Save Money by Reusing Things!

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better recycling - reuse it!

Years ago, I went with a very environmentally conscious friend to the recycling center so she could drop some things off. We came away with a car load of stuff that I found from the recycling center that I could use. My friend laughed at me because she said I was the only one she had ever known who takes things home from the recycling center instead of dropping things off.

I know things have changed and more people are aware you can get things from recycling centers, usually for free, but this post is for those of you who might not know that yet.

I don’t believe the environment needs saving but I do believe in saving money and using what you have which definitely can’t hurt the environment. In one sense, I don’t believe in recycling centers. I can just see the e-mails flying now, but let me explain.

If you are being careful with your spending, reusing what you have and taking care of what you do have, there should be very little need of taking anything to a recycling center.

I use all of my paint, my cleaning supplies and other things and stretch everything as far as I can so I don’t have to buy more. Boxes, papers and packaging all get reused at my home and since I don’t buy that much stuff, I don’t ever have an overload of those things.

I don’t have to worry about recycling my plastic bottles because I buy almost nothing that comes in plastic bottles and I drink tap water. I don’t have magazine subscriptions and I share the magazines that I do happen to get, giving them to someone else to use.

Personally I think recycling centers can give people an excuse to still spend, buy and waste and, because we tell ourselves we are recycling these things, we don’t need to feel guilty about continuing to buy things we don’t need. You are still creating trash. Yes, I know much of it is trash that will be reused but why not reuse it in your own home or with someone you know, rather than sending it somewhere where it will take energy to convert it to something else? To me that is the truest form of not wasting and using our resources wisely.

To give you an idea of what you can get at a recycling center, here is a note from Tawra:

I went to the Hazardous Waste Facility to see if they had anything to remove paint that dripped on the driveway last fall when I was painting the house.

At first I didn’t find anything. Then I asked if they had something for this task. While we were looking, they brought out a cart with a bunch of new stuff on it. Here’s what I got:

1 gallon of hand soap
1 gallon of dish soap
3 gallons of mineral spirits (for the driveway)
3 gallons of laundry booster
1 gallon of car window washer with de-icer
2 bottles of stop leak for bike tires (which I just bought at Walmart and will be returning! LOL)
1 bottle of Lysol cleaner
1 gallon of deck stain

I figured I got at least $80, maybe more, worth of things we can use around the house for free! Yeah!! That was worth the trip!


For more easy and practical ways to save money and get out of debt, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money.


Photo By: Derrick Coetzee


  1. Ann says

    Cool! One time I went to the recycle center with our recyclables and in the bin, there were three years worth of cooking magazines! After asking, I grabbed them and brought them home to try the recipes. So much fun and for free!

  2. donna b says

    If you ever are in a college dorm at the end of semester you will find amazing things, When I packed up my daughter one summer, we found all kinds of great things just left behind, (particularly by the students going home to other countries). We took loads of NEW shampoo, soap, conditioner, computer books still sealed, all kinds of notebooks and paper (unused)etc. It was quite an eye opener for me about what get’s wasted!

  3. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    YOu would think that a homeless shelter would have snapped that stuff up!

    When I was a kid we went to the dump to trash things on my sister’s brithday. We found an excellent heavy metal dump truck and loader. My parents bought Dottie other gifts.

  4. Grandma says

    When I was a kid the dump had wet garbage and dry garbage they opened the dry side on Sat. and people could go in and see what was there.
    You would find bikes with a flat tire or no chain or a broken spoke. nothing else wrong with them.
    Brand new clothes thrown out by the stores in town at the end of the season.
    I guess you could say that was our recycling centre. Nothing organized just a dump.
    One year my brother was working at the metropolitan store and they were throwing away about 200 sewing patterns. All sorts two problems for us with his recycling. Nobody liked sewing all that much and they took the covers to send back to the company for their rebate.
    3 weeks of work to match them up and put them into a box which I don’t think ever got opened but we kept them because it seems like a rule. Once it is in the house it stays. My father never threw anything out.
    One good deal he got was about 200 wire hangers. Nobody can ever have too many wire hangers as they have so many uses.

  5. Maggie says

    My dad used to go to the dump every Saturday to take their trash and always came home with something that he could fix and use. Most often it was those lawn chairs with the plastic webbing. He could redo a chair in about an hour and he must have had twenty or so in his shed. But when all the family came by for a cook-out, he brought out his chairs and no one even knew they weren’t “bought”. But he couldn’t keep his secret so everyone knew dad had made a deal. He also repaired old bikes and toys and gave them to the kids in his neighborhood. He did most of this long after we were grown and he was retired. I was so proud of him for his recycling efforts.
    On another note, he also had a large garden and the produce he grew, he shared with all his neighbors. He planted way more than he and his wife could eat but he just enjoyed his garden. Funny, he never did help my mom with her garden when we were little but after he retired, he loved it and even learned to make chow-chow and bread and butter pickles. Thanks for letting me share this dad story. He’s been gone about 11 years now and telling this reminded me how much I miss him.

  6. Veronica Tidd says

    Gosh I wish we were allowed to pick up stuff from the recyceables at the dump. But the rule is once it’s through the gates you can’t touch it. Even if someone has something on their truck you want and they offer it is off limits.
    I do a lot of curb shopping and now I hear that within the city limits it is now forbiden to pick up anything that has fabric on it.
    I do belong to Freecycle and that is very helpful. The more people see you give the more likely people are to offer something when you put a want ad up.
    When people ask me what my decorating style is I say “Early Salvation Army”

    • Lil says

      yeah, here they call it stealing. But before it got rediculous, my brother put together a motorbike, we made up numerous bicycles and even found the odd suitcase full of perfectly good clothes. My favourite find was a bag of old (and some ancient)coins, some dating to Roman times.

    • says

      In my area once it is in the recycle bin it is off limits. If caught removing something from a bin the police will issue you a ticket. Seems counter productive to the recycling issue. I mean if someone can use it isn’t that better than putting it the crusher??

    • Katie says

      Wonder if CA would allow us to take things like you did, Tawra. CA can be fairly strict about what you buy anymore, never mind what you get for free.

  7. Pat says

    I totally agree. Most things shouldn’t go to the recycling center but if you do have them then you should send them there. A friend of mine has curbside recycling but refuses to recycle. It is to much work and they add a fee to your bill if you recycle so she had them pick up the trash can and take the fee off her bill. It is to much work for her (she is 88 but didn’t tell them her 60 year old son lives with her) and she can’t afford it. I don’t have a lot of recycling but I wish I had it curbside.

    I am so happy that people are learning how to reduce, reuse and recycle and finding that it is cheaper to do so.

  8. Juliann Johnson says

    I helped a neighbor “declutter” her office and passed on a big stack of card stock to my sister and Freecycled 4 boxes of canning jars to someone who was thrilled to get them. My neighbor was happy to have the help; people were glad to get some “new” things and I got to be helpful and creative at the same time.

    I say: pass it on. The saddest thing is to go to a yard sale and see perfectly lovely clothes in great condition that are hopelessly out of date. Get rid of clothes
    when someone will still be happy to wear them.

  9. Jen W. says

    A few years ago, I discovered that our local library has a stand for magazines that are free to take home. They may be old but the information is usually still good:)

    • says

      To true Jen. I once found a magazine in the attic of our house from from 1917 and compared it to a new magazine and had to laugh because they talked about almost the exact same thing. Nothing new under the sun.

  10. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    I once read a story about 3 women living together and one bragged “they don’t cart any trash off of old girt.” I have a similar attitude. I take few things home. If someone has a better use, I find a home for it on one of my monthly errand trips. I hate making a special trip for any one thing and rarely do so.

  11. Myra Dolence says

    This is not money saving but brings back a family memory. Many years ago, and I do mean many, the story goes that my Mothers brother went to the dump and brought home an iron frog for my grandmother. That frog has been passed down over the years and it now resides with me. I is used as a door stop. I remember playing with it, when I was little, and my grandmother always saying “be careful, don’t drop it on your toes.” Then I said it to my grandchildren. One of my daughters will “inherit” the frog when I am gone. A trash dump treasure that has brought much enjoyment to my family.

    • says

      It is so funny the things that end up being so important to our children and grandchildren that bring back so many memories. It usually isn’t the most expensive heirloom. My mom was having my brother and I go through some of her things one day and the thing my brother wanted most was this old plastic water jug my mom kept in the fridge for us to drink out every day instead of dirtying glasses. I think it is those everyday things that mean the most to us and not the expensive heirloom vase on the top shelf.
      Thanks for the sweet memory.

  12. Denise says

    I believe that most of the laws on the books about taking from recycling bins are out there to make you buy more stuff.
    It is sickening to know how much waste is out there especially at the end of the college year when college students leave behind their stuff. Call the salvation army and see if they can take anything off your hands.

  13. Mrs. Miller says

    Back in time, before the county got anal about ‘picking’ through the dump, I would go and find old chairs, dressers, tables, metal bed frames, metal bed springs, old heaters, old water heaters and refrigerators. My husband is a welder by trade. The gutted fridges make excellent worm beds or storage lockers. The outside metal skins of the water heaters are good for barn siding repairs or where sheet metal is needed. The inner tank is steel but rusted out. He has made an airtank out of 2 heater tanks by cutting in half and welding them together. Then put on a cooler motor and hooked up an old car a/c unit compressor for an air compressor for his shop. He did a bigger version with a free water tank that the bladder went out of. We had to buy a regular compressor and a motor big enough to run it. For $200 he had an air compressor that would of cost $1200 industrial grade.
    The tables were either refinished if wood, after any needed repairs. Usually the tables were ok, but the chairs were broke that came with it so the whole unit was trashed. Lots of metal chairs and table sets have came through the shop. He would fix the metal parts and make things whole again. I’d then spray paint the set. Then cover the seat bottoms and backs if needed with new foam and material. People would find out about the refreshed furniture and would ask for it. It was needed by someone who was having money woes, and was welcomed. We tried to have matched sets if possible. But even mismatched things were wanted.
    Bed frames are good sources of small angle iron or round stock. Old metal mattress springs yield round stock or angle iron. Don’t laugh, but I have seen large corrals/arena made from T-posts and metal mattresses. Go price a corral panel or a premade dog kennel/run today. $100 for a panel, $150 for a 6×6 cyclone fence kennel panel.

  14. Barbs Forotin says

    I was recycling glass and found an entire set of glass canisters. I used those for 25 years! I know someone whho got recycled paint from toxic etc.

  15. Barbs Fortin says

    hen you paint your room, save some of in a smaller container to use for touch-ups and your paint will match! My grandfather a professional painter for 40 yrs!
    Thanks Grandpa!

  16. Barbs Fortin says

    On the curb side over the years, I have got:
    2 DR sets complete with chairs,
    2 patio sets coomplete,
    Sectional Couch and the owner packed it up for us,
    Bedroom set, dresser and complete bed,
    TV and the owners gave us the clicker,
    A car for $300 with title!
    What finds over the years!

  17. Mary S says

    I have a dresser in my bedroom that I saved from the curb when my neighbor in the apartment next to me moved out and dumped it.The top drawer was missing but that made it perfect for my TV on top and VCR in the empty drawer space.That was around 1980 and I am still using it to this day.We lived right down the road from the city dump when I was 13 and I have a scrapbook and pair of earrings I found when some lady had died and her treasures were hauled to the dump.

  18. Catl8dy says

    Yeah, our county got anal too.
    We used to find great dressers and my hubby refinished them and we gave them to a local women’s shelter. It’s too bad you can’t ask permission and get it.
    When I asked why…their excuse was someone will get hurt poking through the junk piles. Years ago when we COULD pick, I got perfectly good fencing for the garden, muffins tins, pans, yard decorations etc. No fun any more.

  19. Marg says

    We have FREECYCLE in our area. Anytime you have something you don’t want, you just post it by email, and once a week the info is sent out to all of our members. If you need something, you can post this too. If you want something posted, you just send the poster an email, and send info of when you would like to pick up their item. Have received some very nice items.

  20. Jen Ryan says

    I used to find all sorts of stuff at our local dump. They now have county paid guards that get to have their pick of what is dumped there. If you even ask if you can take a item and give it to someone in need, they will write your plate number down, charge you with theft and ban you from dumping your trash. I guess they dont want someone’s hands in their side profit of selling dumped items on Craigslist, yard sale pages, ebay, yard sales and flea markets.

  21. Jen Ryan says

    Oh, I might add that I am a moderator over our local FreeCycle and Free page. I told them that, and it seemed to make the even more mad.

  22. mamainacrowd says

    Enjoyed reading others stories about harvesting unwanted items from the dump, college dumpsters, and curbsides. We were poor but didn’t know it growing up. My dad put together bikes for us to share from parts he found at the dump. Countless other things made our life more enjoyable from the same source. We looked forward to when dad went to the dump! We had lovely glasses that someone had set to the side and we appreciated them. Too bad more people don’t share their wealth when they no longer want items rather than adding to landfills.

  23. Rhonda S says

    We have several local facebook pages that sell to each other or give away unwanted to each other. At our recycle center, there is a spot for people to set aside unwanted items that are still usable. I have picked up some kids toys and given away many items such as tools, kitchen items, books, and toys.I live in a college town but it is illegal to scout the campus and pick up items from the curb. My son had picked up some nice office chairs from one of the apartment buildings though

  24. Katie says

    Some local stores will take things for recycling.

    Best Buy will take electronics.
    Many of the local supermarkets take plastic bags (of the sort your groceries go home in).
    The Whole Foods in my area takes cellphones.
    The local Fresh and Easy takes bags (I think they also take cans and paper).

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