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Sometimes I wonder how adept we are at evaluating true value and enjoyment and how much we are influenced by culture, peer pressure and just the act of spending money. I've noticed that things often loose their appeal or value as soon as they become free.

For example, yesterday I went tobogganing with my youngest daughter and we had the hill to ourselves. Ottawa has several free public toboggan hills. When I lived in Vancouver, where we would have to drive for about 40 minutes and pay $6.00 per person there was such a line-up that you'd have to spend as much time waiting as tobogganing. Or do you remember being younger and pouring quarters into Packman machines? Now I have a little device for the TV and I get bored after 2 games. Or who do we give the gifts to at Christmas? - the volunteer coach or scout leader, or the relatively well-paid teacher?

Now I realize that there could be other reasons for some of these things -- maybe the availability of toboggan hills means that Ottawa residents can participate more often during the week and perhaps I've just outgrown Packman, but I'm convinced that value is often warped by price, what seems "cool", or what the celebrities are currently doing. I know that when my mother sees an item marked "40% off" that she suddenly looses the ability to evaluate the item's worth at the sale price and convinces herself that she is getting a great bargain (something I'm sure that retailers are well aware of). I do realize that sometimes value is related to cost -- I guess our job is to evaluate the rationale for the spending and how much value we are actually getting. I'm sure at some point most of us have had an expensive meal and thought, "I could get a better meal for 12 bucks at the restaurant in my neighborhood".

1) So what free or low cost activities do you find to be a great "bargain"?

2) What high priced items or activities do you consider to be a bargain? (I believe there are some, but it is very individual.)

3) What items or activities do you feel are not anywhere near worthy of the price people pay for them?
1) I enjoy hiking and outdoor skating (ice hockey) a lot. As these are free (except for gas costs to get there and equipment), they are a tremendous value to me.

2) I pay about $700 a year to play ice hockey, about $1100 a year if I splurge and decide to play over summer as well. However, I really love playing so it's a price I'm willing to pay.

3) downhill skiing definitely tops this list for me. I live in Calgary, so I have some good skiing quite close; however, I can't bring myself to spend $80+food+gas+equipment rental to go stand in line at the chair lift. In fact, it boggles my mind that so many people are willing to do it. I remember as a kid my parents took me skiing quite often, and it was always fun.. But evidently not fun enough to spend my own money on it!
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