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.
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.
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 Chances are that any free model you can find will be old, outdated, and inefficient.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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A Price to Pay
Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's worth it.
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