It sounds too good to be true — kitting out your home for free, with everything from Dyson vacuums to furniture, white goods and a new deck.
But that’s the reality for a tide of thrifty Australians turning to “free stuff” websites or grabbing a bargain from peer-to-peer trading platforms, in a swing against consumerism.
And January is proving a ripe time to go treasure hunting online, as people list unwanted Christmas presents, do holiday clean-outs and jump on the de-cluttering bandwagon made famous by clean queen Marie Kondo.
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In a prime example, Jean Pene furnished her family home for free using giveaway website Ziilch when moving to Melbourne two years ago.
“The goods were way better than any second-hand shop,” she said.
Another Ziilch member Sue, who scours the site daily, has picked up everything from a Dyson vacuum to a dressing table, cupboards, display units, a washing machine and an outdoor setting.
“It’s unbelievable what you can find on there, it’s meant a significant saving,” she said.
“My husband and I are each battling cancer, and the money saved means we can put it towards our two young children.”
As family budgets bite, used goods platforms such as Facebook Buy Swap and Sell groups, Facebook Pay it Forward pages, Gumtree and Freecycle are becoming increasingly popular.
Ziilch director Don Milne said the site had swelled to 80,000 members after starting in 2011, with hundreds of used items up for grabs daily in capital cities.
He suspected a recent spike in listings could be linked to the “buzz” around de-cluttering and the new Netflix show Tidying up with Marie Kondo.
“You can find anything on the site, someone even put a house on there once, but the catch was it had to be picked up and moved,” he said.
Tamara DiMattina, who created the Buy Nothing New Month campaign in 2010, has noticed consumer habits changing as people think more about waste and spending wisely.
She outfitted her entire home with second-hand items and now lives mortgage-free after the savings piled up, with some of her biggest bargains including a Thermomix from eBay for $600, a $12,000 mattress for $2000 (floor stock), and a $5000 Jardan couch for $800.
“For me it’s not just about saving as much money as possible, it’s about thoughtful consumption, and extending the life of existing goods,” she said.
“It’s about changing your attitude and being more resourceful. It’s good for us and the planet.”
Ms DiMattina said house-sitting, growing your own vegetables, using libraries, propagating plants and up-cycling furniture were other ways to cut costs.
Choice warns consumers that their rights under Australian Consumer Law may not apply when sourcing items off forums like Facebook.