Stop shopping and set yourselves free

By Martin Lewis, October 28, 2009
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Thousands of people are giving away pricey items to folks they don’t know through giveaway websites such as Freecycle.org.

Whether it’s bedside cabinets, books or concert tickets, giveaway community websites offer first-class, second-hand goods for free. Every hour, people post hundreds of freebies on these sites. All you do is email a request, then pop round to pick it up.

WHAT IS FREECYCLE?

Freecycle isn’t a website in its own right.

It is run via Yahoo group emails, which is highly localised. This means you become a part of your area’s own Freecycle club. Each community is run by locally-based volunteers.

The spirit of Freecycle is that it is a recycling community, so you should give, as well as receive. Freecycle was set up in the USA, and some local UK groups have become unhappy with the US founders’ policies.

In September ’09, a rival UK-based site, ilovefreegle.org, was set up by some of the folks who moderate local groups on this side of the pond. Many local UK Freecycle groups have moved to this new site. The two groups work via group emails in exactly the same way.

What you can get

If you are after any of the following, you are sure to find it with a bit of patience:
● Furniture. Sofas, futons, beds, book shelves, computer desks, lamps, lighting, curtains and rugs.
● Electricals. White goods, CRT tellys, fridges, freezers, kettles, ovens, blenders, coffee machines and old PCs.
● Baby stuff. Baby cast-offs are incredibly popular; if you are expecting, Freecycle is a treasure trove of buggies, clothes, cots and baby monitors.
● Office equipment. PCs, monitors and computer chairs .
● Entertainment. Books, DVDs, games consoles, videos and old magazines.
● Broken stuff. If you have a knack for fixing things, there are broken cameras, washing machines, computers and more.
● Sports equipment. There are many bicycles, treadmills … even a ski machine.

BEFORE JOINING FREECYCLE
● The first step is to sign up to your local group at Freecycle.org. If you are on the borders of two or more groups, join all of them to boost your chances of bagging a gem. It is worth joining both Freecycle & Freegle.

WHEN YOU JOIN UP
● When you join, it will ask you how you would like to be notified about new freebies. You have two options: receiving a daily highlights email and browsing the rest online, or receiving every single email to your inbox.
If you choose the second option, never use your normal email address; it will be flooded.
● Give away a freebie
When you first join, Freecycle etiquette is to email an offer to the group. Nothing is too small.
● Get a freebie
It is easy to get hooked as you see the staggering amount of freebies put up for grabs. Items are snapped up at speed, so to bag the best haul, check for new posts as often as possible. Once you spot a top find, you just need to contact the giver and offer to take it off their hands. However, do think about whether you really need the item, or whether someone else could benefit more. Plus, factor in petrol costs; small items mightn’t be worth it.
● Stay safe
While incidents are rare, there are simple precautions you can take to make sure the transaction is a safe one. The main rule is not to be pressurised into letting someone into a particular area of your home, or going into someone else’s. If someone’s emails sound dodgy, trust your gut and don’t bother. If it is a small item, do the exchange on the doorstep or arrange to meet in a busy area.

OTHER GIVEAWAY SITES
As well as Freecycle, there several other giveaway websites, including SnaffleUp.co.uk and MySkip.com. It is also worth checking the freebies section of your local Gumtree. There is a full guide to using Freecycle and grabbing the top freebies at www.moneysavingexpert.com/freecycle

DONATE TO CHARITY
When looking for a home for your hand-me-downs, don’t forget good old charities. There are different options depending on the item:
● Charity shops.
They are always looking for good stock. Call the shop first to take before bringing in any bulky or electrical items.
● Cycles.
It is possible to donate old bikes to riders in developing countries through re-cycle.org. The scheme has drop off points across the country.
● Computers.
Give to a well-established charity, as donating computers can be a security risk if it retains personal data (even if you delete information, it may lurk on the hard disk). Good bets are www.computeraid.org and donateapc.org.
● Glasses.
Many opticians run programmes where they donate second-hand glasses to developing countries, including Dolland & Aitchison, Vision Express and Eyesite.
● Tools.
Consider Tools for Self-Reliance, an organisation that reconditions carpentry tools for use in Africa.

    Last updated: 4:36pm, October 28 2009