Thursday, August 14, 2014

Collecting Useful Things that are Free or Cheap

This is a guest post written by my friend R. She's an awesome person, and we love bouncing frugal ideas off each other.

Hi, this is a guest post from a friend of Penny's. I live near where Penny does, my husband works at an hourly job for a relatively low salary, I'm currently looking for work, and we live in a relatively expensive area of the city. Oh, and we don't have financial support from family. Naturally, this combination lends itself to a frugal lifestyle, by necessity. Penny has become my frugal guru in addition to being one of my closest friends.

Although my husband and I are relatively newlywed and don't have children yet, we do plan to eventually, and I have enjoyed collecting baby things for free or cheap since I've been married, even knowing we don't need them yet. Neighborhood bulletins and email lists are good for this; just a couple of days ago I went to a previously-­unheard-of neighbor's moving sale. I got a pack- and-­play, a bib, a play mat, a baby carrier, a nursing pillow, and some baby lotion, plus a first-aid kit, for a combined price of just over 20 dollars—and then I messaged Penny, begging her to let me show off my frugal skills by writing a guest post.

Before that, as Penny can attest to (because she borrowed it once) we dumpster-dived a stroller for free. And my mother ­in ­law, who has been wanting to be a grandmother since we got married (my husband is an only child), gave us a bunch of baby things as a wedding gift. And none of this even takes up much space, because the pack-and-­play, the biggest baby item thus far, can be folded up and stashed in a corner somewhere, and the stroller lives outside.

Other than baby things, we dumpster-dive whenever we can. My husband is forever bringing home interesting books he finds lying around, and our home is decorated in part with pictures that he picked up beside dumpsters—glancing around, I'm counting six dumpster-­dived pictures on our kitchen/living room wall.

And earlier this week, he “hit the jackpot” in dumpster-diving! I was really confused when I went to do laundry and saw a bunch of clothes I didn't recognize, but he told me that he'd picked it all up for free near his workplace—4 pairs of pants that look like they'll fit him, and a suit jacket, all in good condition! I'm sending them to a seamstress to take them in a tiny bit, but that's only going to cost around ten dollars, and my father is bringing me a sewing machine when he comes to visit this fall, so soon I won't even have to spend that, AND I can start making my own clothes. Yay frugality.

What have you dumpster dived recently? What was your best dumpster score, or other amazing score that you got free, even if not from a dumpster? 


  1. We just got two Nigerian Dwarf goats- a wether (fixed male) and a registered doe. Plus a bunch of hay, feed, and other goat stuff. The previous owner had neighbors complaining about the goat noises, so he had to get rid of them but still wanted them to go to a nice home.
    Not exactly dumpster diving but I think the goats are two of the best things I've ever gotten for free. :)

  2. I too have found that many baby things can be gotten for free or cheap. My daughter is 3 months old, and her grandmother's co-worker's 3-year-old granddaughter gave us all the clothes she has outgrown in her life. I have not met this child, but she either received a lot of gifts or has a compulsive shopper in the family, because she had a HUGE amount of baby clothing and most of it looks brand-new. I had a great time sorting through it and keeping only the items I really like--about 40% of the total haul will make up about 90% of my daughter's wardrobe for the next two years, for free! Then I sold the fanciest items to a consignment store for $21. Then my friend who is expecting a baby girl went through the remaining clothes and took what she wanted. The remainder has gone to my other friend's pregnant sister, and whatever she can't use will be donated to a thrift store. Meanwhile, because my baby already had adequate infant-size clothing from gifts, yard sales, and thrift shops, she now has so many clothes that we can change her outfit at the slightest mishap and still not stress about keeping up with the laundry. :-)

  3. That's a great collection of stuff! Especially the suit jacket, amazing.

    The dumpsters here are all locked up (because of bears, not people), but when I was growing up in Phoenix there was a network of alleys behind the homes, and people's trash out there, ripe for the picking. My favorite find was a big stuffed toy mouse with a cavity in its belly, into which you were supposed to stick your pajamas I guess. For sleepovers. Anyway, I named him Barf Mouse and my dad and I had a great time putting all sorts of things in him and then popping them out, with sound effects.

    I still have Barf Mouse, almost 40 years later. He sits on the mantel in our bedroom now, his cavity sewn up because a pet ferret thought it would make a great bed and disemboweled poor Barf.

    We also scored medical waste -- mostly syringes -- and played cactus surgeon. (Like tree surgeon, only in Arizona...) Ah, those were the days.

    Great post, and thanks for the memories!

  4. A neighoring city to us has whats called "The Great Muk Garage Sale". Its nor a very big city but it is a ritzy one, so the garage sale spams blocks of pricier items for relatively acceptable prices. Following the garage sale weekend is "The Great Muk Clean Up". The city worked a contract with the garbage company to accept items they otherwise wouldnt; couches & mattresses & the like. A couple years ago, the husband & kids &I packed up our SUV & drove around the neighborhood... We scored two adult sized bikes that just needed slight tune ups & a large plastic cooler on wheels that just needed a new plug. There was also a few childrens picnic tables, playhouses & play kitchens. Gardening pots & planters. Tons of furniture & home renovation scraps. I try to keep an eye on their local news flyer now to get an idea when the sale is going on cuz theres just always so much cool stuff just tossed by their garbages!

  5. When I was younger my parents used to dumpster dive often, especially near the college area in our town. My step dad would bring home unopened bottles of beer, tvs and even once brought a complete Nutri-System program that was still frozen! LOL. Those were the days but now I stick to stores just because this area is not as safe as it used to be.

    There is a consignment store in my city called Once Upon A Child. They have a $1 sale a couple of times a year. I was thrilled when I found out about this. Coats, shoes, pants, dresses, even 2 piece outfits-for only $1 each. I bought almost all of my kids school uniforms from here in addition to being able to purchase a few things that they will be able to grow into in a year or two!

    I thought it couldn't get any better than that until I found ANOTHER consignment shop for women that also has a $1 sale once or twice a year! I bought myself a lovely powder pink trench coat and also several NAME BRAND business type pants and also shirts and dresses for $1 each! AWESOME. I look forward to these sales every year!

  6. we just got some bunk beds (a bunk bed set with drawers) for our sons for a good price off Craigslist and then found a 3-drawer chest in the dumpster that will go in their room. We dumpster-dived for an old sewing desk that is where our fish aquarium sits now (it was a school desk for the older son's kindergarten year) and we have a great entertainment-type piece that we dumpster-dived and then turned into a shoe case/library book case/mail holder.

  7. I have worked at a before and after school program for the past four years and budgets are always low! Therefore, whenever I happen upon something that will inevitably be thrown out, I take it before that point (rolls that bags come on in the produce section). I also have asked for it-Fabricland goes through tonnes of long gift-wrap type rolls. All I had to do was leave a phone number and once they had a large pile, they would call me.
    Another way of getting supplies was to get out into the community. One yard sale proved to provide rather affordable items. Upon speaking with the ladies we got a deal on those items as well as we were able to leave a phone number by which they contacted us the next year to give denim pockets off jeans for a project.
    I have received a lot of fabric "donations" by volunteering at our local clothing depot ($2 and a valid Saskatchewan health card gets customers a large garbage bag full of their choice of clothing and 3 select items from the counter such as dog food or toothpaste). While they do put almost all the clothing out for the patrons, some donated items are simply unfit. Denim jeans with big rips and holes come to my house for denim quilt and rug projects.
    With a little bit of creativity, it is not too hard to come across some items.

    1. That sounds really awesome! I especially like free crafting materials! What was your favorite craft made with these free materials?

  8. I live in an apartment complex with many units, mostly younger couples and college kids and when people move out, they just throw out everything! I love taking out the trash because I never know what I'm going to find for free as my reward. I once found a perfect 12" Wolfgang Puck enameled cast iron pan with lid that I'm sure was probably $50 plus new. I've found various plant stands and nice huge ceramic pots (I'm a gardener so I get really excited when I see those). I found a cute carved wooden side table with no flaws that looks like it probably came from Pier 1. It now resides in our bedroom. Most recently, I found a gallon of unused white paint, which was awesome because I needed to buy some anyway.


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