Why would you pay for something when you could get it free? That’s a sensible question for a frugal person to ask. As someone who loves free, I can totally relate to not wanting to pay for something when I could possibly get it free.
Not too long ago, in a comment on this post I was asked why I would pay for something when I could get it free. The debate was specifically on getting information for free or paying for it. I had mentioned that I took advantage of a $10 sale on Udemy courses to buy a course on beginning DSLR photography. As I pondered why it was worth it to me, this post was born.
I’m going to focus specifically on getting information free versus paying for it. Why would someone pay money for a course, a book, or a tutorial, when they could find similar information for free?
Why you might BUY something even though you could get it FREE:
The free route often takes more time than the paid for alternative. You might have to do quite a bit of searching before you find what you are looking for.
The other day I was searching online for a questionnaire (for something not blog-related). I went through lots of pages of things that were okay, but was having trouble finding exactly what I wanted. I kept looking because I was sure that it existed somewhere. My husband commented that in the time I had spent looking I could have easily made my own. True story.
The point is this: even though the information and resources may exist somewhere for free, it may take a lot of searching to find just what you’re looking for. That takes time.
It’s good to think of time as an opportunity cost. What value does your time have? What could you be doing instead?
When you pay for something, you don’t have to spend the time searching for it (or all of its components) for free.
This goes along with time (as things that take too much time are not convenient), but it goes further than that. Free often requires jumping through hoops. You might have to sign up for a mailing list or endure annoying pop-ups, or watch a commercial in order to get to your free information. One time I was searching high and low for a tutorial to help me with a particular part taking my husband’s suit pants in. I found what I thought was the right tutorial. Unfortunately the tutorial was only a teaser for the one you have to pay for. Ugh!
When you pay for something, you remove distractions that could inhibit your focus and learning. You have all the information available to you at once and can consume it at your own pace.
As a kid I learned from my dad that “you get what you pay for.” From my mom I learned that it’s not always true (which is why thrift store and garage sale shopping can be awesome). When you’re deciding if something is worth paying for, you definitely need to take quality into consideration.
When you’re looking for free stuff, you’ll often have to sift through lots of junk to find the stuff that’s valuable or is what you’re looking for. Sometimes you think you find what you’re looking for, only to discover that it’s a teaser video for the paid series.
When you pay for something (or pay more for something) you expect the quality to be higher. The information provider has an obligation to make the information worth the money you paid for it. On top of that, a wise seller will be trying to over-perform and exceed your expectation.
Completeness & Continuity
Good free information is usually found in nuggets here and there. You’ll pick up something from a blog post here and a YouTube video there. You’ll do your best to piece together all the bits of wisdom, but you’ll easily miss things. Often you won’t even know that you’re missing things.
As I’ve taken courses and read books, I often find answers to questions I never would have thought to ask. Because the author has the big picture in mind, they cover things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. A book or course is set up in an organized fashion to teach in the big picture.
When you get something for nothing, there is no guarantee. When the information comes free, nobody “owes” you anything. The authors or YouTubers are simply sharing their experience and what worked for them. You can take it for what it’s worth, but you can’t get upset if it wasn’t thorough or doesn’t work for you.
On the other hand when you pay for something, there’s a promise, whether it’s written or unwritten, that the book or video will help you achieve something or teach you something. When you pay for something, you assume that the value at least equals the cost. In fact, some products offer a money-back guarantee.
A money-back guarantee helps people look past the price and focus on what the product will do for them. If the end result is worth the price, then the product is worth buying (because if it’s not worth it you will get your money back and not have to pay for it).
Each Has Its Place
There is a place for both information that’s free and information that isn’t. Like I’ve said before, free is my favorite price. I’m not trying to deter you from finding stuff for free. What I want to do in this post is simply to explain that sometimes there are more factors than price. I want you to understand why in the world I would pay for something that I could get for free.
A year ago I paid hundreds of dollars to take Elite Blog Academy, a blogging course to “take your blog to the next level.” While there are tons of ideas for free online about growing your blog and increasing your income, I didn’t want to sort through them, checking the credentials of each author and deciding whether the advice was sound.
I wanted the complete package. I wanted to learn the whole process from A to Z in an organized manner from the same person. I already knew Ruth Soukup’s credentials and had experienced her teaching through her book. I trusted her and knew that her method worked. To top it off, the course also came with a 100% money-back guarantee. Either my blog’s traffic and income would increase after completing the course or I would get my money back!
Taking Elite Blog Academy was definitely money well-spent. I could not have found (and wouldn’t have had the patience to find) all the information and ideas on my own because I wouldn’t have even known what questions to ask.
The principles apply more widely that just information-based products. I would love to hear your own application and opinions in the comments!
Is it Worth it?
That’s a question we can only answer for ourselves. Be sure to factor time, convenience, quality, completeness, and guarantee into the equation.
My conclusions will be different than yours. What I am willing to pay for will be different than what you are willing to pay for. The effort that I am willing to go to get something for free may be ridiculous for you or vice versa. Strike your own balance!
Of course, you’ll have to just take my word for what it’s worth. After all, you’re getting this for free! 🙂
How About You?
- What other factors do you look at when you’re deciding if something is worth paying for?
- What are you willing to pay for even though you could get it free?
Note: This post contains some affiliate links for things that I think are awesome enough to pay for.