What If It Was Free?

I sometimes wonder if game show contestants and sweepstakes winners really want the (non-cash) prizes they’re awarded. It seems like the mere possession of such things can make life unduly complicated (and possibly more expensive). I like to imagine how I’d respond if offered some of these “finer things” of life.

If it was free, would I really want…

An enormous McMansion. No, thank you. I’m a minimalist at heart, and would hate to have a bunch of rooms I never use. I’d also find the cleaning, maintenance, and utility bills overwhelming.

A fancy car. This gets a resounding “No!” I simply wouldn’t want the headache (or the insurance bills). I’m the type that parks a new car at the far end of the parking lot, and doesn’t start to relax until it’s at least three years old. Compound that with a fancy hood ornament and I’d go crazy.

Expensive jewelry. I’ll pass on this one, too. Even if it was free, I’d worry about losing it; and I certainly wouldn’t want to pay to insure it.

A designer wardrobe. I’d only accept it if it had no visible labels or logos. It’ll take a lot more than some free swag to turn me into a walking billboard.

A membership to a super-exclusive country club or spa. There are probably a million other things I’d choose to do before spending my day at such a place. I’m afraid it would almost feel like an obligation to go.

The chance to meet a pop prince or princess. Something tells me we wouldn’t have that much in common. And after the obligatory handshake and photo-op, I think things might possibly get awkward.

A giant flat-screen TV. I’d take it, but only in order to give it away. In the intervening period, I’d enjoy the extra attention from all the men in my life.

A new laptop, iPod, cell phone, or other electronic gadget. If I need one, I already have one. And if I already have one, the last thing I want to do is learn how to use a new one.

A year’s supply of [fill in the blank]. To be honest, it doesn’t sound like that much fun to have a year’s supply of anything.

An all-expenses-paid trip around the world. Yes, I’ll take that one. I’m frugal, not crazy. :-)

6 comments to What If It Was Free?

  • Ellen

    I’d take most of those things and plan to re-sell them.

    I wouldn’t mind the designer wardrobe, simply because that stuff tends to fit well and be of excellent quality.

    And a year’s supply of gas or groceries? Fantastic! They give you credit, so you don’t have to buy it all at once, obviously, and what a wonderful way to cut down on a necessary expense.

  • Francine Jay

    Thanks for the comment, Ellen! You’ve made some really good points–you’re right, if the year’s supply of something wasn’t delivered all at once, it sounds much more attractive. :-)

    But for argument’s sake, what if you couldn’t re-sell the items? Would you still want the burden of ownership, along with the associated expenses (say, the higher utility bills of a large house, or increased insurance and maintenance fees of a luxury car)?

  • amber

    Just a friendly editing note — to be grammatically correct, the title should read, “What if it were Free?”

  • Frugillionaire

    Thanks for your note, Amber!

    That’s a tricky one. My understanding is that the subjunctive (“were”) should be used when the condition is untrue or impossible. For example, “If the earth were flat, one could fall off the edge.”

    However, since this post posits a situation in which the condition becomes reality (such as in the case of a sweepstakes winner), I believe the indicative (“was”) is the proper form.

    Here’s an example in which the condition could be a reality: “We couldn’t find a price tag, and wondered if it was free.”

    Following is one of the sources I used to research this:


    If this is incorrect, I’d love if you (or anyone else) could provide further clarification on the matter. I always welcome a good grammar discussion. :-)

  • amber

    Interesting – I never knew the intricate set of rules behind the English subjective. And now I’ve found a great new blog. Thanks!

  • Actually, “if it was free,” for those who use the subjunctive (not everyone does), is a genuine consideration of the actual possibility that it had been free: “If it was free, why did we pay for it?” The items you list in fact are not and have not been free for you; the point is not that it’s theoretically impossible for them to be free but that, since they aren’t and weren’t, their being free is contrary to fact. So, for instance, Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof is not a rich man (just as a facny car or a giant flat-screen TV are not and have not been free for you, so you are not considering the possibility that they may have been free in the past). He sings “If I were a rich man.” If, as a subjunctive user, he were to sing “If I was a rich man,” it would be because someone was saying he used to be one, or he just can’t remember whether he was.

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