Best things in life are free challenge: Looking back

It’s three weeks now since I began my quest to find out if the best things in life really do come for free, and I’ve finally come to the end of my challenge. I’ve had great fun over the past few weeks investigating all sorts of things, from wild food to free activities around the UK.

On the food front, I’ve made my own soup from nettles growing in my back garden and produced homemade chestnut pasta from foraged sweet chestnuts. Also, I’ve tried out free activities in my town, including our Billericay Greening Event, and scoured the UK looking for free music festivals to rival the great Glastonbury. In addition, I’ve rediscovered the delights of Freecycle/Freegle and unwanted furniture items and free compost at my local recycling centre.

For me, I think my personal highlights were the chestnut pasta (which to be honest I’d expected I wouldn’t like but was actually pretty good) and hearing all about how many of you save money and reduce waste by giving away or receiving items from Freegle/Freecycle etc. I was really inspired by your comments explaining how hard some of you had worked to get your reclaimed furniture, for example, in working order again and how much effort you make to avoid unwanted household items ending up in landfill. Finding out about the new trend of skill-swapping which has become more popular in the UK during the credit crunch was also really interesting and I’d like to have a go at that sometime soon.

But it’s time for me to come to a decision and answer the question the challenge raises – do the best things in life really come for nothing? Is it possible to enjoy things for free in life or ultimately do we only get what we pay for? How do the free versions of things measure up to the more expensive conventional versions?

My nettle soup was pretty tasty – just as tasty as a more conventional recipe, such as leek and potato soup. The chestnut pasta wasn’t bad either, although I’m not sure I’d want to eat it every day. It was a bit of a faff to make, too. Not all wild food is palatable but some of it is surprisingly good and worth taking advantage of, as long as you are 100 per cent certain of its identification. As for the free activities, attending our Billericay Greening Campaign Green Day, I had some of the best fun I’ve had in ages and met some really amazing and inspiring people.

Obviously we all need money to make our way in the world and sadly there’s no getting away from that fact just yet, no matter how much we scavenge for free items for our homes or swap our skills to save money. Wild food won’t pay the mortgage or the rent. And as some of you have pointed out, even things that appear to be free can have their hidden costs. You may be able to attend a music festival for nothing, but how will you get there and what will you eat while you’re there?

However, I think we can all take time out to appreciate the free things in life, such as friendship and enjoying a walk in the outdoors. These are some of the great things in life that money really can’t buy. What’s more, this challenge has taught me that in the future, when I need something or what to do a particular activity, before reaching for my wallet I should check to see if I can find the same item for nothing on Freegle etc., by borrowing it from a friend, or by bartering my skills with someone else’s. I might not be able to do so, but it’s worth just checking first before wasting my money or our valuable resources.

What are the best things in your life that have come to you for free? Leave a message and let me know.

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4 Responses to Best things in life are free challenge: Looking back

  1. Pratab says:

    For a balanced report. Perhaps that now you\’ve finished this extreme. you should ask MSN to fund your "study" of the other extreme. 🙂

  2. Christine says:

    Oh don\’t encourage her Pratab she says laughing. We\’ve spent years trying to help Piper be frugal – please not to undo all our good work.

  3. kim says:

    Your experiment was a real eye opener and made me think. With the childrens summer holiday coming up and the usual lack of money. I\’ll be looking out for free days out and entertainment, in the hope to occupy the children and i\’ll use each trip out as a photo opportunity.Our veg garden is now bearing veggies so there will be some savings there :-). Thanks for making us aware and re.inspiring me 🙂

  4. Piper says:

    Ha! Good thinking, Pratab. I hear the Ritz is nice this time of year!Kim – thank you for your kind message and great to hear about the veggies! Enjoy the summer hols & I\’ll look out for new photos on your fab new blog.

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