Shopping at 'curb mart'
Need something? Scavenging keeps items out of the landfill, and dollars in your wallet.
When I do errands, I keep my eyes peeled. You never know what you're going to find, from dropped coins to reusable shopping bags.
Scavenging is frugal, whether you do it in an organized way (Freecycle, Dumpster diving) or merely by keeping your eyes open. You're probably not going to get rich, but you may find something you need. You'll also be keeping items out of the landfill -- and dollars in your wallet.
Recently I heard this referred to as shopping at "curb mart." I like it.
I'm more of a Dumpster wader than a diver -- i.e., I paddle around the edges. I've also found my share of useful things next to trash containers: kitchen chairs, a bookcase, the shopping cart I use to haul home heavier groceries.
While walking I've found things like pens, screwdrivers, a partial roll of electrical tape and books and magazines from piles left on street corners. Seattle residents like to recycle their belongings by putting them outside with "free" signs. Or possibly they don't want to pay dump fees and hope someone will take the stuff off their hands. Post continues below.
Seek and ye shall find
Best place I ever found change: under the cushions of a couch sitting on the sidewalk. Since the sign said "free," I figured that prospecting for pennies was permissible.
One windy day I found a red nylon shopping bag blowing across the University of Washington campus. It's imprinted with a "2010 U.S. Census" logo and folds up to about the size of a wallet. Since it weighs practically nothing, it lives in my backpack so I don't use too many plastic bags.
The UW campus was also the site of one of my woo-woo moments. One day I was thinking that I needed to get a white sheet and some safety pins to make a dust cover for my daughter's wedding dress, which she'd bought from a cancer charity well in advance of the nuptials.
Just after the thought formed, I saw a safety pin on the bricks of the university's Red Square. An hour later, I found another one. And then another one.
By the end of that day I'd found five pins, which were enough to secure the sheet over the dress. Weird, huh?
I didn't find the sheet, though. I paid $2 for it at a rummage sale.
Pack some Purell
Some of you might be appalled by the idea of picking up items off the ground. But as I've noted before, it's not as though I carry these things home in my mouth.
Besides, I do keep hand sanitizer in my backpack. If I scavenge a quarter from the edge of a puddle and can't find a place to wash my hands within a reasonable time, out comes the Purell.
Some might think it's low-rent to be seen stooping to retrieve a pin. (Don't they know that if you pick it up, then all the day you'll have good luck?) Or they'd be embarrassed to admit that the super-useful (and eco-friendly!) shopping bag was found on the ground.
To me, fishing a Hellboy comic out of a bag of free books is like finding money. It was in pristine condition and made a fun gift for my great-nephew, who insisted that we read it together during one of my visits. He referred to the character as "Heckboy" when his little brother was around, and I had a chance to explain that the concept of "changelings" might have arisen from physical characteristics associated with the genetic disorder called progeria. (You learn the darnedest things as a CHID major.)
A week after I rescued the mag, I walked by that corner and found the bag still there but sodden with rain. The few books left inside were ruined. Glad I saved Heckboy from that fate.
Readers: Do you scavenge? What's your best find ever? What are your boundaries, if any?
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I always watch on trash day or really any other days. One day as I was driving my son to school I looked over and found an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman sitting on the curb. I could not believe my eyes. I stopped went to the door to ask the home onwer if that was really going to the dump or was it place there for pick up by Goodwill or soething. He said "that ulgy thing" yeah it is trash. he than told me I could have had the "matching" side table but he tossed that last week. As it is said one man's trash............ retail value of the chair and ottoman is north of $3500 bucks. That was my best find but there has been many other good ones as well.
scout the curbs on trash day in fancy neighborhoods.
They often set out perfectly good furniture, bikes, etc. out for disposal.
I'm proud to be a curbside shopper and dumpster diver. Being kinda handy myself or at least willing to experiment, I will even scavenge parts or raw materials to repair something. My best dumpster diving days were as an apartment dweller which was fairly common for my complex. As a rule, all usable stuff was always put beside the dumpsters for recycling by others.
Living in suburbia made the search a little broader but going for a stroll the night before trash day always gave me the most flexibility to come back with the car if I must to haul away the loot.
Yes, I do work but I am also living on a fixed income supplemented by 'second market' goods.
I am proud to be a Dumpster diver. Have even made a business out of it. I take old cameras and rebuild them, dumping the metal and plastic for wood which I have claimed from refuse. A $50 investment will be turned into a $800 "functional art" sell.
The fact is that we have become a society that often is too foolish to realize that everything we are convinced that we need is not necessary. We shop as a recreational activity and often buy things we want at the moment, but find out later that we don't really need. For example, we buy our children more toys than ten kids could play with, creating future "over consumers". Eventually, we get buried in so much stuff that we end up throwing away things that are perfectly usable. Then we cry that we don't have enough money for essentials like food or rent. If we would all pull our heads out and realize that just because TV or advertising says we "need" all this crap doesn't mean that we really do, we would all be better off and have more money to save or buy things we truly need.A couple of years ago as I was leaving for work one garbage day morning I looked over at my neighbors driveway and saw a department store shopping bag full of womens shoes sitting in the top of one of the garbage cans. I went over and took the bag of shoes and dumped it out in the trunk of my car. There were at least a dozen pairs. Most looked to have been moderately worn and one pair of high heels still had price stickers on the bottom and looked to have never been worn! There was a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers that certainly had seen better days, but they were still wearable for gardening or household chores, and for somebody who can't afford shoes, they would have been a welcome gift. I recognized some of the designer lables and these were shoes that probably retailed for $100 or more new. I took the bag of shoes and dropped them in one of those clothing donation boxes on my way to work. How much effort would it have taken my neighbor to do the same thing on her way to work instead of just sending them to the landfill?
I have had great luck in the finding things category. I sell a lot of what I find (ebay or Craigslist). Some of my good finds include 42” and a 50” plasma TVs , oodles of lawnmowers, and snow blowers. Also, some really great stereo systems. The system in our home, and my workshop were amazing finds. Since I do some woodworking, I was able to rebuild the speaker boxes, the drivers were in great condition. My greatest find was an 8 foot wide gang mower that I was able to sell for $900. But, I have had several other items that brought almost as much.
Thrift shop all the time.... when I binge shop, much easier to handle a $20 shopping spree...LOL... My personal challenge is to find the worlds best bargain...best, or at least favorite find was a nearly new Ralph Lauren queen sized duvet cover from Goodwill. The cover was estimated to cost $300 by my RL loving guru friend. Paid $ .50! (yes, cents...) I honestly dont know what RL costs retail because I would never shop high end retail....
We have a "free room" at the dump. (transfer station). Many antiques wind up in there as unwanted junk. I realize not all old things are "antiques" but it always amazes me what people throw away. My husband swears I come home from the dump with more than I bring!
Yes I look too and go to auctions and second hand stores. lots of money can be made if resold or saved if re used.
Once I read and seen a article were a lady in New York did this all her life and died a millionaire. Boy just think of all the treasures that we humans have thrown away and that are still in the land fills.
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