As I was checking out at Target, trying to get an almost free Starbucks Iced Coffee (combining a 40% off Cartwheel and a $1.00 Ibotta) the lady in front of me purchased almost $150 worth of "stuff". I'm not even sure what most of it was, but it didn't look like anything necessary. She mentioned to the cashier that she liked to stop by every time she passed a Target store this time of year to look for pumpkin flavored something or other. She only found one this time, but still managed to spend well over $100.
At the same time, back at the "ranch", we were attempting to put together a free bunk bed for the kids. It made me think about what free could do for you. Odds are you fall into one of two camps, the people who buy tons of "stuff" or the people who could do with a little "free" from your friends. Here's the thing, though, whichever camp you fall into, both parties benefit from a little free in their life. The people that have stuff overflowing and need to pare down (whether it's due to a move or due to just buying more things) need some help getting rid of things.
The people that are trying to stick to a budget, live on one income, or just afford another mouth to feed (not us yet, but who know in the next year or two) could do with some "free" in their lives.
So, the thing of it is, how do you open up the "free" conversation? The tricky part is, the free option always has to be presented by the giver. Otherwise it's just being a cheapskate or even a bad friend. But if the giver wants to give, and you're willing to use it, accept it, and pass along what you no longer need to the next person in line.
It's one thing to "donate" to a charity, or sell at a consignment shop, but it's so much more personal, and enjoyable, when you are giving to (or receiving from) someone you know.
Just as a quick example of the "free cycle" in our house (not the online version, but the one where we know people and people know us): we've received a box of clothes for our youngest child, a bunk/loft bed, a tricycle, and a kids guitar. We have "paid it forward" by donating very nice used clothing to a single mom in need and some of our unneeded items to the Vets (since we had some boxes that we weren't even aware we still owned when we were unpacking and didn't know anyone in town yet).
We also are fortunate enough, that we have the disposable income (from what we've "saved") to support our church and several kids in other countries through World Vision. I'm not trying to toot our horn or anything, but there's a reason we live the way we do. It's not to be cheap, it's to be generous.
Speaking of generous, the unfortunate side effect of the free bed, is that now we have two additional places for kids to sleep. I suppose it's fortunate in one respect, because the kids could easily have friends over for a sleepover (although I'm not sure we're quite ready for that). However, it also brings to mind what we spent the entire last year working towards (becoming foster parents in Kentucky). Now that we have one potential piece of that puzzle in place, it's certainly something that's been on my mind. We had almost decided not to do foster care because of all the ongoing scrutiny and the possible effects on our own children and family, however, we were still considering either temporary respite care, or becoming adoptive parents. We would just have to take that next step of looking into certification requirements in our new state.
My husband mentioned the other day what a big responsibility the very wealthy have to use what they've been given. I think what we often neglect is to be amazed at the many things that we've been given. We live in an extremely wealthy country, and many of us are at least in the "middle class" which means we are better of than 95% of the world. It's not enough to give X amount or X percent, we have to live generously, so what can "free" do for you, or someone you know?