New to Canberra? Setting up home and want to do it on the super cheap? Or maybe you just love tracking down a bargain? Check out Serina Huang’s recommendations for must-try sources of free and/or cheap goods so that you can live the good life in the nation’s capital without breaking the bank.
THE FREE STUFF
The Freecycle Network is a global phenomena and, founded in Tucson Arizona in 2003, one of the earliest platforms to encourage gifting. It is based on environmental principles, and Freecycle claims that its recycling initiatives ensures that over 500 tonnes a day of waste are kept out of landfill. There are over 9 million Freecyclers globally. There is one Freecycle group in Canberra with nearly 3,000 members.
I just LOVE the Buy Nothing Project. Does that sound overly effusive? Not to my way of thinking. I calculate that I have received thousands of dollars’ worth of items since joining the Buy Nothing Project. At a gifting event a few weeks ago I was the lucky recipient of items that would have cost me at least $578 if I had purchased them new. And two days later someone from the group dropped off a brand-new ski jacket that fitted perfectly. Guess what I am going to be wearing down the slopes this winter.
But more than the items, what I really love about the Buy Nothing Project is the friendships that I have formed – it is aimed at community building. The Buy Nothing Project is a global phenomena that started on Bainbridge Island, Western Australia. It operates as a series of Facebook groups based on geographic locations. There are several in Canberra. I used to belong to the Northwestern Belconnen chapter before moving house. Once I moved I had to leave that particular group, but luckily I have been welcomed into a new group for the area where I now live.
The other thing I really like about the Buy Nothing Project is that because the focus is on giving and receiving within a smaller community you don’t have to prove you are a worthy recipient. In other words, you don’t have to prove you are poor to put your hand up for an item. There are, I find, generally more people giving away than receiving. Or at least, in my own house moving and decluttering that has been my experience as I have been gifting like crazy. It is like a form of karma – when you give freely, what you need tends to come back. One of the most touching stories I have from the Buy Nothing Project was giving away a good quality framed print that no longer suited the room it was in. The lady who took is said she had been meaning to paint something similar for her sister before she died. And then there was the dress my sister gave me that didn’t suit her, and didn’t suit me, either. But it did suit a Buy Nothing friend who proudly wore it to a job interview (and she looked fabulous in it).
You have probably heard of Gumtree, and if you haven’t, where have you been? Gumtree is an Australian-founded classifieds ads site that is so well known and well used that it has almost replaced EBay (in Australia at least) as the place to go to for second hand goods. You can buy and sell almost anything on Gumtree. But it also provides an active platform for giving away things for free.
I first found out about the free power of Gumtree when I was trying to gift a double bed mattress I no longer needed. I tried various ways of getting the word out until I tried Gumtree, marking the item ‘free’. It was gone in less than 48 hours to a grateful recipient. To search type in ‘free’ in the ‘I’m looking for’ search box – try it and you will be amazed what is available. You can also request items by placing a ‘wanted’ ad.
The classifieds section on All Classifieds works in a similar way to Gumtree. And yes, you can offer up and search for things that cost nothing. Select the ‘I’m Looking For’ window and watch what comes up. Sofa? Firewood? Lamp shades? Kitchen cabinets? Female rat? You would be surprised what people are willing – even desperate – to give away.
Buy, sell, swap and giveaway groups
There are numerous groups on Facebook that promote buying, selling, swapping and giving away. The largest in the ACT is the Canberra Buy, Sell, Swap & Giveaway Group, which has over 40,000 members. There are several other buy, sell and swap Facebook groups in the Canberra region including for fashion and children’s items.
Access to the groups are usually restricted, so you will need to apply and be given access to the group by an administrator. Then you are free to look out for bargains or ask for what you want. One of the features of Facebook groups like this is that you are often alerted when one of your Facebook friends posts an item. It can be interesting to observe – are they moving house? Or just decluttering?
The Canberra Freebies Facebook group has over 12,000 members and is growing. This is a group ONLY for posting about things that are going for free. There is a separate Facebook group just for people to post about items that they want (Canberra Freebies Wanted Requests).
Freebies is a popular term on Facebook and you can find all sorts of related freebies groups. But the Canberra Freebies is the biggest and most active in the nation’s capital.
THE CHEAP STUFF
If you have a bit of cash to splash, you can pick up some amazing bargains when you know where to look.
Allbids, Online Auctions Australia
Allbids is an online auctions company headquartered in Fyshwick. Do you aspire to live like a diplomat? Then you could pick up items for sale from the US Embassy. If your aspirations are less grand, there are good bargains on household items, too, including whiteboards and furniture. The site has great bargains including from closing down businesses (the portal is selling items from the iconic Yarralumla Bakery – sad for many of the bakery’s regulars but great if you aspire to open a cafe or cater for a large crowd). It also has an extensive selection of tools and hardware items that would be a bargain for tradies or weekend DIY renovators.
Auction Barn, 9 Wiluna Street, Fyshwick
A friend at work told me about this place. Actually he totally raved about this place. He almost totally furnished his house here, including antique and signature furniture, the most impressive being a cherry wood round table that formerly graced a residence of the US Embassy. He purchased the table for $500, but it had been imported from the US at a price many times greater than that.
You can make a bid online, but my friend advises to go in person. “You might put in a small bid but on the day there will be other bidders who will trump your bid,” he said. “And there are other bargains as well. You really need to go and check it out.”
My perusal of the website indicates there are indeed a lot of bargains, with everything from basic household items to the high end.
Kippax Monster Garage Sale, Kippax Uniting Church, Cnr Luke St and Hardwick Cres, Holt
Save the date – the Kippax Monster Garage Sale is held three times a year, and the next one is on Saturday 4 March.
Someone (a local) told me that the garage sale always does well because people in Belconnen are avid bargain hunters. Well I certainly was a huge bargain hunter and regular at this garage sale when I lived in West Belconnen so that generalization was true of me. I once even squeezed in a Kippax Monster Garage Sale forage just before boarding a flight for an international trip. Priorities! It was worth the rush.
My best bargain so far has been an original $3 crockpot. Or maybe the set of six French aqua glass teacups that I purchased over ten years ago and still bring out when entertaining guests. I love how they catch the light when we sit outdoors.
What to buy? Cheap furniture, which can be delivered same day for a small sum (often $20) to nearby locations. Prints and artwork – at least one art dealer lurks looking for, and finding, original works by famous artists. Also electrical goods (I still regret not buying a Hello Kitty toaster), kitchenware, craft and haberdashery and clothes (usually $5 a bag).
While there, stop to enjoy a plate of scones or two. They are baked throughout the day to ensure they are always warm and fresh out of the oven. Jean, who has been making them for over 20 years, received a Governor-General’s citation in December in celebration of her baking skills. When you taste her scones you will see why.
Best tip is to get there early. Doors open at 8am, and there is always a large queue anxious to get in.
Trash n’ Treasure, Jamison Markets
Having operated for 42 years,the Rotary Club of Belconnen‘s Trash n’ Treasure markets are an institution. “Trash” has been an essential Sunday morning experience for many Canberrans. The event started out life as a car boot market, but now there is a community of regulars selling fresh fruit and produce, home grown items and bric a brac.
Money raised from Trash n’ Treasure goes to support the work of the Rotary Club of Belconnen in the community; more than $5 million has been raised since Trash started in 1974. The Rotarians show dedication and commitment in doing what they do even in the depth of winter – you will find a hardy group of volunteers there at 5.30am in cold and dark setting up before the stallholders get there. My ex-husband was, and still is, a member of this club so I know firsthand how much effort goes into Trash.
Beyond the money raised for charitable works, Trash plays an important role within the community – especially with those who are struggling financially. Good friends once told me that they migrated to Canberra with very little and money was tight. Having come from Singapore, they were unprepared for the cold reality of winter. “We went to Trash n’ Treasure and I was able to buy warm clothes for my children. I was so happy I cried,” my friend told me.
The Green Shed, Mitchell
The Green Shed makes going to the tip cool. On a recent tip trip, I was appalled how much STILL gets thrown out, despite the recycling efforts of The Green Shed. Inside the shed you can find sad rows of unwanted items that people just throw out – rows and rows of bikes, prams, books, clothes, plates, bowls – you name it. But there is also a sense of optimism that many of the items will eventually find a loved home before being tossed for good. Items are for sale, but very cheap. And out the front there are skip bins full of clothes that are FREE.
Do you have a favourite source of cheap or free goods in and around Canberra? Let us know in the comments.