Would you Dumpster Dive to Save Money?

I was searching around the blogosphere and I came across this interesting article at Dollarish asking if readers would be willing to dumpster dive to save money. I especially like what one of the commenters said

My husband found six boxes of someone’s travel memorabilia from the ’50s and ’60s in a Dunkin’ Donuts  dumpster. Old stamps, letters, receipts, postcards, souvenirs from all over the world, a passport… can’t believe anyone would throw that away! We’re still trying to figure out what to do with it.

I couldn’t help but laugh at this one.  If you are picking up other peoples sentimental stuff (6 boxes of it!) and then “still trying to figure out what to do with it” that might be a sign that you have gone too far.  I can see diving for items to sell or items you need, but diving to save sentimental items that others have thrown away just so they can sit in your own basement?  Hmm.

I thought about it and I just couldn’t do it.  However, I do think we (as humans) are wasteful and I have a lot of respect for the people who can. That said, when I hear “dumpster dive” I tend to think of something that happened back on my college campus.

College campuses are generally great places to “dumpster dive”.  When the students leave they tend to throw out almost everything they own, some of it is new and some of it is in great condition.  When I moved out of my last college place I just put an ad in craigslist that I had a house full of free stuff.  I got plenty of takers, from newlyweds to new students to townies looking for anything from kitchen supplies to furniture.  The only thing I actually threw out was a broken fish tank that oddly enough was taken from my trash.

I guess that wasn’t “dumpster diving” since the items were never put in a dumpster, but if nobody had responded then that is where they would have gone.  Almost all of it was great stuff so it stands to reason that there would be other people around town who would just automatically throw their stuff out.  So, you might be able to find plenty of great items in a dumpster.

But, then I saw something that made my stomach turn.  The landlord of the house across the street from mine showed up with his pickup to do his check on the house.  The house next door had two mattresses in their dumpster.  They were both stained with what looked like both urine and blood and looked 50 years old.  He picked them up and threw them in the back of his pickup, where they sat for three days, it even rained one of those days.  After he finished whatever painting he needed to do in the house he lugged those mattresses into his rental house.  The students before had left their living room furniture (I have no idea what condition it was in) and now he just needed to put these mattresses on a frame and… Waalaa – a “furnished” apartment.  That means a good $50 or so more a month for him.

Lesson learned, if you are heading off to college be sure to check under the sheets of your “furnished” bed and mattress.  Some people aren’t as honest as one would hope.  I guess even “dumpster diving” can be dishonest.

Picture source.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Professional Family Manager April 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I have dumpster dived (dumpster dove? uncertain of verb tense here) before. I was married in college, and every spring the single roommate people would leave so much by the dumpsters that it was silly to see some of it go. My husband is living temporarily out-of-state during the week in an apartment he shares with a roommate, and he furnished his room (save the mattress,lol!) with things left by the dumpster.

The thing is, we have taken things left by the dumpster, not in the dumpster. I think that makes a difference sometimes.

I have been married almost twenty years, and most of our furniture is still something either given to us or found by a dumpster. Of course, we've "cleaned" everything up, sometimes refinishing it as necessary. We get a lot of compliments on how we've decorated our house. No one knows where the furniture came from, and we don't tell them. 🙂


2 LittlePeopleWealth April 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I think the next to the dumpster vs in the dumpster does make a difference. Probably more so on your frame of mind than anything! To actually get inside a dumpster would take guts. Students throw out everything and so that is a good place to start.

I remember my dad came home with this HUGE old time radio/record player (a cabinet thing that opened to reveal the radio inside). My mom was a little upset with that one although I was too little to know if it was because he picked it out of the trash (he had a tendency to bring home stuff, LOL!) or if it was just that he brought a huge piece of non working furniture in our house.

He brought home a bunch of very nice specialty pant/skirt hangers once when he was remodeling this rich old ladies closet. She wanted a new color (they were silver, but worked great) Those were super useful!


3 Frances April 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Hubby and I did some dumpster diving many years ago. It started out accidentally when I was looking for boxes for my parents' move. I was checking dumpsters behind a local drugstore…the boxes were all cut up and flattened so easy to transport a lot of them.

I found a box of brand new tissue paper that had been pulled from the store for some reason. I threw that box in my car and didn't have to buy tissue paper for years!

After that, we would check the occasional dumpster, but would never "dive in." And we never checked smelly dumpsters. Euuwww!!


4 LittlePeopleWealth April 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm

That is an awesome find! I think it is crazy (and sad) that so many stores throw away perfectly good stuff.


5 Penniless Parenting April 27, 2010 at 6:19 am

My husband and I dumpster dive on a regular basis. Pretty much everything we own is either second hand or dumpster found.
I do draw the limit on going inside, though I did once pay a kid to climb in and get out a small nightstand that I then used to build a homemade dehydrator.


6 LittlePeopleWealth April 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm

A homemade dehydrator sounds great!

On another note, a guy once offered me $$ to go into Victoria Secret and purchase a gift for his girlfriend. Maybe he was embarassed, but I didn't do it because it creeped me out and I'm not sure I believed him, LOL!


7 medical Technologist December 4, 2010 at 4:49 am

Beneficial info and excellent design you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!


8 Heidi December 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Thanks for stopping by.


9 Stop Snoring Mouth Piece Review September 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I have never actually dumpster dived and don’t think that I could. But I use Craigslist all the time. Its a great place to give away things, even things you thought that other people would never want. Also great when you move to a new country or city and don’t have any furniture with you.


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