Others, like my husband and I, make our dollars go much further by taking advantage of gently used goods.
What we especially love is finding merchandise in good, usable condition for free or nearly free.
We joke that we have a finely tuned sense of Freedar—that’s like Radar, only different —that alerts us to big bargains.
This has been developed over the years due to our desire to get the most Wow! for our money.
Plus, we get a real charge out of discovering deals!
To help get you rolling towards more savings and a debt free marriage, or just for the thrill of the hunt, here is the list:
Ten places to find Free and Nearly Free stuff!
1. Free pile at work. More than one previous employer had a designated area, such as a side table in the cafeteria, where employees were welcome to bring in clean, usable items. Books, clothes, holiday decorations, household goods, and more made regular and very short appearances there. If your workplace doesn’t have a free pile, you can always suggest they start one, and you can offer to oversee it.
2. Church clothing exchange. Our church hosted these twice a year. In May and then again in October, families would bring in clothes they no longer wanted or needed. The event lasted for about three weeks, which gave plenty of time to donate and “shop.” Whatever was left at the end was donated to a local charitable thrift store.
3. School clothing swap. Our daughters attended a private elementary school, where we held a similar twice yearly exchange. This was incredibly helpful financially, as the children wore uniforms. In another local public school, the parents group organized a clothing swap for the families. Kids grow so quickly, so it it’s always helpful to find free clothes!
4. Rummage sale. Watch the public bulletin boards in your local grocery store, in the library, and of course, Craigslist, for notices of rummage sales (usually under the garage sale category). Typically, clothing and so much more can be had at very reasonable prices. If you go after noon, though, they tend to offer huge deals so they don’t have to handle leftover donations.
Get to know the dates of the best annual events, and mark them on your calendar for next year. We had a couple of huge ones where I previously lived, and people would line up at least an hour in advance to get first crack at the bargains. Our daughter furnished her first after college apartment almost completely during the late afternoon big bargain time at one of these very inexpensive and fun sales.
5. Craigslist. This busy site has a Free section within the For Sale area. Although the pickings are a little slim here, sometimes you can find a real gem. The trick is to just keep checking. In the Yard Sale section, folks will post “Curb Alerts.” These are notices of yard sale leftovers they are leaving for free on their front lawns/curbs, or things they no longer want or need.
Always be courteous, do what you promise, and be safe. If you are new to Craigslist, take the time to read over their FAQ’s, including the information on general help, fraud, and safety.
6. Freecycle. The goal of this network is to reduce and recycle goods you no longer want by giving them away to others. They have over seven million members worldwide, and over 5,000 groups. My town of just over 2,000 individuals was even part of a small area group. You sign up for one or more groups in your area. When another member posts an item, you email them to let them know of your interest. Like Craigslist, always be safe and smart about your on and offline transactions.
7. Family and friends. Let these folks know you are interested in locating particular items for free or nearly free, and offer to stay similarly on the lookout for them. Putting the power of a larger group to work is a wonderful thing. We always have other folks in mind as we peruse merchandise. If we pick up something and the person no longer needs or wants it, we can just give it away, no harm done.
8. Town convenience/recycle center. These places may have different names depending on where in the country you live. Many of them provide an area where you can drop off used goods for others. I know of a wealthy town whose area is so well-stocked and wildly popular that the managers have created a two-step ID check-in process to keep out non-residents.
9. Neighborhood curb shopping. Most suburban areas have a regular trash pickup day. Find out what day that is, and drive there the night before. If you see something on the curb you’d like beside the trash containers, you can check with the owners before taking it. Let comfort, common sense, and courtesy be your guide! Trent of The Simple Dollar wrote about this practice here. You can certainly do this in your own neighborhood, but some folks are just more comfortable curb shopping where they aren’t approaching friends and neighbors.
10. College campuses. At the end of the year, students are focused on final projects, exams, and going home. In their hurry to flee, they often leave lots of useful merchandise at the curb. This is true for dorms as well as off-campus housing.
This list should give you plenty of places to start your search for free and nearly free goodies.
Remember this: Just because someone has discarded an item does not automatically mean it is trash.
It may very well be the treasure you have been seeking!
Question: Where would you recommend searching for free and nearly free stuff?