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From Etch-A-Sketches to espresso makers, thousands of top-quality goodies are available every day across the country... for FREE on giveaway websites such as Freecycle and Freegle.
In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, some of the information in this guide may no longer be up to date. Please see our Coronavirus finance & bills help and Coronavirus life-in-lockdown help for the latest information. We’ve left the info below for reference, and hope it will become relevant again in the not-too-distant future.
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.
As well as kitting up for nowt, there's the environmental benefit of saving unwanted possessions being flung into landfill sites.
It's up to you to monitor new freebies on offer. When you want to offer something, you just post an offer message to the group page.
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.
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.
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 surf boards to boats will 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
We've had reports of huge successes from giveaway sites. Reports include bagging a pristine designer settee and a taxed car. Here are a few of the best:
Struck it lucky on Freecycle with a Metro car owned by a vicar – mint condition, full service history.
We got a 6ft sailing boat from Freecycle.
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 [chickens or hens] 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 five discs.
You can choose whether to browse freebies 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.
You can opt to get every single new freebie emailed to you.
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 free option, Gmail is among the best.
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.
Joining several groups can yield the best freebies (especially if you've well-to-do neighbouring areas), but checking them all can be a faff. Ultra-handy app Trash Nothing lets you instantly see everything up for grabs in your local recycling groups in one go – there's no need to browse them all separately.
It covers over 900 Freecycle, Freegle and standalone local recycling groups across the UK.
Sign up and tell it which groups you want to join, eg, Hull Freegle and Hull Freecycle. It then shows all unwanted goodies nearby. Whenever you see something you want, hit 'reply' to request it and arrange a pick-up.
Got a sofa or scooter going spare? To give an item away, simply go to 'New post', snap a pic, add a brief description and provide pick-up details. The best bit is you can post to multiple groups at once – just select which ones.
Trash Nothing works independently from the recycling groups and while the vast majority of groups and posts are covered, it's not guaranteed. So you may wish to double-check groups and posts yourself every so often.
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.
Offering a freebie is easy. Just post a message directly on your group's page.
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.
Always include your general location, but not your phone number or full address at this stage.
If there are no photos already online, consider uploading your own to put on your listing.
To minimise the risk of viruses, some groups have different rules on posting photos and links – it's worth checking these before posting.
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 WeeeCharity, which responsibly reuses, recycles and resells electronic equipment.
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.
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, 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, update your listing as 'taken'.
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 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.
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.
The stonking amount of freebies offered can be head-spinning. If you like something, factor in collection time and possible petrol costs.
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 icon on its page. You'll also be able to browse freebies on the go by visiting the group on your mobile.
One of giveaway sites' more controversial features is that you can post 'wanted' ads. Just post an add to the site's page, and say what you're after and why.
Some sites won't let you post a 'wanted' ad unless you've posted an 'offer' ad in the past. It's all part of the giving ethos of these community web groups so even if it's something as small as a pack of unused light bulbs, try offering before you start making requests.
Also, be careful what you ask for. People won't take kindly if you start slapping in demands 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.
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.
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.
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 'sorry, its not quite what I'm looking for, please let someone else have it'.
Sadly, in rare cases, givers will describe rotting items as being in great condition just to try and get rid of them.
If you're a giveaway site regular and feel uncomfortable giving out your mobile number, consider getting a cheap pay-as-you-go Sim - that way you can get a dedicated phone number for use with Freecycle, Freegle etc.
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 switch over the Sim in your phone, you'll have a different number. The Sim is usually located behind the battery on the back of the phone. See Best Pay-as-you-go Sim Deals for more.
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.
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. There are some situations where charges are applied – for example, if you post more than two job listings. 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 eBay Selling Tricks for more.
Local Facebook Selling groups are where, instead of eBaying second-hand goods, people harness Facebook's power to sell to others in the local community. The best bit is there are NO fees, so you keep the profit.
The idea's simple: sellers post ads for unwanted goods, and buyers pop round and pay cash in hand if they're happy. Think old-school free classified sites.
As well as selling, people often give away items for free on these groups too. Try searching for the word 'free' in the group's search box.
Freecycle and Freegle aren't the only options. Other giveaway websites include:
Preloved. 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.
Olio. Whether it's burgers, beer or strawberries, free food and drink-sharing app Olio offers you quality grub for free, if you're game enough.
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.
If it's food you're after, see our How to get free (or cheap) food guide for more tips and tricks.
'Freebies for feedback' sites give free goodies in return for your views or sometimes you sharing thoughts with friends. Forumites have grabbed everything from meat and mascara to E45 lotion and electric toothbrushes. Our Earn Freebies for Testing Products guide shows you how.
Lots of the best freebies are short-lived promos. We put the best in our free weekly Money Tips Email.
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 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.
For eye glasses try Vision Aid Overseas and running shoes, Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe campaign. If you've old tools to donate, consider Tools with a Mission or Workaid who collect and refurbish tools for use in projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and the UK.
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