10 "Free" Things That Cost You Money in the Long Run

Life is expensive. Between the mortgage, insurance, car payments, and unexpected repairs, homeowners have a lot of money going out. It’s understandable, then, that many are tempted to take advantage of freebies when they're offered. But be wary: There’s a price to pay for everything—even the free stuff. Before you accept freebies, understand what you're actually getting. Goods and services that you don’t have to pay for may not be up to standard or may come with sneaky fine print, or they may just cause more problems. So, while you might save money in the short term, in the long run you could live to regret your frugal choices. Avoid these 10 “free” things that are likely to end up costing you money.

  1. Tires

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    Free Tires

    It’s never a good idea to skimp on important purchases. If your car needs new tires, don’t jump at hand-me-down used ones. They're already worn, so you'll need to replace them sooner, and old tires increase the risk of a blowout or accident.

    Related: 14 Ways You’re Wasting Money on Your Car

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  2. Trial Subscriptions

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    Free Trials

    Signing up for free trials for subscription services, video streaming platforms, and online publications is a great way to experience a product before committing to pay for it. The only problem? You often have to provide a credit card when signing up. Most services won't notify you when your trial ends and will start charging your card whether or not you wanted to continue the subscription. If you do decide to sign up for a free trial, note on your calendar when it expires so you can cancel or choose the plan that works best for you before the first charge hits your card.

    Related: 9 Worth-It Home Services and Subscriptions That Give You Bang for Your Buck

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  3. Appliances

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    Free Appliances

    Replacing a fridge, dryer, or even a microwave can be costly, especially if you're forced into a last-minute, unplanned purchase. But if you're looking for a cheap fix, the free replacement you find on Craigslist may not be your best bet. Chances are that any free model you can find will be old, outdated, and inefficient. Sure, you may be able to get the appliance for free, but expect to pay later in the form of repairs or higher energy bills.

    Related: 8 Appliances That Cost You a Fortune in Energy Bills

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  4. Couch

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    Free Couch

    A good couch doesn’t come cheap, so when you see one at your neighbor’s curb or at a bargain price at the thrift store, you might want to snag it. Don’t. Consider why it’s being given away. Chances are if someone is willing to just let it go, there’s something wrong with it—and there's also the risk of bedbugs. 

    Related: 7 Ways You May Be Ruining All Your Furniture

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  5. Paint

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    Free Paint

    You can often find free paint at your municipality’s recycling center. This paint is usually fine to use as long as it doesn't contain lead (and in 2019, lead paint would be a surprising find). Keep in mind, however, that old or improperly stored paint can become gummy, sticky, and hard to work with. As well, no matter what paint color you choose, you may need more of it down the line. You'll want to be working with a paint color that can be mixed again should you need it.

    Related: 12 Easy Fixes for a Botched Paint Job

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  6. Internet

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    Free Internet

    Why pay for internet if you can easily use the free Wi-Fi from the coffee shop next door or hop on the network of your careless neighbor who doesn't use password protection? Well, for starters, using unsecured networks exposes you to malware and identify theft. There may be no harm if you’re just reading the weather report, but if you’re keying in passwords, logging into online banking, or entering credit card information, it's not worth the risk.

    Related: 10 Types of Tech You and Your Home Can Do Without

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  7. Mattress

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    Free Mattress

    When it’s something you’re going to lie on every day, you deserve to buy it new. A new mattress will not only be comfier, it will be cleaner too. Also, taking a free used mattress may expose you to allergens, bedbugs, and the dead skin flakes of whoever used to sleep there. Ew!

    Related: 11 Things Never to Buy Secondhand

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  8. Shipping

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    Free Shipping

    So, you're ready to make your purchases in an online store, and then you notice you can get free shipping if you spend another $10, $20, or $50! Should you click through, or should you go back and add just a few more items to your cart to qualify for free shipping? Well, if you didn't need those extra items before the offer of free shipping, you probably don't need them now. Save your money and pay the small postage fee instead. 

    Related: 12 Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Package Theft

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  9. Credit Cards

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    No Fee Credit Cards

    Everyone knows by now that credit cards aren’t free money, but when you’re signing up for a new one, read the terms closely. Credit card companies will hook new customers by offering no fees or 0 percent APR for the first year, but then bump up fees dramatically the next. Check the terms before signing up, and monitor your statements to protect yourself from unexpected, sudden increases.

    Related: 14 Store Policies You Should Be Taking Advantage Of

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  10. Checking Accounts

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    Free Checking Accounts

    The bank's definition of the word "free" isn't necessarily the same as yours. Even if you have a free checking account (meaning there's no monthly maintenance fee), it may be subject to fees if your balance drops below a certain amount. Even if there aren’t hidden fees, free checking is often accompanied by higher overdraft fees and fewer incentives. Another catch? Banks will sometimes charge you to access your deposited funds immediately rather than waiting a few days for processing.

    Related: The Worst Money Mistakes Homeowners Ever Make

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  11. A Price to Pay

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    A Price to Pay

    Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's worth it. 

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  12. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!