I know people who have remodeled their kitchens with very nice appliances that they got for free or a couple hundred dollars on craigslist. This morning, I am picking up 18 free canning jars in the town next door, from a posting I put on freecycle. I am hoping to get more this season, but it is a good start. So far my husband's uncles gave me 12 1/2 gallon jars and 12 quart jars, and now I'll have 18 pints. Canning jars run 1-3 dollars apiece retail, so so far I've saved around $65.
Two of my favorite weekends every year come once in Spring, and once in the fall: they are the weekends before bulk pickup week in a ritzy town nearby, when every one cleans out their attics, barns, closets and such and put things out in neat little piles on the side of the quiet country roads.
In past years we have gotten brand new wrought iron garden benches, nice antique chairs, feeders for our chickens, slides and gyms for our son for outside, fencing of all kinds, brand new windows, lights, shelves, tables, tricycles and bicycles, a new push reel mower, purple marten house, and oh, too many things to even list here. This year I'll be looking for nice fencing (iron would be great) and more canning jars. A small freezer would be nice, too.
The key, I've found, is to have a clear idea of what you want, and an expectation to find it. Every year we get the exact things we are looking for, plus a whole lot more. The year I wanted a purple marten house, I actually found it on the last road I went on, and as I drove down the road I was singing "purple marten house, purple marten house" as I approached each house. And then as I neared the fourth (and second to last) house I said, "here, it's going to be here!", only - 70% believing, and when I got out and looked behind the huge pile of carpets and junk they had out, there it was, a huge one, lying down on the ground, in great condition. Not a beautiful wooden one as I'd hoped for, but a very nice large metal one that would be easier to clean out each season. Last year, I got a greenhouse that is a clearly a bit um, aged but with some paint will be beautiful. I looked it up on the internet last night, and brand new it would have cost be $749 plus shipping. Not bad!
"Freecycling Weekend" as we like to call "bulk pick up weekend" is really fun, lots of other people are out looking at the piles by the road, and the previous owners leave signs on things like TVs and Ovens to let you know if they work or not, or even what they need to be fixed. It's recycling at its best, because this stuff is headed straight for the town transfer station, and then the dump.
So, don't be afraid to look, and to ask, for what you'd like. It's out there, just waiting for someone to love it.