When “Free” Just Isn’t Worth It

Have I mentioned that I work in a startup?

Well, I do, and exactly in line with popular belief, we get some pretty fun perks.

One of them is our candy wall. Twice a week, we have an amazing assortment of snack jars refilled with everything you thought adults ate all the time when you were a kid. There are single-serving bags of chips, chocolate covered almonds, jelly beans, trail mixes, M&Ms, popcorn, you name it.

So, like any sane adult who’s enjoyed an active metabolism their whole life, twice a week I paid a not-insignificant visit to the candy wall. I won’t lie to you guys: I pretty regularly took a bag of chips. Or more than one handful of chocolate almonds.

What can I say, they’re my weakness.

It’s easy to deviate from your standard apple-and-all-natural-peanut-butter snack when there are options like that within plain view of your desk. Plus, they’re all free, so if anything, I was saving money, right?

But then I started to notice that… ahem… I might have put on a bit of weight.

Which ok, is not entirely shocking, considering I was eating multiple handfuls of chocolate almonds every week. And those chips probably didn’t help either.

So while I was saving a marginal amount of money with my free snacks, I wasn’t doing myself any favours on the fitness front. This realization, and the brutal at-home workout regime I’ve since put myself on, have made me realize a few key things about the value of “free.”

Free is only valuable when it aligns with your goals.

Being healthy is important to me. Over the years, I’ve been on-and-off with a variety of different fitness interests, including a stint doing 8 hot yoga classes every week, and another year spent training for and running two half-marathons. Surprise! I come by my candy consumption honestly. I’ve burned my fair share of calories.

Even while I was eating the delicious, delicious candy, I knew it didn’t align with my goals. I just didn’t realize how out of sync it was until I stepped on a scale after suspecting that it was taking its toll. Yikes. Talk about not aligning with my goals.

On the other hand, it was a great wakeup call to be more deliberate with my non-financial goals. Since that day, I’ve been doing a daily at-home strength workout, and haven’t taken a single sugary treat from the candy wall. Even though they’re free snacks, I’m committed to my health goals, and “free” isn’t a good enough reason to compromise on them.

Free is only valuable when it’s something you’d pay for.

I do all of the grocery shopping for The Boyfriend and I, and that means I make all of our food choices. For someone with so little restraint in the face of free candy, I do remarkably well in the grocery store. We’re always stocked up with healthy food, fruits and vegetables to snack on, and we never eat any processed foods. I even resist bringing home my favourite bag of Kettle Chips every single time.

So when I look at how much I would pay for all of the free candy and chips I was eating, the answer is “Nothing.” In fact, I look at the time I spend preparing food on the weekend as an investment in the exact opposite: I do all that work to make sure we don’t rely on processed, sugary, fatty foods to get through the week.

I pay to avoid candy and junk food, with both money and time. Just because it’s then offered to me for free is a bad reason to eat it.

Free isn’t a good excuse.

It would be so easy to know all of this, really know it, and eat the candy anyways. It’s free candy, guys!

But that’s the thing. No matter what excuse you try to make “free” fit into, it’s never going to be rock-solid.

Trying to declutter, but you found a free thingamabob that you just have to have, because it was free? Still not a good excuse to keep the thingamabob.

Trying to spend more time with family, but you just got a free new video game? Still not a good excuse to play the game.

Trying to get back into tip-top shape, but there are free chocolate almonds? Still not a good excuse to eat all the chocolate almonds.

So for the time being, the candy wall and I are in a fight. I’m not saying I’ll never eat from the free candy wall again, because I’m still human, but for the next two months, my highest priority goal is getting back into my happy shape. Not my mindless two-bags-of-chips-a-week shape.

Because sometimes, free just isn’t worth it.

Have you ever found something that was free to be more trouble than it was worth? I’d love to hear about it – I struggled to find other examples for this post! Fill me in! (Also, tales of avoiding delicious snacks are encouraged. Solidarity.)