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Paper bags of free things

The top 5 ‘free’ things to avoid this winter

Who doesn't love a freebie? Whether it's a friend offering a slice of used-goods heaven or a garage-sale orphan looking for a happy home, second-hand goods are quite a tantalising offer for thrifty shoppers.

Free things may give you a lot more than you bargained for (and that's not always a good thing). If you're looking to save a little money, you'll do well to think twice before snagging these used or cheap products.

Here's our top 5 free things where the initial save can cost you more in the long run.

1. Mattresses

It's hard to resist a free mattress when a new one can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Before you lift the cushy sleep surface into your ute and haul it home, remember that your mattress influences your sleep. A used mattress with uneven support can lead to lost sleep, which has show to decrease workplace productivity, increase the likelihood of car accidents and contribute to weight gain and memory loss. Let’s not harp on the fact that the average sleeper loses 650 to 1000 grams of sweat per night.

We recommend - Buy a new mattress within your budget, no matter how modest your budget might be.

2. Car seats

Remember that seemingly perfect car seat begging to be brought home? Child Car Seats says you should always know a car seat's history before buying a used one – it can be impossible to tell if a car seat has been involved in an accident or has internal damage

We recommend - Where safety is involved say ‘no’ to a free seat and find a new one that won't have damage and is guaranteed to be defect-free.

3. Running shoes

Run right by those used athletic shoes. With some running shoes costing as much as $200, a free pair of shoes is tempting. However, Runner's World says your feet may pay the price even though your wallet won't. Worn-out shoes, the retailer says, are one of the leading causes of foot injuries for runners.

We recommend - Pay the one-time bill for a new pair shoes rather than the multiple doctor bills you'll be stuck with if you strained a ligament or tendon.

4. Fast food

McDonald's 2015 menu indicates a single double cheeseburger – though cheap – contains 1800 kj. In contrast, Live Strong says a home-made lean hamburger has 25% less calories than its McDonald's version.

We recommend - We want you to have a long life, so spend a little extra on healthy food options and pass on fat-filled fast food – in the long run, you'll reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

5. Car repairs (the worst of all!)

Take your car in for its regular service instead of balking because you don't want to spend your money on costly repairs. While few people enjoy taking their car to the mechanic for routine repairs or servicing, RACQ says avoiding routine maintenance on your car can make your vehicle dangerous as well as lead to costly repair bills in the future.

We recommend - Stick to the service requirements for your car specified by the manufacturer. Our article on car maintenance will help keep repair bill at bay.

Got another freebie to add to the list? Add it to the comments section below.