I rarely buy office gear at full price, thanks to sites like Dealnews. But when I'm feeling particularly miserly--and that's part of running a business, right?--nothing beats free. Your selection and quality can plummet when you spend nothing, but here's how to walk away with great finds.
Freecycle sets the standard for quality, free goods. Think of it as a Craigslist free section, but with a slightly higher bar of entry. I had to join a Yahoo Groups mailing list first, but I soon had access to local giveaways. You might find old computer hardware, but your best small business bets are to keep an eye out for office furniture, microwaves, and other items that seem to normally cost more than they're worth. Then, when you're finished with some of your hardware, post it back on the list to complete the cycle.
You can also find a lot of free deals online. I like the forum-driven free section of Fat Wallet best, although Totally Free Stuff and FreeStuff.com occasionally post items of interest. Track your free deals from an RSS reader, instead of bouncing back to the website all the time. Fat Wallet, Totally Free Stuff and FreeStuff.com all support that feature.
Scrutinize these online deals a little further; you're not going to get a free, new laptop, for example, and those promo listings can crop up. Instead, you'll likely get the most value from these free sites by passing details through your office. You might get free magazine subscriptions for the reception area. Or for example, Michigan residents can get a free Arby's sandwich today, the office could stop for free ice cream at Frendly's on June 6, or you could download free Coldplay songs now.
Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor living in San Francisco.