his new house. A lot of items were just maintenance issues. He needed new storm doors, new blinds, new counter top, new gas tank. THEN furniture, etc. He paid his way into needing to buy more stuff. Just listening to him stressed me out.

General upkeep is associated with almost any product we own, and the larger and nicer, the more costly the upkeep. I joked about a Lamborghini upkeep at the start. Then I mentioned my friend already needing to do maintenance on his new home before he even lived in it. A MacBook Pro probably wouldn’t cost a ton in upkeep. I’d have to to replace chargers or accessories as I lost them. Maybe I’d have to get some new subscriptions or purchase new software.

Maintenance costs time as well. We all (should) know what opportunity cost is and we all (should) know that time is our most valuable asset.

Learning how to use anything takes time. When my friend bought his first house, he had to learn how to maintain it. Things break. If you’ve never owned or worked on a home that can take some time. When I received my MacBook Pro I had never owned an Apple computer.

The time I would spend curiously clicking around learning to navigate, learning all the programs, features, and cool gadgets that come with a free MacBook Pro could be frustrating and that is also time I could have efficiently spent on my three hundred and fifty dollar dell cranking out twelve to fifteen hundred words an hour. That time can’t be measured in dollars and cents, or maybe it could but that would be a waste of time in itself.

See how my boss showing me how valuable my time was caused me quit my job.

2. Accessories

You have to buy accessories all the time. i.e. You buy an Xbox. Now you need rechargeable batteries, a headset, new games, Xbox Live subscription to play online…

What if I handed you a brand new, free phone today? You wouldn’t want your new phone getting dinged up so you’d need a case. The charger that came with it is okay but what about one for your car? Or a portable battery? Headphones?

You buy a TV. You need cables to plug up your devices. You need something to watch, so you get Netflix or Hulu at a monthly fee (don’t even consider cable, that’s a total waste these days).

When it comes to a computer, I don’t need much. I need internet access so I can blog and Microsoft Office so I can use Excel, Word, and OneNote. That’s really all I need. As it turns out, my cheap Dell already has all that stuff. That’s all I need.

With a MacBook Pro I would need new compatible programs. I would need a cool new case and mouse and etc. More stuff. You should be starting to see my point.

“Stuff costing you” bleeds into everything, not just houses, cars, and electronics. Look at your closet. How many items did you buy just because they would complement another item you already owned? Socks or ties you bought because they would pair well with some pants/shirts. Belts that match the shoes. I went the store to buy a new sports coat once and I walked out with an entire new suit. It all had to match.

I’m not saying you should only own one outfit. I’m just making a point that the more stuff you buy… well, the more stuff you buy.

3. Sales Funnel

Any company with more than one product is going to have a big giant sales funnel to swallow you up in. Simply by having a MacBook Pro, I was placing myself into an Apple sales funnel. This concept of a sales funnel goes hand in hand with accessories (I would have to go out and purchase Apple specific accessories to work with my new computer) but a sales funnel reaches a little further.

For instance, Apple devices work really well with other each other. If I had a thousand dollar MacBook Pro, it would make sense to adopt an iPhone to take advantage of their compatibility, and then start using iTunes. Or maybe I’d go pick up an iPad. Those were all things that I had lived just fine without.

I have a master’s in accounting, which I regret a little bit, but my education has made me prone to think in terms of numbers and costs. When I received the free MacBook Pro I could see into my future and keeping it would end up costing me in the long run. Selling it, however, would not cost anything and would actually put money in my pocket. So I sold it.

Less is More

STOP BUYING SO MUCH STUFF! That’s all I wanted to say in these 1,300 words. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you “need” to go out and buy. Consider these 3 concepts the next time you are considering a purchase. Think about the maintenance and associated learning curve. Think about the accessories you’ll have to buy. Is an Xbox One purchase really just $300? Not even close. And are you actually placing yourself into a company’s sales funnel to buy more stuff when you think you’ll buy just ONE thing of theirs? Probably.

At the end of the day, I think what makes humans most happy isn’t material possessions, but freedom of choice in their life. Hopefully this information will encourage you to evaluate the stuff you own and make you a little more conscientious with your buying habits. Maybe you’ll buy less stuff and save a lot of money. That’s money you could use on experiences like cruises and vacations instead of acquiring shiny ball and chains. Maybe you’ll go a step further and get rid of some of the excess junk in your life. You really don’t need a lot to be happy.

My novel Hang-Ups and Hangovers is NOW AVAILABLE! Click Here

About the author

Kyle Milligan

I'm Kyle Milligan. I really enjoy writing. I wrote a couple novels (The Hang-Ups and Hangovers series) and now I blog frequently on a bunch of different websites. I also enjoy lifting heavy things and and writing about it.

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