Oct 17, 2015 · 2 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

A couple of free items have come our way recently.

For someone doing a no-spending challenge this month, the free stuff has added an unexpected layer of difficulty.

A neighbor selling a house gave us a free baby grand piano. The piano comes with a wonderful story: it’s from 1935, and our neighbor was the original owner. It was the piano she played as a little girl, and now it’s the piano my little girl plays.

In addition to the story, it also comes with hidden costs: $150 to move it; $175 to clean and tune it; and next month, another $300 for the fine tuning and some small repairs. Eventually, we’ll need to do some more extensive work on it, but right now, we’re going to stop after the fine tuning.

This “free” gift, while a great boon to our family - my daughter was practicing on an electronic keyboard which really isn’t the same thing - by the end of next month, it will have cost us $625.

Like anything, there is always some cost that doesn’t figure into the price on the price tag. This is a good thing to consider when trying to decide whether to buy something, especially something that will be around for a while. Over the years, how much will it really cost?

My boss once mentioned to me that something that had been offered for free was “free like a ‘free puppy.’” I had to think about it for a minute, but he’s right. And we got another reminder of that this month when a stray cat adopted us. We’ve been trying to find the owner, but with no luck. So it looks like we’re going to end up with a new kitty.

I hadn’t wanted a cat. We already have a dog who is miffed at the feline interloper, but my daughter and I are softies when it comes to animals.

So if no one comes to claim her, the cat is ours, which means taking her to the vet to get spayed, examined and vaccinated; getting her licensed; buying food, kitty litter, toys, a bed, a scratching post … for at least another 10 years, probably more.


Let me just give some context about me and animals: my last dog had allergies so bad that she would scratch herself until she bled. So I did what any rational pet owner would do. I took her regularly to the vet and to the doggie dermatologist.

Yes, that’s a thing.

I routinely spent $300 to $600 a month on that pup, and I would do it again, which is what scares me about adding another pet to the mix.

Of course, I know how much love and joy pets can bring, and you can’t put a price on that. But you also can’t call it “free.”

Tell me, when have you encountered hidden costs in free things?


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.