Sharing is Saving

Borrow, barter, and share your way to savings.

In kindergarten, we learned that sharing means caring—but did you know that sharing can mean saving money, too? There’s even a catchy new term for it—collaborative consumption. The trend is based on the idea that sometimes we simply need access to goods, but we don’t necessarily need to own them. That’s where this new sharing economy comes in—and people are sharing everything from tools to cars to homes to services.

The Shift to Sharing

Proponents of collaborative consumption say that it’s better for the planet, our wallets, and our communities. When we share, we not only save money, we save resources and build relationships.

As the economy shifts and we become more aware of our limited resources, sharing simply makes sense. Do you need to run out to the nearest big box store and buy a ladder that you’re only going to use for a couple of hours or could you borrow from a neighbor?

Finding Ways to Share

Countless websites are popping up that are devoted to facilitating sharing, renting, and borrowing. People are saving money by shifting their idea of necessity versus luxury. Of course, there are some items that you need to own, but there are many items that you’d do better to borrow or share. Some common areas of sharing include:

  • Tools: Face it—unless you work in the carpentry or construction business, you probably don’t need a full arsenal of tools; however, there may be that one occasion when you need a chain saw or power drill. Many communities have “tool libraries” where you can borrow tools. Sometimes groups of neighbors will create a list indicating who has a staple gun, a hedge trimmer, and so on. Or you can visit one of the many sharing websites to search for the tool you need. In short, unless you see yourself using that chain saw on a regular basis, it doesn’t make sense to buy it.
  • Cars: Car sharing programs, such as Zipcar, are becoming all the rage, especially for people who live in cities with excellent public transportation options. If you only need occasional access to a vehicle, car sharing is the way to go. Just think of all the money saved in gas, insurance, maintenance, and registration.
  • Rides: With gas prices climbing, carpooling programs are gaining popularity. Several websites offer opportunities for drivers and riders to connect, whether for a regular commute or an occasional ride.
  • Lodging: Travel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg in lodging costs, especially if you get creative. Many people are resorting to home swaps, couchsurfing.org, or AirBnB.com.
  • Time: Time banks are making a comeback. A time bank is a system whereby every hour you spend providing a service earns you an hour of service in return, not necessarily from the same person. You might spend an hour mowing Bob’s lawn and then earn an hour of babysitting from Susie. To learn more, visit timebank.org
  • Babysitting: Most moms on a budget are familiar with the idea of a babysitting trade. Drop your kids at Sally’s house for two hours while you go to the bank and do your grocery shopping and then come back and watch Sally’s kids along with your own while Sally runs her errands. It’s a win for everyone—two moms get some free time while all the kids get to play together.
  • Just about anything: There is almost no limit to what you can share and how much you can save by doing it. Visit websites like sharesomesugar.com or NeighborGoods.net to learn how it’s done.
  • Shared needs: If you live on a cul-de-sac in a wintry climate, does every house need a snow blower or could you pool your money and buy one together? This way everyone gets access to the machine without having to spend a huge amount of money.

The bottom line—why buy when you can borrow? Take a lesson from the kindergarteners and get busy sharing. You’ll save money, meet your neighbors, and probably find yourself making a game out of how much you can share and how little you can buy.