Is Free Really Worth It?

Is Free Really Worth It?

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Free Sign
via flickr

Time is Money

After the age of 25, I learned that my time is more important than whatever pathetic free handout is being offered. Remember, time is money folks. So let’s way low-ball my time at worth $10/hour. Is spending 2 hours in line at iHop for a tiny serving of bad pancakes actually worth it? It’d be cheaper (in the money-time equation) to just buy a full meal. By the time you get in, order, eat, and leave that’d be less than an hour anyway.

Free Stuff is Never the Best Stuff

Free samples are always small portions. After all, the company has to stay in business somehow. But is a tiny portion even worth it? Waiting 1+ hours in line for a kiddie scoop of ice cream.

Packing yourself into a crowded open bar for a beer in a small plastic cup or a watered-down cocktail. It’s rarely enjoyable and rarely worth it.

I know what you’re thinking, how can you complain when it’s free???

I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that I’m 30 years old and have a job. If I want ice cream, booze, or pancakes, I can afford to buy a real portion.

You Get What You Pay For

Aside from free food, nyc has a lot of free events in general. Free theater, free music concerts, free dance performances, free comedy shows….. lots!

Sometimes a free event is great! Sometimes it’s not.

This past summer I went to one of the free shows put on by House of Vans every year. A free rock show is nothing special around here but these shows have the bonus offer of free booze. Sounds great, right?

The way this works is you rsvp to get up to 4 free tickets a week in advance. However, your ticket doesn’t guarantee entry, so you still have to stand in a long-ass line (in the summer) hoping you make it in. Keep in mind, even if you make it into the show this doesn’t guarantee you free beer, as they could run out.

To get the most of your free experience, you’ll want to get there 1-2 hours early, standing in the summer heat, just to get 2-3 plastic cups of pissy light beer.

Now, it’s a good place as a venue and the shows are cool. They get good bands and it’s cool that it’s free. So, maybe worth the lines, right?

Well… House of Vans doesn’t have real bathrooms.

Let’s recap. You’ve been standing in line for 2 hours in July nyc heat downing water so you don’t dehydrate. Then you get into the venue and chug 3 light beers before they run out. And now you’re faced with a line of porta-potties.

Sure, portapotties have their place (like, at running races for example) but a music venue with drunk people is certainly not where I want to use one.

Look, I’m 30 and have a job. I’ll gladly pay $20 to see a good band, drink good beer, and pee in a real toilet.

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8 Replies to “Is Free Really Worth It?”

  1. According to my friends, I am the master of finding things for free, getting into events, etc. But I also don’t like wasting my time. I love the internet because I can enter to win tickets to things (like concerts, shows and movies) and usually save over $200 per year just on tickets alone (yay!) Sometimes they are things I desperately want to see, sometime’s it’s things I was waffling on, but I try not to waste my time on free things that I have little interest in, just because it’s free. But that being said, I’ve been underemployed for so long, I generally took whatever free entertainment came my way. Only recently have I realized, hey, I’ve got a full-time job, a close-to-paid-off loan, I can afford to NOT always go for the free thing :)

    Recently I missed out on a free Krispy Kreme donut day for Talk like a Pirate day because I couldn’t get there between Job A and B, but I had this amazing realization about it, I CAN PAY THE DOLLAR LATER FOR THE DONUT. Dilemma solved.

  2. Free events aren’t always all that great. I mention this in my next post, but we were in Paris for Heritage Days, which is free entry to most attractions … but it’s just so packed and horrible and impossible to get in anywhere. It’s probably worth it just to go on a normal day and pay (we weren’t SUPER interested in most of those places to start with so we shrugged it off and went in search of delicious pastries instead). Hopefully those free hot dogs tomorrow night will be worth it, though?

    1. Hah! Well, to be fair, they are free all the time and well, not the greatest but not the worst and definitely tasty after some beer.

      Like your Heritage Days experience is something I completely forgot to mention, Free Museum Hours. The idea is you try to cram in an entire museum in 3 hours just like every single other person in the city. It’s definitely worth it to spend the $25 (like, for MoMa) and go on a weekday to some unlimited breathing room.

  3. This is a great reminder. I wasted many an hour on freebies in college, but your time isn’t worth too much in college. Well, I guess you could be studying, but 1 or 2 hours will likely not make or break a class.

    Now, I do go out of my way for happy hours, but I won’t wait a crazy long time for them. 30 minutes max for half price drinks. It will be interested to see if this perspective changes when I’m 30!

  4. I totally agree. If something is cool, convenient, AND free I’m all for it, but the other day I checked out the 99 Cents store and they were handing out free hotdogs. There wasn’t even a line and I wouldn’t eat it. Free also does not mean healthy.

  5. I really don’t understand the fascination some people have with anything labeled “free”. When something free is only worth 25 or 50 cents (at best), I am surprised at how excited some people become. There is such a thing as opportunity cost!

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