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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