From Etch-A-Sketches to espresso makers, designer sofas to dungarees, hundreds of top-quality goodies are available every day across the country... for FREE.
This guide to giveaway websites such as Freecycle and Freegle shows how to furnish your house, bag the best items and avoid spam, as well as the most common freebies.
It's all about web communities
Giveaway sites are where, instead of binning goods or trying to eBay them, people harness the web's power to offer them to their local community. In return, they often hope they can grab back something when they want.
So as well as kitting up for nowt, there's the environmental benefit of saving unwanted possessions being flung into landfill sites.
It's all about web communities, and the big names are Freecycle and Freegle. Without wishing to be complete anoraks, these technically aren't standalone websites. Instead, go to them and you're sent to free-to-join, volunteer-run local email groups (though nowadays you can also view much of it on their sites too).
Each community is free to join, and run by locally-based volunteers. It's up to you to monitor new freebies on offer. When you want to offer something, you just send an email to the group.
Bagging the best is all about etiquette
Freecycle and Freegle are not just sources of freebies. The spirit is that it's a recycling community, so consider giving, as well as getting.
Don't worry if you've nothing special. You'll be amazed at what's willingly taken, including old magazine collections, spare carpets or EMPTY paint pots.
Advertising discarded items on giveaway sites is also an excellent way to offload objects unsuitable for donating to charity shops. Many no longer take electrical goods or collect large items.
Sign up to both Freecycle & Freegle
The original giveaway site, Freecycle, was set up in the USA. A few years ago, rival UK site Freegle was set up after a transatlantic difference of views. Many local UK Freecycle groups moved to this new site.
The two groups work in a very similar way. Happily, nothing stops you doing both. Find your nearest group on the handy Freecycling Group Finder site.
It's not all crapola
While occasionally there can be grotty, moth-bitten junk, there's also top-quality unused stuff people just don't want anymore. It's astonishing what people chuck out. Everything from pianos, to windsurfs, to boats pop up at some point.
Office clear-outs or emigrating families are rich sources, while others are just from generous givers passing on hand-me-downs. After all, one man's junk is another's treasure.
Most commonly available are big 'n' bulky items that are tough to take to charity shops or the tip - like sofas, futons, computer desks, fridges and freezers - as well as baby buggies and DVDs.
Still not convinced? Here's some inspiration...
We've had reports of huge successes from giveaway sites. Reports include bagging a pristine designer settee and even a taxed car (see below). Tell us your successes.
MoneySavers' success stories
We got a 6ft sailing boat from Freecycle.
We received a car for my daughter (needed MOT and service and tax but cost us around £350 and she was thrilled). We got a breadmaker and a Kenwood Chef (retro) and various other bits and pieces down to drawer runners for my husband to fix a chest of drawers. I think it's fab!
We are a single parent family, and have had lots of goodies from Freecycle, including a chest freezer, a sofa bed, various plants, two chooks and a Warhammer. And we've donated a table, telly, bits of bikes, football boots and a couple other random things. It's great at teaching that whole ethos of stuff being 'worth' something to someone."
I had a fab Freecycle experience. Someone offered Guitar Hero I and II for PS2 and I didn't think I'd have a chance of being offered them… but I was! We collected later that day and the lovely person asked if I could make use of Singstar for PS2 also, complete with about 5 discs."
How to sign up
Just find your village, town, city or borough on Freecycle and Freegle and sign up to those. It's worth joining both Freecycle and Freegle. Both communities work via group emails in exactly the same way, so you won't notice the difference.
Get the daily highlights email
You can choose whether you want a daily highlights freebie offers email (browsing the rest online) or for a better chance but more effort, to receive every offer to your inbox. In some cases you can also opt out of all emails entirely, if you just wanted to browse online.
To get your hands on the best finds, you still need to check your site's listing page throughout the day, as freebies are offered and taken at breakneck speed.
Set up a dedicated email address
You can opt to get every single new freebie emailed to you. There are advantages to this: you can send emails from more than one local group to one inbox, so you only have to check one page.
You can also set your email filter to filter out emails with the word 'wanted' in the title (giveaway sites let people post wanted ads).
Never, ever, use your normal email address. It'll be immediately flooded. As an example, after joining one group, within a week we had 1,500 emails (this also gives an idea of the scores of freebies on offer).
Set up a dedicated email account. As a powerful free option, Gmail is among the best.
Sign up in well-to-do areas
To ramp up your chances, also join one or two bordering areas, especially if they're swanky. Though be aware that strictly you’re only meant to join your nearest area – if you try to sign up to several, you may get rejected.
Get into the spirit - give in order to receive
This is all about a resource-sharing community. So to get in the spirit, you may wish to give before requesting goods (if you have something you don't want). A few groups insist on this.
Just ensure it's free, legal, suitable for all ages and accurately described. For example, that means no alcohol, tobacco, weapons or drugs. Sometimes giveaway sites ban finding homes for pets, though different groups have different rules.
How to post a freebie
Offering a freebie couldn't be easier. Just post a message directly on your group's page. Alternatively, start an email, with the title OFFERED in capital letters. Then put the item name of the item and the area or first part of your postcode in brackets, eg, "OFFERED: Grand piano Giggleswick".
In the body of the email list as many details about the item as possible, including a link to the item if you can find one. Include details of when and where you would like it picked up and any other salient points, ie, if it's so big a van's needed.
Then just send the email to your local group's email address, eg, LittleSnoring_Freecycle@yahoogroups.com (the local address should be on the local homepage). You can also post offers through their websites.
Always include your general location, but not your phone number or full address at this stage.
Upload photos so people can see what they're getting
If there are no photos already online, consider uploading your own pic, by including a link to a free photo-hosting site. One of the best is Photobucket. Simply sign up, upload a photo, and you'll be given a special web address for that picture.
To minimise the risk of viruses, some groups have different rules on posting photos and links. On many groups, you can also add photos direct to your post online or to group albums.
Avoid freecycling old computers
You may wish to think twice about giving away old computers though, as even if you think you've deleted personal data, it can still be buried inside.
So try non-profit groups instead, such as Computeraid International. They give them to the developing world.
Wait 24 hours to give everyone a chance
Many folks offer freebies on a first come, first served basis. Yet this excludes many nice folks who don't sit at a PC all day. So try to wait at least 24 hours to give everyone a fair shot.
Decide who to pick
If you get 100 eager offers, it can be difficult to pick one. It's worth searching for usernames to see if they have donated in the past. Then just give it to the nicest, most genuine email or a charity if one's responded. If you're not sure, just put the names into a hat.
Deal with one person at a time. If they don't reply, move on to someone else, though remember some people are unable to get online as often as others.
Once it's been collected, send another email to the group with TAKEN in the subject line, such as "TAKEN Grand piano".
Check for new posts as often as possible
When you first join, it's 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.
Be ready to act fast and answer emails at speed. If something comes up and you can't collect it any more, let the giver know so they can give it to someone else.
Impersonal responses like "I'll take it" are loathed by many givers, so explain why you want the item, though avoid weepy Oscar-acceptance type histrionics.
Then propose a collection time, give your phone number but suggest you call them to save their costs. If something comes up and you can't collect it anymore, let the giver know so they can give it to someone else.
Don't fall for scams
It’s easy to be taken in by what looks sweet only to discover what's on offer is actually a scam.
Beware ads from any person saying: “I'm giving away a laptop, iPad or smartphone and I just need you to pay the postage fees." Never transfer money or give bank account details – you won't see the item or your cash.
Don't be too worried though. The easy rule is simply to never send payment for anything to anybody for any Freecycle-related exchange. If you see anyone requesting cash, report them to your local group's administrators.
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Ask if it's worth it
The stonking amount of freebies offered can be headspinning. If you like something, factor in collection time and possible petrol costs.
Follow via Facebook & Twitter
Many groups now let you browse for goodies on Facebook and Twitter. Just check to see if your local group has a Facebook or Twitter sign next to it on its page. You'll also be able to browse freebies on the go by visiting the group on your mobile.
Be sparing with wanted ads
One of giveaway sites' more controversial features is that you can post 'wanted' ads. Just start the email with WANTED, and say what you're after and why.
Be careful what you ask for. People won't take kindly if you start slapping in requests for cars, MacBook Pros or diamond rings. But if it's an old fish tank for a school project, someone might just remember they have one in the garage.
Safety first! Always be careful
Incidents are rare, but be careful. When collecting, if someone's listing or email sounds dodgy, trust your gut and walk away.
Go with a friend, or failing that, tell someone exactly where you are going and arrange to contact them afterwards. Take a mobile phone. If collecting smaller goods, etiquette suggests waiting on the doorstep.
When giving, don't be pressurised into letting someone into your home. Do make sure someone else is in the house when the taker comes to collect.
It's also a good idea to have a mobile phone in your pocket, keep valuables out of sight, and to limit the collector's movements to as few rooms as possible.
Don't give out too many personal details
If you decide to give out your phone number, only give it to one person at once, to avoid getting swamped with calls.
Some Freecycle groups let members include phone numbers in group emails, but it's not a good idea to give out personal details to all and sundry.
You can always say no
If you arrive to pick something up and it turns out to be not as expected, you don’t have to take it. Just politely say, "No thank you, please give it to someone else."
Sadly, in rare cases givers will describe rotting items as "in great condition", just to get rid of them.
Get a freebie batphone
If you’re a giveaway site regular and feel uncomfortable giving out your mobile number, consider getting a cheap pay-as-you-go Sim just for freebie communications.
A Sim is the small (roughly 2cm by 1cm) microchip card that you insert into a phone when it's first set up. It provides the identity of a phone for the mobile network, so it can recognise, bill and send calls to individual customers.
When you temporarily change the Sim card in your phone, you’ll have a different number. The Sim card is usually located behind the battery on the back of the phone.
Read our Free Sim cards guide for more information.
Find super-cheap local eBay bargains
Whether they're designer sofas, dishwashers, Wiis or children's books, sellers on eBay often specify items must be collected in person. While not free, as these items often get fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.
Our free tool locates them for you. Tell the Local eBay Deals Mapper your postcode, how far you're prepared to schlep, and it maps the gems nearby.
Try Gumtree and Ebay
Many people offload old gear on the 'freebies' section of the free classified site Gumtree. People give away anything from beds to bikes. For most items, Gumtree doesn't charge either the buyer or the seller to post listings. If you post more than two car or flat/house listings a year, a job or service ad, charges are applied. See its posting fees for full info.
Alternatively, put items on eBay with a buy-it-now price of 1p. People with fixing skills often buy broken washing machines and TVs. See the eBay Selling Tips guide for more.
More stuff-for-free sites
Freecycle and Freegle aren't the only options. Other giveaway websites include:
An eBay-style site for freebies, EcoBees featured more than 3,000 listings when we checked. It lets you sort freebies by distance and even plot them on a Google map.
The popular classified site features a Freeloved section, letting you pick up things for free. While it's free to advertise your wares, users pay £5/year to get first dibs on the latest freebies.
While still relatively small, SnaffleUp's modern design means it's easy to browse for freebies.
Freebies, freebies, freebies! There's lots of places to get 'em
Giveaway sites aren't the only place to grab quality freebies. Whether it's song downloads, free tea or gym passes, if you know where to look, it's all available on the web.
We've catalogued hundreds in our Freebies, Freebies, Freebies guide. If you don't want to scroll through hundreds, spin the Freebie Roulette machine to see what it stops on.
Lots of the best freebies are short-lived promos. We put the best in our free weekly MoneySaving email.
Offer what you have to charity shops
Many charities would love to take cast-offs off your hands. At most charity shops, you simply take your donation to the shop, but call the shop first before taking in any bulky items. Also check before offering electrical appliances (shops need a qualified technician to test the goods).
If you have trouble finding a shop willing to take a large item, try the British Heart Foundation's free furniture and electrical collection service.
Donate to developing countries
Donate old bikes to riders in developing countries through the Re-Cycle scheme. The scheme isn't able to collect bikes, but has drop-off points across the country. Large Oxfam shops may accept bicycles.