I’m always amazed by the persistence of popular maxims. Some, like “all that glitters is not gold” and “experience is the best teacher,” have always been true, while others, like “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” and “cleanliness is next to godliness,” were probably never true. And yet, they all persist.

Today, I thought we’d do a reality check on “The best things in life are free.” True or not?

Off the top of my head, here are 10 of my favorite things in life, at least for the moment, and my assessment of whether they’re free or not.

An unexpected first-class upgrade and breeze through security. One of the hands-down best things in post 9-11 life. Free.

Inner peace. Free. (Skeptical? Just ask any Buddhist monk)

Appliances and gadgets that actually work as advertised. Vitamix blenders. Apple devices. Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances. All cost a premium. You get what you pay for (another maxim, I know; it can’t be helped). Not free.

A great boss. Maybe costs the company more, but for the employee, it’s just the luck of the draw … and Free.

Great weather. Sounds free at first, but it’s not. If you compare similar quality neighborhoods, all the places with the best weather cost far more to live there. Same goes for great view. Not free.

Financial independence. Usually takes decades of dedication and hard work. Not free.

Sex. Free. (One would hope)

A good laugh. From The 15 Most Ridiculous Things People Say on a Plane: “’Where are the lines between the states?’ You would be surprised how many people think there are actual lines between the states like on a map.” Free … and priceless.

A convertible. On the assumption that you have to have a car either way, you can get a convertible for more or less the same price as a comparable hardtop car. Example: you can still get a new Mazda MX-5 Miata for $25K. Free.

A happy marriage. Takes work, but not necessarily more money than an unhappy marriage. Free.

A truly memorable food, drink and dining experience. So not free (even if you DIY at home, less expensive than at a restaurant, but still far pricier than your average dinner).

Final Tally

Six of ten are free. Highly subjective and anecdotal analysis, I’ll grant you. And what was probably a truism a thousand years ago is sort of a mixed bag in our consumerist culture. But still. Try it for yourself. I bet you’ll find that, more often than not, the best things in life really are free. Go ahead, try it. Let us know how it turns out.

Image credit: Mo Riza via Flickr