Each of the four Thursdays of our September No-Spend Month, I will introduce an article in a series I’m calling, “Don’t Buy It.” Each week I will focus on a different alternative to buying the things you want and need.
We’ll start with getting things free: Don’t buy it. Get it free! I joke that free is my favorite price, but seriously, there are lots of great things that you can get for free. I’m not going to focus on getting a dozen free toothpastes or getting random free samples. I will focus on how to get more substantial things for free (not that toothpaste isn’t great).
Here are some of the places I look and the strategies I use to get things free instead of buying them.
PLACES TO LOOK
Local Facebook Groups
Local Buy-Sell-Trade Facebook groups are a great way to find things (or request things) for free. Some areas even have a specific group for free things. When you’re on the lookout for something specific or just in the mood to find something free, browse through the things that are listed locally. You are likely to find clothes, housewares, toys, books, and much more.
In the “For Sale” section of Craigslist.org, there is a “free” category where everything is, you guessed it, free! You might have fun browsing to see what’s available. Sometimes people will still post under the normal category (i.e. free clothes listed in the “clothes” category). You can also search ” free __” from the main page.
We got our first piano for free on Craigslist. Pianos can be a pain to move, so they’re pretty easy to find for free.
Freecycle.org has over 5,000 groups nationwide where members post things they are giving away or request things they are looking for. Their goal is to help keep good stuff out of landfills. Unlike Craigslist, you have to be a member of the group to be able to respond to the offers (though anyone can see them). It’s free to join.
When people get stuff or do things for free, they like to share about it. Lots of bloggers post freebie deals regularly. Even if you don’t follow all the blogs, you can find posts on specific free options that you are interested in by searching. I think you will be surprised by what you can find. For example, Google searches for “free cloth diapers” often bring people to my post How to get Cloth Diapers for Free or Cheap.
Product Review and Marketing Sites
Would you be willing to write a review in exchange for a free product? I’ve done that several times and it was well worth it. Some of my best offers came from being a member of the One2One Network. You don’t need to be a blogger. None of my reviews was blog-related. They just wanted reviews on the manufacturer’s website. A few months ago I got a free travel system (car seat/stroller combo) in exchange for a review.
Keep Your Ears Open
If friends are moving or cleaning out, chances are good that they’ll be getting rid of some things. Sometime church groups have email lists or newsletters where people give things away. We have given and received things that way. In fact, the refrigerator we are using now was from a friend who was moving out and needed to get rid of hers and ours just happened to be on the fritz!
Out here in the boonies, the bulletin board at the post office and feed store are an effective way to share information. I put up a note saying that we were looking for free scrap wood to build a tree house for our kids. I left my phone number and got several calls. We picked up lots of wood and are in the process of building a treehouse (it will be prettier when it’s painted).
Getting stuff for free can be addictive. Don’t forget to factor time, gas, storage space, and sanity into the equation. While free stuff doesn’t cost money, it takes time to search for it, pick it up, and maintain it. Be selective about what free things you are willing to chase down.
Let me illustrate this point by an embarrassing example.
When we were in law school, I kept a close eye on my inbox for freecycle emails. When my oldest was one and I was expecting my son, I saw a freecycle email from someone who lived a couple towns over who had a double stroller and a barbecue grill available for free. “Perfect!” I thought. Those are both things we could use.
I hopped in the car with my little girl and headed out of town to a place I had never been before, driving further than I would normally drive in an entire week. Living in the boonies now, makes this trip look small, but at the time it was a long drive.
When I got to the place, I found a rickety, rusty grill and a filthy double stroller like the one my mom pushed thirty years ago sitting at the curb for me. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I should have just left.
But, by golly, I had driven all the way out there and I wasn’t going home empty-handed. I single-handedly hefted the grill and rigged it to fit in my trunk (not an easy task for a pregnant lady) and got the stroller to fit in the reclined front passenger seat. I could only imagine what a show I was giving anyone in the neighborhood who was watching.
In addition to a car-load of junk, I took away quite a few lessons that day. I even took a picture so I wouldn’t forget. (Mr. SixFiguresUnder, a strong advocate of recognizing sunk costs, didn’t understand why I brought them home.)
- Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. Just snagging stuff because it’s free means you now have to store and maintain the stuff. You don’t want to know how long that gross stroller and disgusting barbecue sat around before we were able to get rid of them.
- Take driving time and distance into consideration. While the stuff may be free, the gas isn’t.
- If you don’t see what you are looking for, ask. Maybe someone has one sitting around but just hasn’t got around to putting up an ad for it. Common terminology is “ISO,” meaning “in search of.” On Craislist there is a category called “Wanted” under “For Sale” where you can post what you are looking for and what you want to pay (or that you’re looking for something free).
- Keep a list of what you’re looking for so when you browse free listings you don’t forget. A list also keeps you focused so you aren’t distracted by stuff you don’t need.
FREE STUFF LATELY
We helped clean up after a wedding reception last weekend and brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
Our cement basement floor is now covered (at least in the “living room”) with nice cushy carpet that was taken out of another house by a handyman friend. It’s pieced together a little oddly but it’s a definite upgrade from the motley assortment of rugs we had before.
I used a coupon in the mail from our mechanic to get a free check engine test. They will also run the codes for you for free at Autozone.
A lady at church was getting rid of some of her kid things (her kids are grown) and she approached me to see if I wanted any of it. I said yes to a few things (Pictionary, Dominos, and some flash cards), but no to lots of other things.
How About You?
- Where do you get free things?
- What are your best strategies for getting things for free?
- What have you gotten for free lately?
- What’s the best free thing you’ve found?