But, I don’t like that brand…

There are a lot of reasons not to buy something and far be it for me to recommend shopping for shopping sake. But when something is free – no strings attached, no rebate to mail, honest to god free – one of the worst arguments I hear is against branding.

I get it.

Spicy cinnamon flavor does not entice me to use mouthwash and you will not see a Dora the Explorer toothpaste tube in my bathroom.  But when an item is free there are four good reasons to get over it. Unless you have some serious commitment to boycotting a company and their products I suggest you pick up freebies whenever you can.  Even if you pay a few cents worth of sales tax, there are four groups would can really benefit from your thoughtfulness.

Students

Most of us were there, dirt poor, stuck on campus, idiots when it came to money matters and living with dozens of other students who think nothing of swiping roomie’s shampoo.  Students don’t cut a lot of coupons and theft in the dorms is a problem.  Throw in the rising cost of tuition, books, and eating and there’s an opportunity waiting.  Enter the care package.

Care packages combine two things college students love: mail and freebies.  Sure, a little cash is always appreciated but in six months (when your nephew is home for the summer and you want your gutters cleaned) is Joe College Student going to remember the $20 that he used for pizza and beer during finals week or the personal hygiene products that made him smell better and helped him get a date?

Fill the box with a new toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, shampoo, conditioner, deodrant, soap, disposable razors and shaving cream, hair products, feminine products, over the counter drugs, and a small first aid kit.

Soldiers

Who better to benefit from the free products we enjoy at home than the soldier defending our homes?  No matter where your politics lie, the American soldier has an amazing responsibility and deserves support and thanks.

Check the current lists on websites like this one for a list of things that are allowed. There are very specific restrictions and you’ll want to avoid sending something that is illegal or inappropriate.

Seniors

For the elderly living on a fixed income, basic living items can make a dent in the tightest of budgets. Instead of blindly dumping products at a care home, call before you go and ask for a list of acceptable items. Better yet, have your family adopt a grandparent.

While insurance and a care facility may provide the basic living needs of residents, other items may be welcomed. If you’re looking for a one time donation consider group items. Magazines are a favorite as well as craft supplies.  Ask if the recreation director needs movies, puzzles or music.  Depending on the equipment available this might be a great place to drop off VHS movies.

Suffering

Look outside of yourself to those in your community who are suffering. There are everyday needs not met in our own backyards and it takes courage to step up and offer help. Even just the help of some off brand shampoo.  Do a search for homeless shelters, abused women groups, foster homes, and families living with especially difficult conditions.

When you read about a family losing everything in a fire: take action.

If foster children in a group home never get new toys: take action.

If a teacher is spending thousands to provide supplies for a classroom: take action.

It’ll help clean out your closets and bless others.

The amount to which you stock up on products for others is up to you – I would suggest setting aside so much in an envelope and see how much you can get for that fixed amount.

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