I’m pretty good at getting free stuff.

I’m not the sort of person who routinely finds cash on the sidewalk (Mom-in-law), or the kind who wins raffles (Mike P.), or the kind who kicks butt at work competitions and incentive races (Faver-Fave).  I do, however, have a pretty good system in place to avoid having to pay for things that, while not necessary to my survival, make life a little more fun.  So for today’s Cheap Thrill, I’m going to share with you my super secret Top 10 ways to get stuff for free.  For the purposes of this blog, keep in mind that free = not paying money.  You will have to do some work.  No such thing as a free lunch, you know.

Ready?  Here it goes.

Top 10 Ways to Score Free Stuff

1. Give things away.  This is a pretty basic “do unto others” concept.  When you’re generous with your time and resources, you help to create the sort of community that inspires others to do the same.  Giving things away is good for you on a number of levels, but for the selfish purposes of this particular blog post, we’ll focus on its karmic coolness: if you give things away, people will think of you when they have something to give.

2.  Follow the signs.  I know, I know, duh, but do you actually ever this?  Right.  That’s what I thought.  Stop being in such a hurry, straddle on that sense of adventure, and follow the next “Free Stuff –>” sign you see.  I’ve acquired half my furniture this way.  Not even kidding.

3. Enter blog giveaways.  Sign up to follow blogs you love, written by people with style you love, and when they offer a cool giveaway (which is usually weekly), enter!  What do you have to lose?  It’s free!

4. Help people move.  Helping someone move is like attending a private, unorganized garage sale… they always have some stuff they don’t want, and with any luck, it might be stuff you do want.  Plus there is a high likelyhood of pizza and beer.  Win.

5. Practice the art of exchange.  I suppose trading isn’t really getting something for free, but it is getting something for no dollars, so it counts.  Identify what you have to offer: are you a great editor?  A fabulous seamstress?  A graphic design guru?  A stylist extraordinaire?  Offer to trade services with a friend with different talents, and everyone is a winner.  Just be careful to consider the value of the service you’re requesting, and make sure you offer a worthy trade.  Don’t go around offering to give someone a 5 minute backrub in exchange for a new website design and telling folks I said it was okay.  Tacky city.  I’ll pretend I don’t know you.

6. Attend openings.  If you live in or near a city, there are likely to be new stores and restaurants opening on a regular basis.  Almost all of them will offer free stuff on opening day.  Mel and I once scored free bagels and coffee, then walked two blocks and got free ice cream.  Pay attention to the haps, and then show up.  You also get the added bonus of feeling super hip and knowledgeable about your city.

7. Use the internet.  When you have a need, check out the “Free Stuff” section on Craigslist, or Freecycle.com.  You’ll be surprised how often you can find what you’re looking for.

8. Be creative.  Don’t be afraid to reinvent and repurpose your free finds.  A pile of scrap wood becomes a new end table.  And old plate becomes a cute clock.  The drawers from your aunt’s rejected dresser becomes an artistic answer to that bookshelf you’ve been needing.  You get the idea.  Be flexible and have an open mind.  Don’t take stuff you won’t use, but don’t write off an imperfect find too soon.

9. Plan or attend a Naked Lady Party.  This is by far my favorite way to shop.  Gather your stylish girlfriends and encourage them to bring those almost new clothes and shoes they never wear for one big trade.  Bring stuff you don’t want, go home with stuff you do – keep your wardrobe feeling fresh and avoid wasting clothes and space.  Some of my very favorite pieces have been acquired this way.

10. Play that card.  Don’t ever be afraid to (politely, kindly, generousheartedly) ask for that discount, or offer that networking trade, or schmooze a little.  Just being friendly and kind can often land you with an unexpected bonus prize.  Again, you should be kind and friendly for the sake of being kind and friendly, but if that isn’t enough to motivate you, well, fine.  Do it for the potential free stuff.  Better than the alternative.

Go forth and score free stuff.


Photo by the incomparable Shannon Hannon.

  • Noel July 26, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Excellent post! I really like “Faver-Fave”. 🙂 I would also add that you can score a ton of free food, beer, swag and coffee on your birthday if you know how to work the system. That’s one of my favorite things to do on my birthday!

  • Aaron Coe July 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    1. I like this post.
    2. There is such a thing as a free lunch. Trust me.
    2a. If your name is “Dave” (David, Davy, etc.), you can get a free entree at Famous Dave’s BBQ on August 14 (half off if your middle name is Dave).
    3. I was just noticing lately that I tend to get a lot more free stuff when I’m generous with what I already have. Funny that 🙂

  • Jeanne July 27, 2011 at 7:04 am

    My bff and I totally just traded semi-old/almost-new clothes! I got some *great* stuff out of it. Hopefully she thinks she did too! 🙂 Fun post.