Things cost. We all know that. Used, surplus or scratched and dented things cost considerably less – we all know that, too. And, as the world accumulates more and more ‘stuff’, that which is actually free-for-the-taking also seems to increase. In fact, there is a category for free stuff on Craigslist. We advertise free stuff!
It is a surprisingly large category when you think about it.
I remember a time when there was retail, discount, wholesale, liquidation and second-hand. There was no ‘free’. If anything was deemed of lower value than second hand, it was a hand-me-down or a donation to a charity. Admittedly hand-me-downs and ‘donations’ are free (even if the Salvation Army added a small price tag to it in their shops). So free has been with us for a long time.
But not like today.
Today we have free stores, garage sales, dumpsters, and ‘curbside’ spring cleaning offerings to add to the thrift stores, Sally Anne’s, flea markets and rummage sales. Today ‘free’ is a big enough component in the world of STUFF to warrant a big box store if not a mall. If you step back and look at the free or almost-free stuff out there, it is a wonder why anyone buys anything at all!
OK. I buy stuff. I admit that. And I do so because I WANT that stuff. Just like everyone who buys. But I have to admit that, if one was simply to ‘watch’ and ‘wait’, just about everything comes up for free.
Exception: land. REAL estate is real and is never free (nor, because of taxes, is it ever truly owned except by government).
I have seen running vehicles for free on Craigslist. I was just offered (and took) a free motorcycle. It needs work, of course. It is not pretty. And, because it had new tires and a lot of new stuff, I gave the guy some money ($150) anyway, but, if I had wanted to, I could have rolled it away as a free (that was his offer) motorcycle. This bike was a newer, better bike than I saved up for for months when I was 16!!
But the biggest ‘bargain’ in free stuff is building supplies. OMG, there are literally tons of free windows, doors, bricks, steel, wood, working appliances and other ‘valuable’ stuff (when you need it) out there.
I have no idea, really, what all this means. Maybe it is just a recognition that ‘stuff’ is cheaper or doesn’t last or that people can’t affect simple repairs so a lot of valuable stuff is simply chucked when a pair of pliers and a fuse would have put it right. Maybe the cost of storage is what is doing it (storage requires land). I honestly don’t know.
But I do know this: if I had known all this when I was younger, I would have collected good junk over enough years to be able to build my own good-looking cabin without having to pay much at all. I am convinced that, even at my advanced years, I could gather enough ‘stuff’ over the next year to build a small cabin for free including furniture and appliances.
And therein lies the ironic point. Most people work for twenty years or more to pay off a mortgage for a home that, not counting the land (which they can never own), could have been done for free in less time.
I know that is an over-simplification (you still need to have the skills and a bit of money to fill in the small gaps) but you know what I mean. Advice to young people: go buy a small acreage in a beautiful country setting for a song, throw on a storage shed or two and accumulate free building materials. When you are 40-50, start building with them.