What is The Price of Free?

Updated: July 3, 2023

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What is the price of free?

The price of free refers to the hidden costs or trade-offs associated with seemingly free products, services, or offers.

While something may be advertised as free, it’s important to recognize that there are often other costs involved, whether it’s in the form of personal data, time, or quality.

Examples of the price of free:

To better understand the price of free, let’s explore a few simple examples:

Example 1: Free mobile apps

Consider a free mobile app that you download on your smartphone.

While the app itself may not have an upfront cost, it may collect and track your personal data, which could be used for targeted advertising or sold to third parties.

The price of using the app for free is potentially sacrificing your privacy and being subjected to targeted marketing.

Or, in most cases, since you’re already using the app, it can now entice you to spend on add-on features or in-app offers, as freemium apps do.

Example 2: Free online courses

Suppose you come across a free online course that promises to teach you a valuable skill. While the course content may be free, limitations or trade-offs might be involved.

For instance, you may only have access to a limited selection of lessons, or the course might lack personalized support or certification.

The price of the free course is the potential compromise in quality, support, or additional resources that you would otherwise receive with a paid course.

Plus, you’re giving your information to the course creator, which they can then use to advertise their paid courses to you.

Example 3: Free shipping with minimum purchase

Imagine you’re shopping online and come across a promotion offering free shipping on orders over P1,000.

The allure of free shipping encourages you to add more items to your cart to meet the minimum purchase requirement. In doing so, you may end up spending more money on items you didn’t initially plan to buy.

The price of free shipping, in this case, is the potential overspending and deviation from your intended budget.

The price of free can manifest in various ways, and it’s crucial to assess the potential trade-offs or costs associated with seemingly free offers to make informed choices.

Dealing with the price of free:

Now that we understand the price of free and its implications let’s discuss strategies for effectively dealing with it:

1. Evaluate the true cost.

When encountering something that appears to be free, take a moment to consider the trade-offs, especially potential hidden and future costs. It’s free now, but will it expose you to unwanted spending temptations later?

Ask yourself what you might be giving up in terms of data, privacy, time, or quality. Assess whether the perceived benefits outweigh the associated costs.

2. Read the fine print.

Before engaging in a free product or service, carefully review the terms and conditions, privacy policies, or user agreements.

Look for any indications of how your personal data might be used or if there are any limitations or restrictions that could impact your experience. Being aware of the fine print can help you make more informed decisions.

3. Seek alternatives.

Explore alternative options that may offer better value for your time or resources. Sometimes paying for a product or service can provide a higher quality experience, better support, or additional features that outweigh the price difference.

Consider whether investing in a paid option might be a more worthwhile choice in the long run.

4. Prioritize your needs.

Determine what’s more important to you. If privacy is a concern, you might opt for paid alternatives that prioritize data security. Investing in a paid service might be more beneficial if comprehensive support and resources are crucial to you.


The price of free reminds us that seemingly free offers often come with hidden costs or trade-offs.

We can make more informed decisions and avoid potential pitfalls by evaluating the true cost, reading the fine print, seeking alternatives, and prioritizing our needs.

The 80 Percent Express are special short episodes where I share a financial concept or answer a question sent by a listener.

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