I have noticed that there is a limited number of dominant freecyclers in my group (find your local group by going to freecycle.org) so I have started to pick up cues on who wants what. If someone offers something, then rather than just picking it up for free, I will usually make an offer to bring something they have asked for in the past (if I happen to have it). Or in case I have something similar I’m looking to get rid off I will offer that.

For instance, this week I got enough shirts for free to last me several years. I had noticed that the person offering the shirts in the past had asked for books, so I filling a moving box with surplus books that I had not otherwise been able to sell. We also got some dog stairs from another freecycler that replaced the cardboard box solution I had improvised (our dog seems to like the card box solution better as it was more stable and had wider steps – too bad for him, I picked it apart, so now he’ll have to make do with the consumer solution). She sent a picture of her dogs along, so I asked if they might like some of the toys that our dog didn’t like. Bingo!

This kind of exchange is more satisfying than merely giving something away to a random anonymous freecycler as it establishes some sort of connection. It creates about twice as much value and it saves one trip. And obviously it feels way better than driving down to the mall and paying the $35 that the dog stairs would have cost or the — actually I have no clue — $30-$60 I would have needed to buy new shirts.

As in the stock market, being patient and waiting for opportunities is the way to get rich as well as a way as the way to save a ton of money rather than just buying on autopilot. Paying retail is just not worth it whether it’s shirts, stairs, or stocks.

I think if more people realized the opportunities from the abundance of consumer durables that are out there but see no use(*) because people have grown out of them or just bought them on the spur of the moment, they could substantially reduce their budget expenditures. In fact I just came back from another expedition into the blogosphere where I encountered yet another post on the necessity of accumulating several million dollars in retirement funds in order to be able to spend more than $40,000 a year on stuff in the primary consumer market. However, more than half this need goes towards unnecessary frills and retail profit. Eliminate those and you could spend half as much and you would only need half as much for your retirement and half as much time to accumulate the retirement accounts.

(*) Of course all that stuff that just sits in storage while planetary resources are being drained to make more stuff is sad in and of itself. I know it increases GDP but I do not consider it “progress”.

Originally posted 2008-07-22 07:56:26.