Dumpster diving can be a great way to both make and save some money. You save money when you find things you can use and you make money when you find things you can sell. Many things that are thrown away are usable. In my time I’ve found a working treadmill, tons of toys, a dumbbell set, plenty of books, a lamp, a working vacuum cleaner, and many other things. Some of these I’ve kept for myself and others I’ve cleaned up, refurbished, and sold, either at a yard sale or through eBay/Craigslist.
“Dumpster diving” doesn’t always mean literally crawling through a dumpster, so don’t think you have to don hip waders and climb into the dumpster to benefit from the discards of others. I think the term can be applied to any sort of garbage scrounging. Maybe it should be called, “Trash Trawling.” If you find something on the curb on trash day, that’s a form of dumpster diving. If you go to the local dump and find something usable lying off to the side, that’s also a form of dumpster diving.
The best place to find usable items is a college campus near the end of the school year. Many kids don’t want to move their stuff home and can’t be bothered to sell it or recycle it, so they toss it. You can score books, computer equipment, CD’s/DVD’s, clothes in great condition, desks/chairs, refrigerators, and microwaves. The second best place to look is in office complexes. Here you can find office supplies, computer equipment, telephones, and office furniture. Other good places to look include malls/retail complexes, apartment complexes, schools, or hotels. Some people go beyond looking for objects and look for food. They trawl the dumpsters behind grocery stores and restaurants looking for food that is still good, but which has been discarded because newer stock has come in or because the “sell by” date is approaching.
When choosing which items to take, avoid anything “soft” that cannot be easily cleaned. Things like sofas, mattresses, or upholstered chairs may look like they’re in great condition, but it’s difficult to detect the presence of pests like fleas, bedbugs, or mites. Since these things can’t be easily cleaned, they’re best left behind. However, clothes can be cleaned so if they aren’t too stained or damaged, you may want to take those.
Once you’ve gathered your items, you have to decide whether to keep them for yourself or sell them. If you decide to sell them, first clean them up and make any needed repairs. Fully functioning, clean items command higher prices than damaged junk. You can sell at yard sales, through classifieds, or through online sites like eBay or Craigslist. You may also be able to use your finds to trade for something you need on a site like Freecycle. If you’ve collected metals like cans or old appliances you can take them to a metal recycler for money.
If you do decide to dumpster dive, make sure that it isn’t prohibited either by the property owner or by the municipality. You don’t want your money saving excursion to land you in jail. If trash scrounging is legal, just make sure you protect yourself and be careful. Wear gloves and protective clothing. Work in well lit conditions or carry a good light so you can see what you’re picking up and where you’re stepping. Don’t go alone. You don’t want to get stuck or hurt in a dumpster without someone there to help you out.