Guest Blogger #2

Welcome again to the stand- Sandra!

There’s nothing like the thrill of getting something for free…a free lunch, a free coffee, a free bagel when we buy a dozen. We all love the feeling of keeping a big of our money in our wallet.
But how far are you willing to go?

Modern western society dictates that in the business world, free is a great marketing tool, as long as it is meted out as a way to get even more money from the customer. If a complete stranger handed you a computer printer and said, "here, take it, I don’t want it anymore," would you crow about it the same way you would about getting a free coffee at Timmies?

What’s different about it? Well, the motivation behind it, obviously.

The main difference, however, is how we want others to think of us and our status in the community and the greater world. Getting a free "thing" as a promotion makes us feel special. Getting a free "thing" from a stranger makes us wonder if people will think we can’t afford it or are "cheap". Both of these notions I’ve dealt with before on my blog, http://www.darfieldearthship.com/

I won’t dwell on them here, but keep in mind my motivation for receiving (and giving) free "things" are two-fold:
  1. It is environmentally sound NOT to buy things new. It keeps things out of the landfill and removes a disposal issue for somebody.

  2. It is frugal in the best sense of the word. Saving our financial and world resources. We exchange our very life and breath for money. Why would we spend it on things, just so we have to work harder for more money to buy more "things?

Obviously I’m the "converted" but I wasn’t always so!

If you’re reading this blog, then you probably have already thought about many of these issues. Like me and my family, you are looking for ways to save money (stretch money), pay down debt, spend more time with your family, and feel good about your contribution to the world. Free can do all of that for you.

So, ways to get free things:

  1. Join freecycle in your community. Freecycle (www.freecycle.org) is a worldwide organization that provides an online community of givers and receivers. Membership is free and once you join you can post a "wanted" ad or an "offered" ad. There are some ground rules. In addition to the usual (nothing illegal, profane, etc), there is the stipulation that you should offer something for every four "wanted" ads you post. This isn’t actually all that difficult to do. The kinds of things a person could give and receive on freecycle? Here’s a list of the most recent posts on my local freecycle network in Kamloops, B.C. Stereos, TV’s, air purifier, stovetops, dryers, baby clothing, shampoo, mattress, egg cartons, incubator, discount tickets and pianos. I have given away: a breadmaker, cat scratcher, queen boxspring and mattress, computer keyboard and children’s toys. I have received a $500 like new tumbling composter, endless bags of fabric for quilting, girls’ jewelry, craft supplies and canning jars. Freecycle is also on Facebook. Look it up and see what people worldwide have to say about it!

  2. Check out online used sites for free items. www.kajjiji.ca and www.craigslist.com each have boards in many cities where people are trying to give away items they no longer want. Check out the free ads in both your local newspaper and in your local Buy and Sell.
    Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open at harvest time for folks whose produce bounty is so plentiful they can’t keep up with the harvest. Many will offer you free food if you simply arrive to pick it. You can often find these people on freecycle and in local newspapers. Most gardeners and farmers are "waste-not, want-not" people, so you give them an amazing sense of satisfaction if you can help them ensure their harvest is not wasted.

  3. Swap meets are also a wonderful way to save money, especially if you have young children and the swap is all about clothing. Best of all, you get to meet families just like yours.

  4. Cruise the neighbourhood (or if you feel funny, an adjoining neighbourhood) on garbage day. The curbside give-away culture is becoming more and more prevalent. Some people, rather than going to the bother of taking their cast away furniture, appliances or other goodies, will put it curbside early as a sign that it is up for grabs. They may even put up a sign saying "free!"

  5. Sharing sheds were a concept introduced to me by a few of my friends who had experienced this great concept in previous communities. The idea here is to take items you no longer want to a centrally located drop off, or "shed" and let people take things as they want. I love this idea because it can take the stigma (or perceived stigma) out of curbside collection or answering free ads. This sharing shed idea also builds a sense of community.
    When you are buying a big ticket item at a big box store, ask if they will "throw" in an accessory item. For example, when we purchased our Nikon D-90 camera last year, my husband Chris casually asked if the salesperson would include a camera case for the price of the camera. Without hesitation the salesperson agreed. Keep in mind that on big ticket items, most big box stores make decent margins and including a smaller item is good customer service and will hopefully bring that customer back. This is not insulting to the salesperson who is directed in just how much negotiation he or she can engage in. For the record, the store was The Future Shop and I am TERRIBLE at asking for free items in this manner. Chris is not and does it tastefully, respectfully and without aggression. He doesn’t always succeed but will often try with very large chain stores. We are both more uncomfortable with this at smaller, non-chain stores.

  6. Dumpster diving. I’ll admit this is "out there". I have done a lot of investigation of this topic and have yet to come to any conclusions. What I once thought of as "ick" is changing as I speak to more and more people. There are several Canadian books about dumpster diving and you can check out my blog to check see what I’ve written before.

If you’ve never thought about "free" as part of frugality then I encourage you to do so. Treat it as an adventure to salvage your wallet and save a little piece of the earth. Then, let me know what you think by leaving a comment, here, on Erin’s blog!

Sandra Burkholder was trained as a journalist and worked in pharmaceutical and health care public relations and marketing communications for 13 years in Toronto and San Francisco. She and husband Chris Newton built log homes for 10 years near her hometown of Barriere, B.C. in the late 90s after the first of their three children were born. Several years ago they slowed things down to spend more time with their children and become more involved in their community. They decided to confuse family and friends even more by going "frugal" and talking about it, starting a family farm, planting a garden and building a sustainable house out of old tires and pop cans. Please feel free to contact Sandra at Sandra@darfieldearthship.com or check out their blog at www.darfieldearthship.com
Stay Tuned for some good stuff next week!
Frugally Yours,
Erin B.

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