There is a lot of free stuff around, especially on the internet. This article explains why it makes me happy to pay for things when I don’t technically need to.
What do I get for free
I design websites on a platform called WordPress which is a huge database driven by things called plugins. Plugins do everything from annoying pop ups to complex membership forums and quite often they are free. They are developed by people who needed a solution for themselves so they shared it. These developers often give free support if there are any glitches too.
I use Facebook groups a lot for personal and professional development. I’m loving the support on Everyday Knitter and I’m reliant on the Making Good group and the Mamapreneur Revolution for help with business development. There are numerous other groups that are more specific to my work that provide huge amounts of help for free too.
This year I have been mostly trying to fix my shoulders. I pushed the weightlifting a little too hard and have had frozen shoulders to deal with. In the UK we are still lucky enough to have the NHS and after 10 months of physio I have one perfectly functioning shoulder again and the other is getting there.
I’m doing an advanced driving course and I have regular driving lessons with an expert observer who volunteers his time to do this.
Occasionally I get a freebie from a company to review it. Sugru gave me a little box of their Sugru Home & DIY Projects kit and there will be a review on the site soon.
Free doesn’t mean worthless
All the things I get for free cost something to someone else in either time or money. All these things I get for free have a value, sometimes it is way over what I could afford to pay if the person who made/delivered was charging what they are actually worth.
Paying when you can makes it stay free for those who cannot
In times when the money is flowing I’ll see a private osteopath instead of relying on the NHS. It costs £40 a session, it works and it means that someone more needy can take my place in the queue for the very overworked NHS service. I can’t always afford it, I’m a self employed website and graphic designer and my income fluctuates wildly. When I see a donate to designer button on a font I’ve used, I’ll paypal over a few quid. As a designer, the slightest positive stroke can make an enormous difference to my happiness. I know that if the thousands of people who use the free fonts and plugins paid something tiny towards them, the developers could spare the time to make their products even better. Don’t ever think you are insulting someone by sending them one dollar. It mounts up but needs people to contribute instead of thinking what they have to offer is too small or insulting.
Alternatives to paying money
If I’ve won something, got help somewhere or simply just enjoyed myself somewhere I do my very best to shout about it. Posting a thank you on social media takes a second. A review on Yelp or Google maps takes longer but rewards the recipient hugely. Twice a year I treat myself to the best massage in Bristol. It took me 2 minutes to add a few photos to Google and a couple of sentences telling people about how good it is. The therapist Maria Inés told me that she has been really busy since then, all from my first review. People have added more reviews and her reputation (which was already excellent) is reaching more people. If you get something good, let other people know about it. Post pics on Instagram, tell your friends about it. Leave reviews. You can really make a difference with a very small gesture.
Giving makes me happy
And it is not just me. MRI scans show a warm glow effect in the reward centres of our brains after giving something. If you want some structure to your kindness there is a Pay it Forward day in April where millions of people across the globe will be doing nice things for others. This video with Michael Norton proves that money can buy happiness, especially if you give it to someone else.
When you sit down and think about all the value you get for free from various sources it is astounding. People are so generous with their time and expertise. Please consider thanking them, promoting them or even paying for them if you possibly can. If you are worried that a small payment will insult them, it won’t. Trust me! I will not be insulted by any contribution, no matter how small. I do not get an income from less-stuff, I steal time to work on it between paid work. There is no rich husband picking up the tab for this, it is just me, a teenager who eats everything and the cats. If I could afford to do it for free I would because I love it.
I am trying a service called Patroen that allows people to donate to their favourite artists, bloggers, podcasters and authors to show their support and to say thank you for the value that they put out into the world for free. If you can afford to subscribe a dollar a month it works out at 20p a week at the moment and it will help me pay the bills and keep the site lively and updated. If you prefer not to subscribe, one off donations of any amount would be gratefully received.