By Liana Jacob
MEET THE frugal mum-of-four who feeds her family meals made up of ingredients she finds in BINS and saves £240 a month and says that her kids LOVE her hobby of dumpster-diving.
Homemaker, Stacey Cole (33) from Utah, USA, was brought up in a tight knit family who lived a very frugal lifestyle. She remembers re-using items discarded as a child with her father and fell in love with frugal living.
As an adult she picked up this habit but her first husband wasn’t too keen on her lifestyle which caused a rift between them. However, she has since remarried to another man, Danny (35), who embraces her hobby. Since April 2019 she has been diving into bins, collecting many ‘useful’ things that people have discarded.
Her children, River (12), Molly (10), Thomas (8) and Wesley (6), all love the candy she finds during her nights spent dumpster-diving. She has since saved anywhere from £40-£240 ($50-$300) a month on household items.
“I grew up in Pennsylvania in a large, close knit family; we lived a very frugal lifestyle. We didn’t waste anything and sometimes we barely made ends meet,” Stacey said.
“But my parents worked hard for everything they had and that made it more valuable and precious. My parents were experts at taking what others discarded and using it to create a beautiful, full life for all of us.
“As an adult with my own family I did the same; it felt wrong to do anything differently than what I was taught. Wasteful, entitled mindsets always confused me. People threw away hours of their labour by simply having a disconnect from the fact things equal money.
“I was married to a man who didn’t really understand this mindset, so we had issues with those differences. But I am divorced now and remarried to a man that is one hundred per cent my teammate and celebrates those things with me.
“We are extremely frugal and don’t have any shame in picking through rubbish to get good, useful stuff to enrich our lives.
“We also sell some things to have some ‘fun money’ (for eating out, activities, entertainment, etc); this is a crucial supplemental income. It varies a lot, but we seem to have enough for a little fun each month.
“Being frugal is really the only hobby I have, aside from working out and I’m just fine with that. I would not buy the things I find, more often than not.
“As far as usable items I find, I would wager I save us at least fifty to three hundred dollars a month on things we need, such as a new vacuum or dish soap and toilet paper.”
She has also sold numerous items she found in bins online including soap, toothpaste, decorations, party supplies, clothing and toys.
“I’ve sold things at yard sales; I sell items on a website called KSL. I give items away we don’t use but someone else could use. I give items as gifts for many occasions,” Stacey said.
“I give items to friends and family who could use them and even have some request I look for specific things.
“We use household goods every day found in dumpsters; I find boxes and bags and totes that are used to organise these items and give them away. I’ve donated a lot to goodwill and a local food bank.
“It’s a very fulfilling hobby so I feel amazing contributing in this way to our family’s wellbeing and finances.
“I take the edge off my husband’s stress behind providing for us. I am happier and my kids and hubby love it.
“I get a rush every time I go and every time I give something away or sell something; it has changed my life for the better for sure.
“I clean it all and throw out anything that seems contaminated. But most of what I bring home we eat; the kids love that we have candy in the house. I’m not willing to buy that stuff.
“They think it’s pretty awesome and ask every meal if something’s come from a dumpster. I haven’t managed too many meals with food from dumpsters because most grocery type stores have trash compactors so you can’t dive there.”
Stacey says that the process of dumpster-diving has been a challenge sometimes due to having to go at night to avoid run-ins with workers outside supermarkets, but she loves it.
“I go at night to avoid running into anyone working there (when they’re closed). I park where I am allowed to park and not in ‘employee only’ parking,” she said.
“I also close the doors, if there are any around the dumpsters, so people can’t just see me diving. It’s just better to avoid all that so they don’t lock a dumpster that I love to dive in.
“Everyone knows me for my frugality; they usually have to hear about my finds on some level if they are family or friends. I think most of them don’t mind.
“I don’t think my family understand it entirely; my mum and dad do the most because they’ve been doing similar things all their lives. I’m sure diving at businesses for food creep people out.
“I hope to convey that a simple, frugal way of living is just as rewarding, or more so, than ‘having it all’. I save tons of money each month to put toward more important things and I live a crazy rich life.
“I help people in need, and I help reduce waste; I want people to see just how great life can be if you’re a little resourceful.”