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Go Ahead and Waste It - It Was Free
By Mia Cronan

Go ahead and waste it; it was free! Have you ever heard that? I wonder if that comment has the same effect on you that it has on me. Actually, it's more the mentality behind the words that has the same effect on me as fingernails down a chalkboard. If it was free, why is it ok to waste it? Just because no money changed hands in order for an individual to acquire it doesn't mean that it has no value and cannot be utilized in some fashion.

I have a relative who recently grabbed handfuls of good-quality, heavy-duty paper napkins to mop up a spill, then he said, "Hey, they were free!" So? I realize this is a petty example, but grandiose examples aren't necessary for those of us who are frugal-minded in order to get the point.

I call people like this "buffet heads." And we've all seen them...they go through the buffet in a restaurant and grab a portion from every bin and end up with a miniature representation of the buffet right there on their plate. What happens next? The server scrapes most of it into the trash. And why not? It was free for the taking! The crab legs were a little too cold? Don't eat 'em!

We've all been the beneficiaries of the product samples in the grocery store, where the person stands there with an electric fryer, some toothpicks and napkins, and encourages us to try the new item. (Generally we get a coupon for it, too!) Sometimes those samples are my lunch, consequently. It could taste like something out of a dumpster, but I'll be darned if I can throw it away. Sure, it was free, was free! I'll gag it down, because wasting food just was not something we did growing up. Either that, or my husband will grab it out of my hand and slam-dunk it into the can for me. And no, he's not the said relative in paragraph #2.

Through my years in the hotel business, I walked into many recently-vacated rooms that had been set to near Arctic temperatures, because the air conditioning bill didn't go straight to the guest. I saw face cloths and bath towels used in some very interesting ways...ways for which those individuals would never use their own personal linens at home. And I saw pads and pads of paper doodled upon, rendering them useless, but hey...they were free.

My point with all of this is that free things do come along in life, and thank goodness for that. But, they're not really free when you consider that they do have value, they do serve a purpose for us, and if wasted, they never got a chance to serve their purpose. Quite often they simply postpone us having to go out and buy whatever it is anyway. And if you're a parent, you've probably had similar conversations with your children on such matters, because young children do not naturally understand money changing hands for products or what the value of those products is. Material goods have some value, and should be respected as much as we would respect the money that we didn't have to spend on them. And if we teach it to our children, hey...that's free information!

Mia Cronan is a married full-time mother of three girls, ages 4, 3, and 1, living in Pennsylvania. She owns and edits, the magazine for modern mothers with traditional values. Mia can be reached at

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