Tag Archive: free


Living well on less often means taking advantage of situations to the best of your ability.  I don’t mean being greedy or doing illegal things, but I do mean taking and using what’s available to you each and every time.

Getting free food

For example, the office where I work is adminstered by a property management company.  Every day or so, the secretary will put out cookies and sometimes fruits and other snacks in the communal kitchen.  Whenever I see cookies, I take one.  Whenever I see fruit, I take one.  It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry at that moment or not, I still make sure to take one.  Why?  Well, later in the day when my energy starts to sag, I will eat that cookie instead of wasting time daydreaming about snacks or spending money on a bag of chips.  The next day I can eat the fruit that I snagged instead of bringing one from home.  Both of these small actions save me money by simply taking advantage of a small benefit – free snacks and cookies – that my building offers.

I also go to monthly user groups for people interested in bioinformatics (computational biology).  At the end of the seminar, the group provides free pizza to encourage people to stay and network.  There’s always 15 or so boxes of pizza for 10-30 individuals.  I always take 2-3 slices.  I eat 1-2 and save the rest for my lunch the next day.  I don’t try to take an entire pizza, or even half a pizza, but I do take a reasonable amount which allows me to have a free dinner and a free lunch the next day.

Getting free household goods

I usually hang on to coupons until I can get something for very little or preferably free.  I don’t often use coupons in my day-to-day grocery shopping because most of the items I buy are store-brand or consist of fresh produce.  But once in a while, I’ll grab something on sale using a coupon, if it’s really really worth it.  In the last three months alone, I’ve picked up Ziploc bags, toothpaste, toothbrushes and vitamins for free.  The Ziploc bags were $2 each and I had a coupon for $4 off when you buy 2.  The vitamins for $10 on sale and I had a coupon for $10 off.

I saved about $50 by using coupons on these items at the right time.  I don’t go all out and get 10 boxes of Ziploc bags or 15 tubes of toothpaste.  I usually get 1 or 2 of each free item – just enough to save me some money that’s better spent elsewhere.

I also always request free samples directly from companies, whenever they are offered.  For example, Proctor and Gamble give away samples of their products every month or two.  You can get travel sized samples mailed directly to your home with very little effort on your part.  These products are great for the suitcase or gym bag, plus, they come in handy if you suddenly find yourself short on shampoo or detergent!  Sure, you usually have to sign up for spam and advertisements, but if you have an email address dedicated to receiving this kind of thing, it shouldn’t impact your “real” email.  RedFlagDeals in Canada is a great site to keep up to date on freebies like the P&G giveaways.

Getting free medications, classes and dental work

I’m also a big advocate of maxing out your work benefits.  People often neglect their benefits, but they are an important part of your compensation.  When I decided to leave my job and go back to school I didn’t just quit.  I bought a supply of contact lenses and medications, covered by work benefits.  I took as many classes at the university as I could take, fully covered by work benefits.  I even had my teeth straightened – a $3000 benefit! – courtesy of work.

If I didn’t use these benefits, I would have had to spend thousands of dollars of my own money.

Many work places also offer benefits for massage therapists, physical therapy and counseling.  How many times have you had a nagging pain in your back or felt stressed out and wanted to talk to a professional?  Why not go to a therapist, courtesy of your workplace?

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Taking advantage of situations saves money and often prevents things from simply going to waste.  Where in you own life can you take advantage of situations?

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First yard sale of the year

I’m a big fan of yard sales. I’ve picked up a lot of stuff for next to nothing and even more stuff for absolutely nothing. Brian and I went to the first sale of the year (that we knew about) this morning and. Walked away with a free deep frying “spider” skimmer. (PS – I had to look up what they were called.  If you didn’t know either, check it out.)

Its awesome because I like to make spring rolls and samosas but I don’t have (or want) a deep fryer. I just boil oil and plunk the food into the pot. I’ve always had to use chopsticks to fish out the food but now I can place everything into the metal mesh, fry it, and simply lift it out of the oil via the handle when I’m done. Hooray!

Here’s some other things that are great to pick up at yard sales:

Kitchen stuff

I’ve picked up dishclothes for free, my first electric beaters (I used a whisk for years because I refused to spend the money on beaters that I only used once a month…) and even an awesome waffle maker. I still have and use all of these items.

You can also usually get a decent selection of plates, cups and mugs for free or nearly free. A lot of people have no use for mismatched sets but if you get a nice variety, it gives your place settings an interesting eclectic feel. Random mugs and plates are also great for leaving at work so that you’re not reliant on buying microwave-safe containers for storing lunches. The sale we attended today had mugs and plates for 25 cents!

Board games and puzzles

Love board games. Do not love board game prices. A new board game can easily cost $40 or $50. I picked up a mint copy of Ticket to Ride at a yard sale incentives for $5. Five dollars! The colour cards were still wrapped in plastic!

Its also a great way to pick up an old Monopoly or Scrabble set to get extra pieces or to replace missing pieces from your own set.  And, I’m not sure why this is, but there always seems to be a good selection of “travel-sized” games at yard sales.  Might be worth hitting up a sale or two before a camping trip or long drive?

Books

I get lots of books at the library but sometimes it’s nice to have a book that you don’t have to return. I buy some books new – usually from my favourite 2-3 authors. Other books I get from yard sales!

I remember wanting to read “In Defense of Food” for the longest time but was unwilling to spend $20 on it. I didn’t want to get it from the library because it takes me a long time to read non-fiction. Then one summer day, I found it the hardcover edition at a yard sale… for $1!

Picking up random books for 25 or 50 cents is also a fun way to get introduced to new authors. If I decide I don’t like the book enough to keep it, I sell it or pass it on. Sometimes, you can even find entire boxes of free books to take home and browse.

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All in all, I’m pretty happy about getting the frying skimmer spider thing and looking forward to visiting more yard sales as the weather warms up.

It’s spring cleaning time and I’m not too embarrassed to admit it – I’ve found a lot of cool stuff in the alley.

Once, my ex and I found an IKEA coffee table in perfect condition, complete with all the screws and hardware in a Ziploc bag.  We dragged it home and replaced our hand-me-down from the 60s.  I’ve also found a cute side table , speaker stands, plant pots, kitchen items and boxes of books.   And this is just the stuff that I’ve found – I’m not including anything that I’ve picked up for free via Craigslist!

I’m always amazed at the condition of the things I find.   Usually, they’re perfect.  After taking them home, I do a quick bug check and wipe them down with a bit of disinfectant – it’s as good as new.

It’s a little disturbing to me as well.  Why would people not drop off small furniture items to the thrift store?  I could understand the difficulty of transporting a couch or a bed, but a side table?  Really?  And why weren’t the books donated to the library or dropped off at a community bookshelf?   The Vancouver Public Library, for example, will accept donations year-round.  Even if they don’t necessarily want to put your books in circulation, they can sell it to help generate revenue.  Several community centers and coffee shops in the area also have leave-or-take shelves where people can exchange books.  It’s a great way to exchange books within your neighbourhood.  Many charities will even come and pick up small items like clothes and books directly from your house.

It seems so callous just to leave things out in the alley where they might get rained on or thrown away unnoticed.

Remember – the 2nd step of sustainability is reuse.  Even if you can’t use it, someone else might.