How To Save Money By Salvaging

I used to work with a Vietnamese immigrant who would not let anything be thrown away without first inspecting it for a hint of being salvageable. There would always be the comments about how wasteful Americans are and how back in his country people found new uses for things that could not be repaired. Some of the guys kidded him about this habit (there were several items we could not even imagine what he would end up using them for) but for the most part I agreed with him.

The current “green” mindset coupled with the state of the economy has produced a renewed interest by many people to reuse and recycle. The following are some ideas to get you started saving money by salvaging.

Take a good look around at what you already own for what you might need. A recent personal example is using scrap lumber cluttering up my garage to build a bookcase for my son, a workbench for myself and flowerboxes for my wife. All it cost was my time.

Check out your local Freecycle group and the free section of Craigslist for your area.

My local landfill has a small shop that offers reusable items that have been dropped off such as paint, varnishes and cleaners. Check with the landfill in your area for a similar recycle shop.

In my area there are a couple of shops that get their inventory by gutting homes and businesses that are being remodeled or demolished, then resell the items at a fraction of what they would cost new. Search online or check your yellow pages under recycle or salvage.

Another possibility is directly contacting the home or business owner of the building to be demolished and asking if you could do some salvaging. Offering a few bucks for what you find might make it worth their while.

Check dumpsters. You just never know what you might find. I have found everything from usable patio furniture to library books to original oil paintings!

Go curbing. Watch your community calendar for neighborhood and town wide clean up days, usually held in the spring, when people are asked to put their unwanted items out on the curb to be picked up by the city. Get out there and take what you need.

Ask a construction crew chief if you can have any of the discarded debris lying around the site. Safety issues might prevent him from saying yes, but it’s worth a try.

There are a number of online resources to investigate. Check with ReDO to find a reuse center near you and Habitat for Humanity for a ReStore. Search for the items you need and list the ones you don’t on ReUseIt Network. Finally, find recycling centers in your area using the search feature on Earth911.

Related Articles:

Use What You Have and Cut the Clutter

Do It Yourself Clubs

Are Thrift Shops Running Dry?

10 Free Barter & Swap Sites


  1. I've long been an adherent of recycling, reusing, and salvaging. My propensity was affirmed in the French documentary, "Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse" (English title "The Gleaners and I") by Agnes Varda. I recommend it highly as an vindication of the value of redefining what is garbage.

  2. I will try to find a copy of that documentary, sounds interesting. Thanks for the comment.


Agree? Disagree? Questions? Leave a comment!