So I’m really thrifty, and I’ve been really thrifty since forever. There is something about scavenging for deals that is really satisfying. Most of my thriftiness and frugality has led me to rely on used or second-hand everything – clothes, shoes, building materials, furniture. I really truly do prefer used items to new ones – I love a soft, worn t-shirt, vintage furniture, and old things (they were built better back then than the crap at the mall today). I’ve gotten really good at finding just about anything for free or really cheap. I always say, ask the universe, and the universe will provide!
Here’s some of the free stuff I’ve found so far for The COMET specifically:
Gorgeous hardwood flooring still in the box, free on the side of the road
Vintage Formica countertops with aluminum trim, free day at the Re-Store in Springfield when they moved
Fabric for curtains, given to me from friends
Textured glass for windows in the exact right sizes, free day at the Re-Store
Bamboo boards and lumber for kitchen, free on the side of the road
Vintage wallpaper, free box somewhere
If I had more storage space, I’d pick up every door and window that I saw on the side of the road and build a house out of all the free building stuff I find. Seriously. If you’re interested in this stuff, Derek Diedricksen over at relaxshacks has some great tips for dumpstering and hunting for free building materials. He’s the master of re-using free found objects in build projects.
And though I think finding great used stuff for free + cheap is mostly luck, it’s definitely good to know where to look and what to look for when you’re on the hunt. I want to give you all some tips and resources for finding free stuff and cheap used building materials or salvage.
Craigslist: let’s start with the most obvious one. Craigslist is a great place to start looking for free or cheap architectural salvage or materials. Check out the Free Stuff section first, then look more specifically for things you are interested in. I also always look for campers on Craigslist – they’re cheap and you can find a lot of fixer-uppers there. And free stuff is great, but remember to factor in how far away that free thing is and how long it will take you to get there + gas costs.
The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store: I can’t really gush enough about how much I love the Re-Store. Besides the fact that it supports a fabulous cause, it’s really wonderful because you can find just about anything for reasonably cheap. They sell used (or new, but always donated) building materials and appliances/other house items. If you’re into old house stuff like I am, you’ll love the stacks and stacks of 1950′s teal sinks and matching toilets. Sometimes they have great NOS items from the past, great place for vintage nuts to score some original decor for their homes. They have windows, doors, showers, hardware, paint, flooring, just about ANYTHING you can imagine. There’s a Re-Store in Worcester that I frequent, and another really huge one in Springfield, MA that is now called Eco-Building Bargains (they just moved into a gorgeous new eco-friendly building designed by my professor!).
The Side of The Road: My first word of advice for this topic is “don’t be embarrassed!” If you’re like me, you don’t think twice about pulling over, jumping out of your car, digging through some junk, and strapping a few windows onto your roof rack. But if you’re not used to it, it can be a little funny at first. Just remember you are doing the people getting rid of the stuff a favor! And you’re recycling that stuff so it doesn’t have to go into the trash! Some people say they go out looking for free stuff at night, but I think that’s maybe more suspicious? Anyway, however you do it, don’t hesitate. Free stuff on the side of the road is the best. I’ve found brand new items and totally useful things out on the side of the road. It’s just unbelievable what people throw away.
*I like to go to yard sales and flea markets late in the day, when people just want to get rid of everything and most everything is for free. Of course, all the best stuff might be gone, but you never know, you may find a hidden treasure. I once found a great set of skeleton string lights (perfect for the awning of a super badass camper) at the end of a yard sale, free for the taking.*
Dumpstering: I don’t know of any local dumpsters that are good for building materials, so I’m not too experienced in this department. (I used to dumpster dive more often, but never found any lumber). However, dumpstering behind a building where there is a business that sells building materials or anything you may be wanting is a good idea. This is one of those activities you want to do at night. And be careful! You don’t want the cops to hassle you, so be kinda stealthy.
Freecycle.org: This is a website where you can become a member of a Freecycle group in your area and trade with other members for stuff they are getting rid of. It seems like a great idea, but I don’t really know much more about it. I should really join up! I think the only reason I haven’t is because my local group was run through a yahoo group and I just couldn’t do another email address…I’d recommend looking into it though and seeing how your local Freecycle group operates!
I hope this was helpful! Please contact me with any questions, and tell me about the best thing you ever found for free in the comments!