A friend was recently talking about the fact that when he offers his professional services for free, people do not take what he’s offering seriously. They don’t show up for appointments, respond to emails, or seem to value the service.

He’s certainly not alone in this experience. I’ve often heard that from all sorts of people. If you offer a class for free, people won’t show up as often or participate as enthusiastically. If you give away things you make, people treat them as though they have less value than something with a price tag.


It’s interesting and, I think, a concern.


The idea that money is what creates value is definitely a dangerous concept. Often, the higher an item or service’s monetary cost, the more it is coveted.


We say “the best things in life are free.” How we act is often the opposite.


But of course true value has nothing to do with money. How can we increase our appreciation of things and experiences with no price tags?


Three ideas:

  • Experiment with purposely not learning the price of an item. Look at it. Feel it. Reflect on how it makes you feel. Think of what its uses might be. Consider (or learn) how it was made. How long did it take? Who designed it and who created it? And why? What does this object add to your local culture? Be sure that you do not know the price of the item. Now…what is the value (not price) of the object?
  • Try out Time Banking. In a Time Bank, members exchange services based on the idea that everyone’s time is worth the same. We all only have so many hours in our lives. In this system, one hour of service always equals one “time dollar,” regardless of what the service is. Members exchange services ranging from gardening to massage to rides to learning to cook to companionship to tax prep to childcare. For the purposes of this post, we can look at Time Banking as a way to value experiences based on time.
  • Spend 5 minutes down on the ground. Look at the blade of grass, the crickets, and the variation in dirt. Feel, smell, or taste the leaves. Listen to what you hear. Feel what is warmer or cooler. Look at something totally mundane for much longer than you ever have before. How do you feel? What have you experienced? How would you value this? Could you imagine assigning a price to it or does that sound ridiculous?

These are just a few ideas to experiment with.

Why does all this matter? Maybe that’s a subject for another post.

What do you value more or less than its price (if it has one)? How might you look at value separate from price?


I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.