Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The cost of free stuff

When I was kid my dad bought a small cottage on a lake. It wasn't much of a cottage, but it did come with water frontage and an old boat house. In the boat house was a good sized boat and motor. It came with water skis and everything. The previous owner threw it in with the cottage sale.

I had some glorious plans for that boat. I would water ski, take girls for rides, troll for fish and tool around the lake looking cool. Never happened. Dad sold that boat so fast it make my head spin. I could not understand why he gotten rid of a "free" boat.

He tried to explain to me that a free boat wasn't free. It would need to be registered, fueled, and maintained. At the time, those costs seemed like nothing to me. Only years later did I understand.

Recently I was offered a "free" van. It was in good shape and road legal. Since we didn't need another vehicle I politely refused. It's a honor to be offered such a gift, but no one in my family needed it. I suggested he pass it on to someone who would get some use out of it. The van was much newer than the vehicles I currently drive. However, it did burn gas and since my vehicles run on waste vegetable oil, that's an expense I didn't want. Just like dad's boat, it would also need registration, insurance, and maintenance. I didn't want to take on the additional cost of a "free" vehicle.

Several years ago I was offered a class C motor home. Yep, refused that too. It needed very little work. The guy who offered it to us as he knew we liked camping. We like tent camping, especially the wife. She loves the simplicity of being able to throw a tent in the back of the car and just take off. Not only that, you can't take a motor home canoe camping, which we enjoy. My lovely wife thinks tent camping is terribly romantic and I'm certainly not going to mess with that.

Now some people would have gladly accept these free items, turned around and sold them. That's not the way I operate. In the case of the van, it'd probably be an insult to my friend who offered it to me. The respect of my friends is more important than a few bucks in my pocket.

I don't believe in gathering stuff for the sake of having more stuff. At some point after basic needs are satisfied, stuff becomes a burden. You don't own it, it owns you.


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