Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Get What You Want Without Money

The bounty from my produce cooperative's final swap of the season 

Money can be a really handy tool for procuring the things you need and want - but it's by no means the only way to do so! You might be surprised at just how many things can be achieved without using money, if you are willing to be resourceful. Whether your budget's particularly tight, or you just enjoy the sport of acquiring goods and services without having to exchange any money for them, here are some ways to go about it: 

1. Put the word out
Let your friends and family know what you're looking for - it may be something they have lying around that they can't wait to get rid of! Put a "wanted" request out to your local Freecycle group. I've given many things away through my local group, so I have no qualms about asking for something when I need it. You can also put a "wanted" ad on Craigslist and Kijiji. While you're there, check out the "Free" sections on these sites - you may find a listing for the exact item you need. We've received a lot of wonderful items through these avenues - including a washing machine (that ended up lasting us 5 years), some good quality dress shirts my husband is still wearing several years later, and a perfectly good television we've been using for the past couple of years.

2. Become a scavenger
It's surprising what you can find lying around at the side of the road or by a dumpster in a parking lot. While I'm not quite brave enough to venture into full-on dumpster diving, I'm quite happy to drag something home I found in a neighbour's trash pile. Almost every bike my kids have owned came from the side of the road (as well as the mountain bike that is my primary mode of transportation). Most of these bikes needed some type of overhaul to make them functional, and since my hubby's a pro at that sort of thing, he's happy to take on the challenge of bringing them back to life (although often, they only needed pretty simple repairs to make them functional again). We've also found a perfectly good TV stand (to hold our free TV), free hostas for the garden, and a wide variety of other odds and ends we've put to good use. My husband also knows a couple of good spots to find piles of discarded wooden pallets, which are an excellent source of free wood for small building projects (such as the planter boxes on our deck).

3. Swap, swap, swap!
You never know what you might have that someone else might want - whether it's no-longer-needed possessions gathering dust in your basement, or special skills and talents that others can benefit from. It's easy to do informal swapping with friends and neighbours. Sometimes you might swap related items (i.e. trading childcare services with each other, or swapping different types of garden plants), or maybe you could swap a haircut for some lawn and garden cleanup. If you really love to barter, you can take swapping to the next level and join a more formal bartering group. There are a growing number of these types of organizations available, as interest in bartering is growing around the world. LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Systems) are going strong in many areas and allow members to trade a wide variety of skills and services with one another; you can search for a local group here. A dedicated bartering site which is growing in popularity here in Canada is SwapSity, which I am planning to get more involved with this year. You can also search for trades and swaps on more traditional classified sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. A couple of years ago, I posted an offer to swap plants on Kijiji and ended up receiving enough perennials to landscape my entire front garden for free! Swap groups can also also have a specific focus; produce cooperatives (where local veggie gardeners swap their surplus garden produce) are gaining in popularity and the group I started last year got off to a good start. Some of these groups have evolved to become general food-swapping groups with a wide variety of edible offerings, such as the Boston Food Swap.

4. Be creative.
I've long thought that creativity and resourcefulness can be much more powerful tools than money. Sometimes, it may take a combination of several strategies to figure out how to get what you want with little or no money. Combining scavenging or swapping of materials with skills such as carpentry, wiring, or sewing may be necessary to create your vision. Need a new rug? With some old sweaters or T-shirts from Freecycle, you can easily make one. A few pieces of beaten up, trash-picked furniture might be disassembled and rebuilt to create the exact piece you're looking for. Busted up hockey sticks and an old futon frame can be transformed into a conversation-starting Muskoka chair. Take a close look at your junk before you discard it - it may have a second (or third) life you hadn't considered!

Have you ever gotten something great without using money? If so, please share the details with us!

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