A sharing economy is a caring economy, and one that saves. Luckily, the web has made it possible for perfect strangers to share nearly everything, including clothes and cars. And with sharing comes tremendous financial benefits.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can share and split the cost.
Let’s face it—unless you’re a professional craftsman, odds are you aren’t going to need tools that often. Only occasionally will you need a socket wrench, a heavy-duty drill, or a pair of needle-nose pliers. I was surprised to learn that Seattle has multiple “lending libraries” exclusively for tools. In fact, lending libraries exist in 26 states.
How do they operate? Tool libraries receive donations from the community and in turn lend them to those in need. It’s free, easy and virtually the same as a traditional library.
Sprint brought the convenience of family plans to the mainstream with its “Framily” campaign in 2013. Though, they recently changed to the “Sprint Family Share Pack,” which awesomely offers four lines in one for $160 a month. The average person spends $71 on their monthly cellular bill, so this is significantly cost-effective.
There’s also the AT&T Mobile Share Value Plan which saves users $15 to $25, depending on gigabyte preference. At T-Mobile, a group can share six lines and pay only $120—which, for $20 each, is quite the steal.
If you have a group of friends or relatives (or even strangers) willing to share a plan with you, you can save hundreds each year.
It’s never wise to needlessly spend on luxuries when you can share them. The same goes for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and iTunes. Netflix unveiled its four-stream plan in 2013, permitting subscribers to play the same media simultaneously from different devices with the same account. So, that’s $3 each per month to access Netflix’s sprawling library.
And while it may be illegal to stream HBO Go from another device, that doesn’t usually stop people from doing it. There are many other streaming services aside from Netflix that let users share: Hulu Plus allows multiple-device support (though you can’t stream the same title simultaneously) and iTunes allows 10 devices/computers to access the same content at the same time.
Even Amazon Prime is available for multiple users, which begs the question: Why not share?
You’ve probably noticed a surge in the popularity of swapping living spaces, which yield great savings. Sites like HomeExchange.com, AirBnB.com, and Intervac have made it possible for people to rent out rooms (or entire homes) to travelers. My mother, for example, is an Airbnb.com fanatic, and she makes extra money on the weekends because she rents out her Santa Cruz home. She has been glowing about its ease and lucrativeness since she joined a few months ago. And she always has a new story when I see her.
Seniors are especially fond of home swapping, asserting it’s an ideal arrangement due to its cost-saving benefits as well as companionship. Reports of vandalism and theft—the two biggest concerns about home swapping—are exceedingly rare.
Considering the US housing crisis and exceptionally high costs of living these days, it makes sense to look into it as an alternative income stream.
Yes, clothes—really. The concept of gift economics plays a part in the niche market of clothing exchange. Sites such as thredUP and Freecycle represent the vanguard, offering the ability to sell and swap items via mail.
At thredUP, one can sell clothes for cash or shop discounted brands up to 90 percent off. You can also swap clothes. Its users regularly earn 80 percent of the selling price. If you didn’t think it could get any better than thrift shops, think again.
The Freecycle Network, a website composed of nearly 8 million members, goes by the philosophy that it’s better to recycle than to simply cast into a landfill. Although it’s slightly tougher to navigate than, say, Craigslist, a few clicks usually gets you free items you need. I was able to locate a person giving away five designer T-shirts in my area. If I actually wanted them, I’d immediately contact the seller and have a few new cool additions to my closet.
It seems a day doesn’t pass without a new ride-sharing service hitting the news. And why not? Gas prices are the highest they’ve ever been and insurance is a pain in the neck for almost everyone. According to AAA, the average person spends $9,641 a year for the privilege of driving.
If you’re fed up with the costs of driving, there’s an alternative: Cue Zipcar, one example of ride-sharing. After one small membership fee, Zipcar users can access thousands of cars around the world. You can use them only when you need them. Zipcar alone can save you hundreds a year because you will only drive when necessary.
Other car-sharing programs include WhipCar, Spride Share and RelayRides—all with the purpose of making transportation a lot cheaper.
So the next time you think about paying full-price without exhausting the option of potentially splitting the cost with another, you’re only stealing money from your own pocket. Sharing is caring, but it’s also fiscally wise.