How to get a lot of cool stuff for free or cheap

They are the scavengers of the American culture, taking the discarded and forgotten and making it their own, getting that last bit of nourishment or life from it when we have decided none could be found.
~Frugal for Life

It’s easy. I do it all the time.

There’s just one trick: you have to be patient. Instant gratification isn’t going to work here. You have to be willing to wait, and willing to accept that you might not get exactly what you want, when you want. It might be slightly worn. It might not be the right color or brand. But fuck, you got it for free!


Dumpster diving, Freecycling, Craigslisting, Goodwill. Don’t snub your nose…I’ve gotten a very nice flat screen television, a cordless drill, a cat carrier, two really nice desks, a futon, cd players, a chest of drawers, several bicycles…the list goes on. Some of it I pulled out of dumpsters (including the television), some I bought for cheap from people on Craigslist (a brand new desk for $15) or at Goodwill, some of it people have given me.

But like I said, you have to be patient. You have to be willing to settle for what you find or get instead of exactly what you want. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all. But when the TV is free, who cares if there’s a crack in the base and the cord was spliced back together? Especially when it was at least a 36 inch. Someone paid a lot of money for that TV. And it wasn’t me.

And most of it’s not crap. Sure, there’s lots of crap running around, (two of the futon frames I’ve pulled out of the dumpster were pretty shitty), but most of the stuff I find is decent quality stuff that’s just tossed because it’s unwanted. The cat carrier was new-looking…they didn’t use it anymore and I needed one.

People have this idea of what “garage sale chic” looks like. Now, while my apartment certainly wouldn’t make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, I’m sure most people wouldn’t realize that most of it is second-hand. The stools are new (mom bought them, I wouldn’t have bothered). The TV, the futon, the bookshelf, the desk. All used. I used to have a pretty garage sale chicy loveseat, but I gave it to my brother.

The trick is to teach yourself to pay attention. Living in a college town helps. Big piles on the curb and always a good bet. Craigslist and Freecycle are just flat-out useful, although there can be competition for the good stuff. But like I said, the major trick is to just be patient and not terribly picky. I spent several months televisionless before we found that big one in the dumpster (not that I was at all sad being without).

I’m a scavenger. I pick up the discarded or unwanted. There are those that live off of it. All the bullshit people throw out. All the waste people make. Enough for people to live off of. Enough for people to furnish apartments and houses with. I hate bringing “third-world” countries into this, but our dumpsters would be a gold mine for some people.

As Lupa wisely said, “we need to quit hating on the scavengers.” Some might think it’s gross, or believe themselves above that sort of thing. And they can go ahead and toss whatever they (don’t) like out. We’ll be there to pick it up, take it home, and be happy with it. We didn’t have to pay for it, after all.

2 Responses to “How to get a lot of cool stuff for free or cheap”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Not much to say aside from Woo for dumpster diving. Though the dumpsters here tend to suck. There was always good stuff in CS and Richardson, Arlington dumpsters suck.

  2. Yeah, being in a college town is even twice as more useful; so many of them just discard the IKEA FURNITURE THEY BOUGHT NEW.

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