The Art of Scrounging: Or How to Get Everything for Nothing.

There’s something about a great bargain that gives me the warm fuzzies. It’s a full-on sunburst in my chest when I get something great for free. Olivia and I are a little addicted to this feeling and our husbands share a collective eyeroll whenever we acquire something new.

I want to share some of my top tips for getting something for nothing (or next to nothing) and also share some of what I’ve done with my finds.

Gardening and outdoors

Everything that I scrounge is in the pursuit of creating outdoor spaces for me and my kids. The things that I’ve found have been turned into:

  • A fort for the boys.

  • A climbing mountain.

  • A mud kitchen.

  • A barbeque kitchen.

  • A potting bench.

I also have the materials to make raised gardens and fences.

The following tips are definitely angled towards scrounging materials for outdoors but likely holds true for indoor materials and decor as well.

Facebook Marketplace

This is my favourite place for getting something for nothing. My top tip for using the Marketplace is never pay for anything! I love bricks. I want to make raised gardens, paths and a fence from bricks and so I collect as many as I can. I currently have over 500 bricks in various shapes and sizes sitting around my yard.

Many people advertise wood, bricks, sand, dirt and pallets for a price. There is no need to pay for any of this. As long as you’re patient, you will be able to find these for free. I see bricks being sold at $1 a brick all the time, yet I’ve paid nothing for my 500+ bricks just by being patient.

Think about what items you’re after and search for them frequently in the Marketplace. The thing we all hate a little about Facebook (that it feels like it’s watching your every move) is the thing that makes the Marketplace awesome! Every time I look at the Marketplace now it shows me the latest listings for the things I’m after and it makes my browsing so easy.

My number one top tip is don’t hesitate. If you think you want something, ask about the item immediately! The free items always go super quick and most of the Marketplace operates on a first-in-first-served basis. You can change your mind after but get your dibs in quick.

My final tip for the Marketplace is beware of people charging for items they list for free. Often people will list the price as FREE but invite people to make an offer in the body of the listing. Make sure you’re willing to let the item go if it turns out they want you to pay something for it.

Trade Me

Obviously on Trade Me items aren’t free, but you can get things for next to nothing. I got my awesome potting bench for $1.50.

Again, don’t get too attached to items on Trade Me… be prepared to let things go.

When I’m searching Trade Me, I look at $1 reserve and order my results by “Closing Soon”. This means that if I fall in love with something super cheap, it’s likely closing in the next hour and hopefully I can get it within my meager budget.

The side of the road

This is something that New Zealanders turn their nose up at a little. In Australia they have “hard rubbish” days where everyone puts their household items that they don’t want out on the street and it’s a free for all.

Building and landscaping products are easily found on the side of the road. Industrial areas are great places to find wooden crates and pallets. I got this great cable reel for free. I see them for sale for $30 or more on Facebook Marketplace all the time and it makes me happy knowing mine was free!

Timber mills and timber sellers often have off cut boxes outside. I have an awesome collection of brand new wood in all shapes and sizes that I’ve collected from these. The boys love building things with this wood.

Facebook groups

Many places have local Pay It Forward pages. It Takes A Village here in Christchurch is a great group for finding free items or asking for things that you need. If you’ve got things that you might otherwise donate or throw away, consider paying it forward within your community.

Friends and family

One thing I’ve noticed is that people are givers. My friends have given me so many things as a result of just talking about what we’re up to. Telling a friend about our adventures in camping resulted in them giving us a double air mattress. Talking to Ian’s coworker about my landscaping has resulted in a ready supply of native grasses.

I love the concept of paying it forward. In my village there are a number of young boys. Clothing and shoes make the rounds going from person to person. Seeing something my boys loved on someone else’s boy gives me all the feels… nostalgia for my boys younger days and a sense of belonging in my village.

Share your tips

Do you have any tips or tricks? Or share your awesome finds in the comments.