2/14/2008

How To: Get Stuff For Free

Ok, we're definitely getting into some of the secret sauce here. Some of these may be obvious, others may not. Below are my 5 most successful ways of getting stuff for free. As usual, if you have experience with these methods, or have others to share, please hit us up in the comments.

  • Freecycle - You may have heard of freecycle.org before. It's gotten a lot of press in the past couple years, and has grown by leaps and bounds. Activity varies by area, and we've seen both sides of that coin. We used to be a part of one of the most active groups in th nation. It was great. When I was out of work, and my young daughter's wardrobe was turning over every 3-6 months (She was 2 years old), we were able to completely outfit her in some very nice clothes - All for free. We also gave a lot of stuff away, and were able to bless many people in need with items that had become clutter to us.
  • Ask - "Are you going to eat that?" Ok, that's not what I'm talking about here. Dave Ramsey always teaches people to ask for a deal when shopping. The same applies to when you want some thing for nothing. I acquired a rather nice laptop that way. Was only missing the HDD, so the whole deal cost me some $80. See something attractive collecting dust in the storage room at work? Ask the boss. See a useful piece of equipment being replaced? Ask where the old one is going. You might be surprised what will happen. They may just give it to you so that they don't have to deal with it.
  • Contests / Competitions - Ok, this may sound lame, but some contests are legit. Further more, some on-line contests are legit. True, they may require a bit of time and energy, but what have you got to lose? Just be cautious about who the contest or 'CONtest' is with and what information they are asking for. We've entered several contests and competitions over the years with some success. And sure, it's nice to win, but the process can be a lot of fun too. We're working on a few right now - sewing, DIY projects. Its a good bonding experience and an opportunity to flex some creative muscle. Plus, sometimes, you get some free stuff.
  • Research - Market research is going on all over the country. Big corporations pay big bucks to find out what you think and how you shop. The key here is to find these companies in your area (the ones conducting the research and thus locating participants) and get in their database. They are always looking for people, and are usually quite friendly and easy to work with. These studies or surveys usually take little time, can work around your schedule, and usually pay quite well.
  • Trash day - I can't resist. Trash day rolls around and some ol' boy pushes a heap out to the curb. What is that? A shelf? Part of a playhouse? One man's trash truly is another man's treasure. To the detriment of the environment, some people are still oblivious to things like recycling and reselling unwanted but functional items. This is, however, to your benefit. Be smart - it is not a good idea to physically get into a dumpster. A truck bed will give you a good view. Be discrete - there is still a stigma attached to taking items from the neighbors trash, so its probably best if people don't see you. Scout during the day, go back at dusk. Mid-morning or mid afternoon is also good as most people are at work. The real key is to walk up like you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing and make off with your loot the same way. So long as you don't make a mess or do any harm, no one is likely to care.
Bringing this all together, once upon a time, I was 'under-employed'. Money was tight, and the work I did have was uncertain. My wife was still bringing in good money to keep us afloat, but who knows what tomorrow brings. During this time, I built a huge workbench in the garage, and a playhouse out back for our then 2-year old. The cost to us? A few screws, some PVC pipe, a couple of gallons of gas, and a little sweat. My pride was long gone, so that was a wash.

A neighbor moving out chose to fill up the landfill rather than have a garage sale. Our twice-a-week trash pick-up yielded 2/3's of a kids plastic playhouse (they didn't even try to recycle these huge hunks of clearly labeled plastic!), as well as some solid wood shelving. Freecycle gave way to some unneeded bench-tops from a local machine shop. Seriously. 1-1/2" thick, heavy, laminated bench top. You can't hardly hurt these things, and I could hardly lift the darn thing. Some spare lumber left behind in the house rounded out the workbench. As I said, the neighbor only left me 2/3's of the plastic playhouse. Considering the $200 price tag at retail, this is still a nice find. But do you think that you can get replacement parts? The answer is no. But PVC pipe is still in fine supply at Home Depot. Since it was two walls that were missing, all I had to do was 'frame' the structure out so that it wouldn't fall over. A few screws later and she had one nice birthday present. That was two years ago, and she still doesn't complain about missing two walls.

How do you get stuff for free? What do you get for free? Or do you prefer to buy everything new?

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2 comments:

Monroe on a Budget said...

Family hand-me-downs have provided us with a lot of free stuff: including a coffee pot, ironing board, George Foreman grill, outdoor barbecue, newer microwave, and framed artwork.

We had a strange set of circumstances during the past five years in the immediate family with three households all moving within six months of each other, and since then four estates have closed out as other relatives died or moved into retirement homes.

Who needs Freecycle when nearly everybody in the family is trading stuff back and forth every time someone moves?

However, it was a lot of work for my mother to keep up with sorting the furniture and household goods, deciding or asking who wanted what pieces and such.

My husband and I repaid the favor by donating furniture and items we no longer needed or traded out to other families via word of mouth situations.

(not) the Jet Set said...

Thanks for the comment, Monroe. Family hand-me-downs are a great example. I'm glad you added your last statement. All too often, people associate frugal with greedy, hording person, and it's just not true. Frugal folks are some of the most giving, non-selfish people I know.

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