I've been blessed that I'm financially stable, but early on in my business career, I was swindled by several business partners and employers, and the devastating financial insecurity this caused me in my 30s has stayed with me. Today, I'm not cheap, but I still don't like to waste money. For example, I don't super-coupon, belong to buyer's clubs or drive from grocery store to grocery store for bargains, but I still eat like a gourmet for less than $200 a month. I always pay less than $2 per gallon for gas. I painted my house for $350 instead of $3,500 (primer and two topcoats!). One way I've found that I can save lots of money without sacrificing quality is to find free and low-cost items I need online. For example, my subdivision has two Facebook groups and I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of neighbors selling or giving away valuable items. I find crazy deals on Craigslist instead of paying full price on Amazon or at Home Depot. I also send emails to friends to see if anyone has an item I need that they might lend me to try out, or sell cheap. Using these three techniques, I recently saved $872 on items I didn't have to buy new or picked up for free.
How My Neighborhood Facebook Group Saved Me Money
I don't know how I stumbled on my subdivision's Facebook group after nine years of living here, but as soon as I started checking out the posts, I found people asking if anyone wanted items like patio furniture, dryers, makeup, pet food, landscaping and building materials and books—all for free. Nextdoor, which is a social networking site for your neighborhood or subdivision, is also a great place for free or cheap used items. Here are a few examples of specific ways using Facebook has saved me money: I was going to rent a rototiller to re-do my front lawn last fall, which would have cost me about $60 for a one-day rental from my local Home Depot, so I asked my neighbors if anyone else was doing fall lawn work and wanted to share one. A neighbor offered to lend me his at no charge. Someone organized a subdivision yard sale, where I picked up a seed spreader for $13 and a leaf blower for $7, saving me roughly $100. After my lawn mower broke, I found a model I wanted at Home Depot for $263.95. A neighbor who was moving posted on our Facebook group page that she was giving away her lawn mower (free) since she was moving into an apartment. I grabbed it, and while I was there, she also gave me two Stihl professional-grade leaf blowers (which sell for roughly $350 each) that needed some minor repairs.
How Craigslist Has Saved Me (Or Made Me) Money
Like the neighborhood Facebook groups, Craigslist is a great place to start when you want to save or make some money. After I bought my house, I used Craigslist to sell a dog run fence I didn't want and some closet shelving and doors I replaced. When I wanted to try a Gazelle exercise machine ($299), I decided to see about buying one on Craigslist. Sure enough, I found a bunch of Gazelles, saw the model I wanted, and bought one that the seller delivered to my house for $35. The lower element went out on my 30-year-old oven. New ovens start around $220 in my area. When I sell my house, I'm going to buy all new kitchen appliances, but I'm not planning on selling for a while, so I don't want to buy kitchen items years apart. I checked Craigslist for ovens/ranges and immediately found a bunch starting a $50 each (people who buy new kitchen appliances are basically happy to have you haul their old items away and pick up a few extra bucks).
How Emailing Friends Has Saved Me Money
I assume most of my friends, like me, have lots of "junk" in their basements, closets, garages and attics that's perfectly good, but they don't use anymore. Your friends probably have exercise machines, sports equipment and every kitchen gadget imaginable that they've only used a few times and now sit in their original boxes. I was interested in getting a deep fryer and asked a few of my friends if they had one I could try before I bought one. A tennis friend gave me her hardly used Presto Kitchen Kettle Electric Multi Cooker Roaster Steamer Deep Fryer Basket ($25 value), and I gave her my Ronco rotisserie oven, which she now uses to make chicken for her dog. I my friends asked if anyone had a recommendation or experience with small home freezers. A buddy emailed back that he had just purchased a small box freezer but wanted a larger stand-up model instead, and he sold me his with a warranty, saving me $50.
Taking advantage of my neighborhood Facebook page, Craigslist and email address books, I estimate that I've saved close to $900. I wouldn't buy expensive items used because they don't come with warranties; however, picking up a few items from neighbors, friends and Craigslist can save you hundreds of dollars each year. You can also make extra cash selling items you have you aren't using without the hassle of having a yard sale or using an online auction site.