Find a Bargain
Nothing beats the thrill of scoring a bargain on everyday essentials—except, perhaps, getting them for free. Luckily for the penny-wise, there are hordes of household products, including furniture, appliances, cleaners, and pet supplies, that can be yours for nothing if you know where to look. Click through for 10 of the best freebies on the market, then go track them down, and save a little cash while you're at it.
Whether you need wood stain for that new workbench or latex paint for a bare wall, you may be able to find just the right shade—for free!—at your neighborhood chemical reuse center. These venues in certain municipalities around the country stock paint, stains, spray paint, and other household chemicals that have been turned in by city residents. All products have been approved for reuse, giving you a safe, effective, and budget-friendly source for your next paint project.
Want to try out a new brand of food for your cat, or a different shampoo and conditioner for your dog? Online you'll find plenty of sites that offer free samples of pet food and grooming samples so you can test out a product without committing coin to a full-size package. Check out websites like SweetFreeStuff.com for free samples of food, treats, toys, and other pet essentials from brands you can trust.
So many cool DIY projects start with wooden shipping pallets—and even cooler, you can often come by a few pallets at no cost. From nurseries to construction sites, many local venues will let you have their excess shipping pallets for free if you only ask politely. If you don’t have time to hunt for pallets on your own, head over to 1001pallets.com. Like a Craigslist for shipping pallets, the website lets you place a "wanted" ad in their Classifieds section and also carries ads from businesses that have pallets available.
If your budget won’t accommodate a badly needed new or refurbished appliance, you may be able to get it gratis from a local interested in parting with his. Freecycle.org is an online recycling network that has thousands of local chapters where you can snag free used microwaves, dishwashers, and other appliances as well as furniture and accessories.
The range of design preferences, the unique dimensions of every space, and justified concerns about hygiene and pest infestation make sofas tough to resell—and as a result, easy to score for free. If money’s tight and you need a place to plop down in your pad, your best bet is Craigslist.org’s “Free Stuff” section. To scope out secondhand sofas nearby, just go to your city page, click on "for sale,” and then click "free." You're sure to find a few to choose from.
Plants and Mulch
Are you green with envy at your neighbor’s beautiful garden, but don’t want to drop dough on starter plants from the local nursery? If you ask the green thumb next door for a few spare seeds or cuttings, you'll be able to propagate your own plants for free. To keep your new plants healthy and save even more money, check with your city's parks department to see if they offer a free mulch program. After the holidays, many cities grind down residents' discarded Christmas trees and then offer some of this mulch to residents.
Whether you’re moving across town or just to the next floor, you’ll need boxes—lots of them. Rather than adding to your moving expenses by buying new boxes, swing by a nearby school or community college to ask if they have boxes available at no cost. Schools receive equipment and new books every fall, leaving them with packing materials and empty boxes that they are often willing to pass along for free if you put in a friendly inquiry with the facilities staff.
Haven’t found your go-to household cleaner yet? Top brands maintain websites where you can sign up for newsletters and product information, and also score free samples. You'll eventually find a real winner! Once you’ve committed to a product, clip the coupons in the newsletter to save on future purchases. Along the way, you'll probably also pick up a few cleaning tips to help you keep your home spotless.
If you're looking to change up your home's interior design, a swap meet might be the perfect place to find a few eclectic pieces. (Don't, however, plan on scoring a rare collector's item or valuable antique.) Swap meets generally work with either cash or barter, so if you find someone who has what you want, and you happen to have what someone else wants, you may be able to simply make a trade—no money necessary!
As little ones grow bigger, you may find yourself stretching your budget to fit their ever-increasing size. You can save some money by opting for secondhand clothing. Check out local online communities as well as sites like the BabyCenter.com group Baby Clothes Swap. Moms and dads who join can save a bundle on their bundle of joy by trading gently used clothing and accessories like high chairs and bibs with other parents.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!