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Just So You Know, I’m Not Above Digging Through the Garbage


It was a cool Saturday morning, one day after the fourth of July. I had been spending the long weekend with my family, and my parents and I were on the deck chatting about the central product when it comes to camping: firewood. I mentioned that my girlfriend and I often like to stoke up a fire late at night and listen to the Detroit Tigers on the radio. We listen, chat, and watch the fire – you know, like self-proclaimed pyros do. Then my mom says matter-of-factly, “Well you know they have free firewood at the dump, right?”

I looked at her in disbelief… “Really mom? So I’ve been spending $5 on each of these minuscule bundles of firewood when I could have just picked it out of the dump for free?”

Apparently so.

Instinctively, I looked at my dad and said, “Let’s go!” and we were on our way.

As we arrived I soon realized that I was in hardwood heaven. This is where all of the fallen trees are laid to rest (and I was going to grave dig them out of there!). Many of the pieces were just way too big, but I soon found 5 or 6 small logs that would do the trick. Free firewood? Check.

Let the Digging Continue

Being the frugal man that I am, I soon began to think about what else might be hiding here at the dump. Surely, there must be some more treasures awaiting my discovering eyes! As I scanned the heaps of junk (mattress, mattress, mattress, busted fencing, box spring, broken pallet racking, mattress…), there really wasn’t all that much that caught my eye. Who would have thought there would be actual junk at the junk yard?

But, not all was lost. There was a new load of trash that was dropped off when we were digging for firewood and I noticed a large piece of furniture that actually looked quite decent. It was a tall, solid wood dresser! One of the handles were missing and the color was dull, but this piece had my name written all over it. Before you could say, “Derek, stop digging throu…” it was loaded into my dad’s SUV. 🙂

20140712 - dresser
Not too shabby for a free dresser, right???

The Savings

I figure that the firewood alone would have cost me about $10, so that was pretty awesome. But a solid wood dresser does not come cheap! I have actually been looking for these tall, solid wood dressers for some time and could never find anything that was cheaper than $50. The nice refinished pieces were typically $150 or more. This one needed a little bit of work, but I would put it in the $90 category, which means that my one trip to the junk yard saved me $100! I am definitely not above digging through the trash to find my valuables.

The Actual Savings

You may have heard me harp on this before, but my savings of $100 was actually a little more than that. How much would I have had to earn at work to buy this firewood and the dresser? Nope, not $100. You’re forgetting about taxes. At a minimum, I would have to have earned $150 or so to net $100 after taxes in order to buy these items. Depending on what you earn per hour, that can be quite a few hours worth of work! Definitely worth the dig.

Would you dig through the dump to save money?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Congratulations Derek! I’ve not had the chance to go to the dump lately, but to me, yard sales are the next best spot to find good deals. Especially when folks are ready to close up the sale… they have already decided that they don’t want the stuff and are more than happy to make a deal.
    Many years ago in San Francisco we were on our way to Goodwill to buy a dresser and instead found a sturdy, but painted, dresser at a yard sale. The sellers were sitting outside sipping wine and were DELIGHTED to help us place the desk securely on the top of our car… and we gave them $20 (or was it $10?). I spent some time stripping the paint (7 layers!) and afterwards had a GORGEOUS dresser. I LOVE yard sales… It’s like treasure hunting!

    • Sounds like a good buy to me! Thanks for the awesome comment!

  2. Excellent use of the local dump. My dad is retired. He lives about 5 miles from a landfill that has a huge metal and wood collection area. He loves to bring a few bags of leaves and then “browse” the treasures. Over the years he has brought thousands of dollars worth of items out. It is sad what people throw away. Most of it gets crushed up and recycled. Which is ok, but the perfectly good items could be used or sold again. I said he should open up a second hand store named “Direct from the dump”. We laughed. Thanks for the story.

    • Hi Wade. Ha, yeah, I think I might turn into your dad someday. It is incredible what gets thrown away! Why not pick out the things that are still valuable to you? Thanks for the comment.

  3. Nice find Derek! Too, free firewood! See, your parents can still teach you a thing or, too! 😉

    I added that last bit because, I have grown children. He,he

    • Ha, yes, I have learned many of these frugal tactics from my parents. 😉 It only took me about 29 years to implement them too.

      • Oops! “…a thing or, two!”

  4. Not too shabby! Solid find right there, both literally and figuratively! 🙂

    • Thanks J Money! By the way, I heard your podcast with the Mad Fientist. Loved it. Keep on writing about those sexy budgets!

  5. Nice one Derek! My cousin picked woods to use for our firewood, our neighbor cut off their tree and we asked them if they would still use it.

    • Yeah, there is firewood everywhere! Almost everyone should be able to figure out how to get it for free!

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