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A bookcase, a rocking chair, a Dell computer monitor, infant formula, kids clothes, gift bags, a bathroom sink -- these are just a few of the things people were giving away for free recently on our local branch of the Freecycle Network. See something you could use? The Freecycle Network is a potential gold mine for frugal consumers seeking free stuff online.

What The Freecycle Network Is.

The Freecycle Network connects people who want to give away and acquire free stuff online with the stated goal of keeping it out of landfills. This all happens locally. What started as one small email group in Arizona in 2003 has grown into 5,061 groups and more than 9 million total members throughout the country and the world. The nonprofit organization is run by volunteers.

How The Freecycle Network Works.

Start by visiting to search for your location and request to join the group that covers your area. Each Freecycle Network group has a volunteer moderator who approves membership and oversees the group. Once you're approved (which doesn't take long -- a few days at most) you'll start receiving daily emails from the group with the offerings (sometimes multiple emails if there is a lot of activity). Be sure to respond quickly if you see something you want. Members arrange pickup of free stuff online in the same way they would on Craigslist. The rules:

  • Be nice
  • No pornography
  • No alcohol
  • No tobacco
  • No drugs (of any kind, including medicines, vitamins, creams, etc.)
  • No weapons
  • No politics, spam or personal attacks
  • No trading
  • No dating ads

How You Can Use The Freecycle Network.

Before you go out and buy the things you need, check with your local Freecycle Network and see if you can find free stuff online. You never know when someone may be getting rid of the exact item you want. You could find enough furniture to set up a college apartment, enough maternity clothes to get you through a pregnancy, or enough leftover craft supplies to stock a kindergarten classroom without spending a dime. You can also contribute to the group by posting any items you're willing to give away. The Freecycle Network even permits "wanted" posts from members seeking specific free stuff online (within reason). For example, a beginning sewer may want to post a message asking for fabric scraps.

A Word of Warning.

Again, like Craigslist, the Freecycle Network relies on individuals to exchange goods, which generally requires members to meet strangers and/or give out personal information such as their address, email, and phone number. While most members seem to have good intentions, it's wise to use caution. Arrange to meet people in public places to exchange goods and bring someone with you. Freecycle suggests one way to avoid a person-to-person meeting: Members leave items on the front porch without letting the receiver know if they're home or not.

Do you use the Freecycle Network? If so, what is the best thing you've gotten from it?

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