Tuesday, January 8, 2013


By Phoebe Farag Mikhail

We should have just kicked him out of the house.

Ok not literally kicked him out, but showed him the door politely, asking to reschedule this appointment at some distant future date when we actually have $20,000 to spend on new siding for our house.

Politely only for his sake, since he did not know that his company told me it would be a half hour appointment, not a 3 hour ordeal that included a 60-slide presentation before finally getting to the estimate.

We didn’t kick him out because we felt bad that he had come all the way over and spent time measuring our house. But our niceness got in the way of our goals, and interrupted our family time. I could not cook dinner because I had to give this man my attention and keep the kids from eating foam siding insert samples.

Perhaps it was my fault for agreeing to the “free” estimate offered by the door-to-door salesman the day before. Eventually, I thought, we would do something about our siding, and so it would be good to know how much that would cost.

Not only would it cost too much, but the “free” estimate was not so free anymore. It cost us 3 hours of our time and caused us to be late for a commitment. The only bright side was that it entertained our two children – they enjoyed looking at siding colors and playing with shutter samples.

Lesson learned: “free” estimates are not free. They cost time, and time is precious.

There are other “free” activities that end up costing more than they save. One writer on LearnVest did the math on couponing, for example, and found that for her it cost more than it saved.

What other “free” activities cost you more than they save? Please share them in the comments below.