I'm writing to you on a laptop which was completely and totally free for me. Now, a laptop is not a necessity in my life, so I wouldn't have paid for one at this moment. But a free laptop? I'll take that. I didn't even have to enter a contest.
The secret is: know someone who works in IT. Seriously. My brother, before he left on his epic bike adventure, worked in IT for a corporation. I mentioned that I wanted to get a laptop at some point and he said, "You know, we get rid of them somewhat frequently. I'll keep an eye out for you." So he did, and a few months later he delivered a laptop to me, wiped of the previous user's content and with freshly installed OS, browser, and security software. It's lovely.
Not that it's entirely without flaws. I can definitely understand why the company decided that it had run its course. There's a crack around the track pad, the screen is a bit wobbly, it has trouble connecting to the internet sometimes, and some of the keys don't always work perfectly. (Some problems in the keys didn't start until my cat decided to jump onto my laptoped lap, then freak out as he dug his claws into the keys and jumped away. My 'o' key was traumatized.) But for me, for what I needed, it's pretty perfect. I don't mind dealing with a few flaws.
Not all companies have a policy which allows this sort of thing, of course, but I think most companies which deal heavily with computers understand that if someone else can use that mouse, laptop, keyboard, monitor, or whatever, great. Go for it. It would just be getting recycled otherwise, so as long as there's no information left on it which could be harmful to either the employee or the company, take it. I know of several companies, at least, which have "free" shelves for computers and parts so that employees can take them.
My younger brother also works in IT. (I'm surrounded by computer-y people.) He got a job at a repair shop fixing broken (and sometimes "broken") computers. The other day they took in a MacBook Air from 2014 which someone had dropped off to be recycled. When they turned it on and messed around with it they discovered that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. The person who wanted it recycled just got a newer one and decided to ditch this one. As my mother would say, "someone with more money than brains". But, you might know someone like that, someone who gets the newest, "best" gadgets all the time and doesn't care about the old ones anymore. You too could score a free laptop just by asking, "What are you doing with your old one?" It's worth a shot.