Whether you are shopping for garden plants, building supplies, or décor items, these thrifty tips can save money. It’s amazing what you can find at a great price with some time and effort.
I started my garden on a budget of $100 per year—barely enough to buy a decent amount of compost or seeds. Yet it worked! This has more smart but cheap ways to build your dream garden based on what I learned along the way.
Thrifty Shopping Tips
There are so many perfectly good used (or never used) items sitting in storage in garages, sheds, and basements just waiting for us to find them.
Whether you need plants, seeds, patio furniture, craft supplies, garden pots, or fencing—it’s possible to find just about anything without paying full retail price.
I grew up in a frugal family so this approach comes naturally to me. The basic idea is: assume everything you want is available—either free or at a great price—and you just have to find it.
It’s not just about saving money but better for the environment as well.
For plants, I grow from seed whenever possible or take cuttings. That, right there, saves a bundle, brings added happiness to the winter months, and provides more options than I’d ever find at plant nurseries.
For purchases, I follow the basic flow listed below.
The goal is always to get what you need at the best (fair) price while keeping it legal and ethical.
Enjoy the process and, as silly as it may sound, it really helps to make approach it like an adventure and be willing to adapt along the way.
Thrifty Shopping Tips
Ways to find cheap or free items for crafts, repurposing, & upcycling:
- Check Your Own Stuff
Got stuff in storage? Shop your own home first.
- Family & Friends
Let people know what you’re needing. Make it clear whether you are willing to pay for items.
- Online Ads & Groups
Don’t just watch the ads but place your own stating what you’re looking for.
- Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Kijiji, Community Groups
- Buy, Sell, Barter, Trade Groups
- Garden Club and Horticultural Society plant sales
- Auction Sales | In-person or online
- Yard Sales
- Thrift Shops & ReStores (used goods including building materials)
- Retail Stores
Use free phone apps like Reebee and Flipp to easily check sale flyers and price watch.
There are countless other save-when-you-shop-through-us apps and incentive programs as well.
Off-season or end-of-season sales are always worth checking as well.
Online / Mail Order
Depending on the deal, it may be worthwhile to pay the shipping.
How It Works
Getting items for a fair deal—or great deal—is all about some combination of creativity, luck—or good timing, resourcefulness, determination (often called “stubbornness” by others), community, and relationships.
Start with some basic research to determine what a fair (or better) price would be. From there, it’s time to find this thing!
The best place to start is always in your own home. Do you already own what you’re wanting?
Get your house in order if for no other reason so you know what you have. This may seem like a tangent but will help in the long run.
There is nothing like a whole house decluttering for a fresh start. It’s a great way to take inventory, find stuff to sell or donate, and, perhaps, realize the last thing we need is more stuff.
Friends & Family
The next best place is to check with friends and family. Let them know what you’re needing. Sometimes people are just happy to see the item get a good home, other times they may want payment or something in exchange.
These days we’re also lucky to have all sorts of online resources where we can formally and informally buy, sell, trade, or barter for goods or services. Facebook is one place to start. As always, be wary of scams.
Join groups you trust and be generous and helpful and enjoy the same from others.
Thrift Shops & Second Hand Stores
Thrift shops, second-hand stores, Restores (run by Habitat for Humanity), and other places that sell used or donated goods are always an option as well. It’s often worth telling the shop manager what you’re after in case they have a lead.
I also monitor local auction sites that hold both online and in-person auctions.
If paying for shipping or postage still makes it reasonable, you are also likely to find what you want on sites like Etsy and Ebay.
The resources available where you are will vary—but you get the idea.
- Check your own stuff first.
- Let people know what you’re seeking.
- Keep a list in your phone for reference.
- Check local thrift shops, auctions, and yard sales.
- Consider trading or bartering where appropriate.
- Allow time for serendipity.
And don’t get so fixated on one idea that you overlook a better one.
I also highly recommend procrastination. Take your time. Play the long game. Don’t rush out and shop in the heat of passion. Give ideas time to brew to ensure they pass the test of time.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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