If something is free, it must be awesome right?
At least that’s what you would think a personal finance blogger’s perspective would be.
While free stuff may indeed be awesome, sometimes you can make it even more awesome by simply spending some money.
How is that possible?
Here is a recent example we’ve encountered in our lives.
The Beach Is Free But…
Going to the beach, at least in most places in the Florida panhandle, is a free activity for those who live close enough to drive or walk to the beach.
Parking is free in most places and all you have to do is walk down the public beach access and pick a spot on the beach to enjoy.
This year, we’ve been enjoying the beach more than in years past.
However, we want to make sure we don’t get sun burnt to a crisp like oh so many tourists do.
We put on sunscreen, but in addition we normally drive to one of the two fishing piers so we can sit under them in the shade and avoid at least a bit of the sun’s harsh rays.
For the longest time we would just sit on the sand or bring a towel to sit on, but we eventually figured since we’re spending more time at the beach it was time to spend some money and buy some decent beach chairs to sit in to make the experience more enjoyable.
Luckily we found a promo for Sam’s Club and ended up getting two $30 beach chairs at just $10 each. Now, whenever we head to the beach we’re much more comfortable sitting under the pier. As a result, we get to stay longer which makes the drive down to the beach a bit more worth it.
Money Buys Limited Accessibility
Another option we have is to go to a state park beach. The state parks to charge a small entrance fee, but because of that fee they are generally less crowded.
In addition, one of the state park has access to both the bay and the Gulf of Mexico, so you can swim in the waves if you wish or sit on the beach in the calmer bay in you have young children. Sometimes paying a couple of dollars to be in a more relaxing, less crowded area is worth it!
Another Way To Avoid The Crowds
Lucky for us, we know of another way to avoid the crowds at the local beaches at Panama City Beach. Simply find a public parking spot that is not near any of the big condo buildings.
Unfortunately for us, that means there is no shade, either, since there are no piers to block the sun. So, if we want to avoid the crowds, not pay a fee to enter a state park, and want to sit in the shade, do we have any other options?
We figured out a way to do just that, but it isn’t as cheap as our beach chair option. We recently bought a 10 foot by 10 foot straight leg canopy that will provide 100 square feet of shade. It was $90, but we figure it will make our trips to the beach much more enjoyable and we can avoid the crowds at the same time.
After a few uses, this will pay for itself if we don’t have to pay park entrance fees to avoid the crowds. Additionally, we can use this canopy in many ways other than at the beach. We can use it for shade in our back yard or at a future garage sale where we’ll be making money!
Sometimes it is worth spending the extra money to enjoy an otherwise free activity a bit more. This is especially true if it allows you to do the activity more often and avoid other expensive entertainment options at the same time.
What are your thoughts about spending money to enjoy a free activity a bit more? I think only the truly cheap would avoid spending money at all costs, while frugal people won’t mind spending a bit of money to better enjoy a free activity or take part in the activity more often. Leave your thoughts in the comments!