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Finding Economic Opportunites in Your Everyday Activities

Updated on January 31, 2013
I found these gently used Asics running shoes left on my recycle bin and sold them on eBay.
I found these gently used Asics running shoes left on my recycle bin and sold them on eBay.

In difficult economic times, it is obviously helpful to find ways to make or save money even if it is a small amount. I would not call myself a financial genius, nor would I call myself successful. I don't even know if I could call myself "barely making it". But we do the best we can in the moment. I have come to believe that, no matter what your income, it only makes sense to live frugally and to not bypass an opportunity to make or save money. So I offer this small bit of advice: Do not be too proud to pick up that penny on the street. For many pennies make many dollars.

I do not go to a gym because (no surprise) I cannot afford to. So I try to get some basic exercise by walking. That means walking city streets. And right now that means walking the streets of Los Angeles. I typically walk for about 30-40 minutes, which is a recommended daily amount. It is certainly better than doing nothing for the body. When I started walking in LA, I would often take the back alleys (daytime only) because it avoided the busy streets. The other reason is that it is a great way to find things. I discovered that people in LA love to dump things in the alleys. I mean some really good things! You can find furniture (some good, some bad), sometimes lumber. I have found plenty of spare change. Sometimes quarters, sometimes pesos! My neighbor left his working large-screen TV in the alley. I didn't take it myself because I had no room for it, plus they are extremely heavy and a pain to move by yourself. A local with a pickup truck came by and I helped him put it in the truck. He was very pleased with the find.

My other recent discovery is that someone with an unwanted subscription to The Wall Street Journal has been dumping the papers in the local shared recycle bin. And it's not yesterday's paper. It is today's paper! Hey, that's $2.00 per copy on the newsstand! I have picked up five or six current newspapers now, all clean and dry and still in a plastic wrapper. Don't know how long my luck will last.

My daily walk also takes me past the local library. Inside the lobby they often have free books which the local patrons have left. OK, I'll take some of those, please. Did you know that if you are selective and pick out the better books you can resell them online? Today I found two good trade paperbacks and listed them both on This is my website of choice for selling used books which I try to get for free. One was only selling for 75 cents, but the other had a minimum price of around five dollars! So now it is listed for sale in my book inventory.

So I get my exercise and make a few cents (sometimes dollars) while I am doing it. You can pay to go to a gym or get paid to do it my way. OK, so there is no fancy workout equipment or sweaty hard bodies to watch while taking my walk. But there are always trade-offs...

I encourage you to look for opportunities in your daily activities to make or save money. It can be fun and you will probably learn to observe your surroundings in a whole new way. In fact, most of the human population already lives like this -- they hunt, they gather, they scavenge. It is what keeps the resources churning. No, I am not ready to live in a house built out of found objects (though some people do). But I am always willing to bend down and pick up that penny or two.

Oh, and I found this excellent pair of lightly used Asics running shoes left on my recycle bin with the original box (see photo above). I listed them on eBay and they sold!



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