And sometimes, free can be expensive.
By this, I mean free trials of different products or services. What I’ve seen, these often tend to be in the form of a subscription-type of format, where you either:
- Pay up front but have the option to cancel and get a refund within a certain time frame
- Get a cost-free trial period, and then get locked into payments
I have recently had this happen with my own finances. Generally I avoid such “deals” because of a variety of reasons – and I’ll touch on a few of them later. But in this case, against my usual approach, I recently decided to give a free trial a try.
The free trial was a for an upgraded, “Premium” LinkedIn account. Now, I have to say up front that I have found LinkedIn to be a useful tool for helping out with one’s career – and it’s worth a separate post on why. What’s most pertinent in this case is that I thought that by upgrading to a premium account, it would help me give some additional, useful information as well as a few other features.
And besides, I could try it out first before committing to a subscription. Kind of like dating : )
Well, lo and behold, I did sign up and get access to some additional features. However, I then almost started to forget that I had this premium-level account. Frankly, it occurred to me that I’m probably not getting the most out of this upgrade, which is costing me $30 per month.
This means that at this point, I’ve spent about $60 on something that I haven’t fully used. The decision I need to quickly make is this: will I make better use of the features (assuming they truly could be worth it to me), or should I cancel altogether. It’s a month-to-month commitment as it is.
Regardless, this exact scenario is why I generally have avoided such free trials in the first place. It’s free for a while and that sounds great, but you then forget about it. The payments then start to happen sooner than you expect, unless you’re very careful. The next thing you know, you’ve spent money that you could have used for other things. Opportunity cost is often real!
My approach toward these free trials has been – and will again be – as follows:
- If it’s not something that already find to be a clear value for the regular monthly price, I shouldn’t buy it. The value should be clear, and shouldn’t require a trial.
- In the rare event that I do deviate, the subscription should be month-to-month, AND I should set up an alarm or reminder well in advance of the cancellation deadline. At that point, a clear go/no-go decision should be made.
In this case, since I didn’t, follow my usual approach, free became expensive. But it’s an isolated episode : ) Really, all it takes is following a few basic principles to ensure that free stays free!
My Questions for You
What are your thoughts on “free” trials?
Have you ever had something go from “free” to expensive, or simply go against your normal approach with spending?