Is free good enough?

Just because something’s cheap, does that mean you should buy it? If it’s free, should you use it? The recession means a proliferation of cheap and free, but that often means sacrifice. The social network Facebook is free, but at the sacrifice of quality customer service (not that I don’t love Facebook).

My belief is that everything and everyone is connected, so cheapest is not good enough. It’s why I don’t shop at WalMart, I try to buy organic food, I pay more for a hybrid, and make other conscious buying decisions. If it’s cheap at the same time, that’s all the better. But it’s almost impossible to take the full lifecyle of a product or service into consideration every time you shop.

So tell me, is cheap good enough? How about free? Does it matter if you’re foregoing quality or sacrificing the well-being of another or the environment? Where do you draw the line? And how do your values line up with what your actual purchase decisions?