Updated on 07.31.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Freebies Edition

Trent Hamm

There is no such thing as a free lunch. From my experience, that’s completely true. Yet, I constantly advocate using free services all the time – the library, the parks, and so on.

Lately, a few readers have called me on this seeming contradiction, pointing out that, indeed, these things have costs. We pay those costs when we pay our taxes. And some people with a certain political perspective think it’s wholly unfair that we should pay for libraries and parks and the like.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s a sunk cost. We’ve already paid our taxes – and those taxes paid for those libraries. The money is already paid – so why not enjoy the fruits of those dollars? If you politically disagree with such services, act in a political fashion against them – but don’t eschew services. You’ve already paid for them. Use them.

Tyler Durden’s Guide To Personal Finance This is a humorous reworking of “Fight Club,” translating the themes of the movie into pretty sensible personal finance advice. I enjoyed reading it. (@ man vs. debt)

Thomas Carlyle’s Advice to Young Men This is brilliant advice for everyone today. Don’t follow advice to the letter – instead, explore and learn what works for you. A truly worthwhile person is able to find their own path and utilizes advice only in terms of trying to see things through another’s eyes. (@ art of manliness)

Banishing the No Momentum Monster Without some sort of crutch, I find it’s really hard to maintain the momentum of continuous work, like writing or exercising every day. For me, the “chain method” works well – I have a printed calendar on the wall in my office and each day I accomplish my specific goal, I put a big colored X on that date on the calendar. When I get a string of them going, I *really* don’t like breaking that chain, so it gives me motivation to do it. (@ unclutterer)

Off My Giving List I do the same thing – if a telemarketer from a charity interrupts me, I cease giving to them. I am a charitable person, but I value my family time and I don’t want it intruded on by some ham-fisted telemarketer. (@ free money finance)

Are Online Savings Accounts Worth It? We use an online savings account (ING) for most of our banking, but we also have a local bank for some specific teller services (cashing checks, mostly). We have the two accounts linked and everything just works like a charm. (@ bargaineering)

20 Cheap and Fun Date Ideas Most of these sound like a whole lot of fun to me! My wife and I already do several of these things, sometimes even with the kids in tow. (@ christian pf)

How to Destroy Your Investment Portfolio You can solve all five of these problems by simply buying a broadly based index fund and just sitting on it. Sure, you won’t hit a home run, but you will have consistently strong investment results over the long haul. (@ frugal dad)

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  1. Rick says:

    Interesting argument. There are those that criticize libertarians and other “conservative” groups for speaking against government services, and then turning around and using those very same government services.

    I, like you, see no contradiction in this. We have paid for them. May as well make use of them.

    I fundamentally oppose most government services. However, I gladly make use of (say) the fire department, because it’s available, and my tax money pays for it. If the government did not provide a fire department, I would instead use my dollars to purchase private fire protection. Likewise, I oppose government-run health care. But where it currently exists and will exist in the future, I will make use of it, since my tax dollars support it.

  2. Sheila says:

    Rick (#1), I’m assuming that you’d only use the amount of money YOU actually paid in taxes for any government services since you are opposed to people receiving government services. So, for example, if you became disabled and needed SSD, and had paid $20,000 into the system as your share, the minute you received $20,000 in benefits, you’d quit receiving SSD. Would that be correct?

  3. Andrea says:

    On the “off my giving list” thing, I think that’s fair… IF you already indicated to the charity somehow that you didn’t want telephone solicitation. Join the national Do Not Call registry to take care of charities you don’t already support.

    Then, for charities that you DO decide to give to, write it on the coupon when you originally make your gift, or tell them when you call, not to contact you by phone. Otherwise, you can’t blame them for trying. It’s a sad fact of nonprofit life that you DO have to ask people for money, or you won’t get any money! They don’t want to waste money and alienate you by contacting you irritatingly so help em out.

  4. Yes we already paid for it, so we are stupid if we don’t use it. Advice to yong men, is good, too!

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  5. The Frugal New Yorker says:

    I can’t believe there’d be anyone selfish enough to not want to pay for public libraries or parks. How about roads and stoplights—-or should we just let all the car crashes happen in the poor parts of town?

    Anyway, I agree with the above commenter on the nonprofits—you have to let them know first that you don’t want calls. But the fundraiser FMF spoke with sounded particularly obnoxious, so I can’t blame him.

  6. Melissa says:

    I also don’t give to phone solicitors. I feel that if they have the money to hire an outside firm to harass me, they don’t need my money. Plus once you get on a charity’s list, it takes a LONG time to get off it. I learned this the hard way from Habitat for Humanity and Doctors Without Borders.

    I now give to local organizations by anonymous money order and to Ronald McDonald House. The latter is easy–I dump the change from my order each time I get lunch there into the donation box. I don’t get the tax write-off this way, but I get less phone calls and less junk mail. I’ll take it.

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