Photo: Flickr / Ed Yourdon
You learned the importance of sharing back in kindergarten, but your teacher probably didn’t mention the benefit it could have on your piggy bank.By sharing products with others instead of buying them outright just for yourself, you can often save a significant amount of money in the long run.
You can do this in a variety of ways, from reserving a plot in a community garden to grow your own fruits and veggies to joining a car-sharing service if you only need an automobile for a few hours at a time.
It's a dilemma every budget-conscious traveller faces: You want to see the world, but can't always afford to pay high hotel fees. If you don't already have a friend who lives in the area you're visiting, one option is to join a 'home-sharing' service, which allows you to stay in the homes of other members for free or for a low membership fee.
HomeExchange offers more than 41,000 home-sharing listings in 144 countries, and you can take advantage of an unlimited number of exchanges for a membership fee of $9.95 per month. There are two types of exchanges: home and hospitality. Home exchangers trade their homes, condominiums or apartments at a time convenient for both parties (the Web site says that one exchanger traded his home for a 40-foot yacht, and another couple swapped their villa in Italy for an RV in Oregon because they had always wanted to tour the U.S. in true nomadic style). Hospitality exchangers, on the other hand, host each other in their homes at designated times. They stay with you as guests, then you go and stay with them as their guests.
Another home-sharing service is CouchSurfer, which has no membership fees and does not allow hosts to charge you to stay in their home. The service boasts millions of members in more than 230 countries and territories around the world, and does not require you to host someone first to be eligible to stay in someone else's home.
The concept of sharing books is nothing new (remember the local library?), but what is new is the fact that you can now share digital books rather than just those old paperbacks and hardcovers.
As we have reported, Amazon(AMZN) is allowing its Prime members who own a Kindle to borrow free e-books just as they would from a traditional library, and boasts a selection of more than 50,000 titles. To find eligible books, just bring up the Kindle Store on your device and select 'Kindle Owners' Lending Library' as the category. The title will display the option to either buy or borrow for free.
While it might make sense to rent a car for that family vacation or business trip, what if you only need a car for a few hours every so often? In that case, you might want to consider joining a car-sharing service such as Zipcar.
Zipcar provides you access to cars all over your city,usually in off-street parking spaces near where you work or live. Every member gets a Zipcard the shape and size of a credit card that unlocks the car. You can reserve cars by the hour or the day; fees vary by location and model of car. In New York City Zipcar has a $60 annual fee and a $25 application fee, and cars are generally $8.75 per hour Mondays through Thursdays and $13.50 per hour Fridays through Sundays. Gas and insurance are included, and you're entitled to 180 free miles a day.
Another way to share cars is by carpooling. If you don't have friends or family members who are interested, you can arrange carpools with other people in your area on Web sites such as Craigslist (click 'Rideshare' to view these types of listings) or eRideShare.com.
Want to save money on your grocery bill? Consider skipping the supermarket produce aisle and growing your own bounty.
If you live in an apartment complex or own a house without a backyard garden, you can do this by joining a community garden, which can be used to grow everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and herbs. These typically have low membership fees. Oftentimes members pay for a section of the garden that they are responsible for tending and get to keep what is grown on that plot. For instance, Seattle's P-Patch community garden program requires members to pay a $25 application fee plus $12 for each 100 square feet they'd like to garden, so a 10-foot by 10-foot garden would cost just $37 a year.
To find a community garden near where you live, you can visit the American Community Gardening Association Web site and type in your location.
Cars aren't the only mode of transportation you can share -- many cities around the country are also offering bike-share programs that let you save money, help the environment and stay in shape.
Denver B-cycle allows members to pick up a bike at any 'B-station' and return it to that same station or any other 'B-station' when they're done riding. Membership/access fees cost $8 per day, $20 for a week, $30 for 30 days or $80 for a year, and additional usage fees are applied if your rides exceed 30 minutes.
While an argument can be made for it being more cost effective to actually buy a bicycle if you bike often, participating in a bike-sharing service might make sense if you only need a bike once in a while, are visiting an area for a short amount of time or don't have room to store a bike in your home.
If you don't want to go out and buy a tool that you might need for that occasional home repair project, consider asking one of your neighbours if you can borrow it from them. If the neighbours you already know don't have the tool you need, the sharing site NeighborGoods might be able to help.
First, you'll have to create an account on the site. When you search for items you need, the Web site will bring up a list of members in your area who have that particular item, and will give you the option to email them to set up a time to borrow the item. You can also create postings to advertise stuff you own and are willing to share with other members.
While NeighborGoods allows you to find everything from electronics to baby carriages, it seems that a good number of posts have to do with tools. A quick search of tools in New York brought up listings on everything from wrenches, hammers and pliers to bike cable cutters.
Hiring a service to shovel your driveway each time it snows isn't realistic for those on a tight budget, but what if you don't have the time or energy to shovel your property yourself?
A snow blower is one option, but buying one yourself can be expensive (they typically cost hundreds of dollars, and some are priced at more than $1,000). A great solution is to co-own a snow blower with a neighbour or a group of neighbours.
The same concept can be applied to lawnmowers and other pieces of large equipment that you might only need occasionally
Although the government has done quite a bit of cracking down on music sharing, one company that still allows you to do it legally is the music-streaming service Spotify. Members of the service can simply copy the link of a playlist or track and drop it into an email or a social Web site such as Facebook or Twitter. All your friends have to do is click the link and Spotify will play the music.
Spotify comes in different versions -- the free version gives you unlimited streaming for the first six months, though it comes with ads and there are limitations on how much you can stream after six months. You can also opt for Spotify Unlimited for $4.99 per month, which does not include ads or time limits, or Spotify Premium for $9.99 per month, which is like Spotify Unlimited except you can also play music on your mobile phone and use the service when you're offline.
Parents need a little time away from the kids now and then, but hiring a baby sitter can get expensive. A great solution is to join a baby-sitting community where you can exchange services with other parents, so someone can watch your little ones when you are busy, and you can do the same for them.
One popular Web site that helps facilitate this is BabysitterExchange, which allows you to find a baby-sitting community to join or lets you create your own with trusted friends, family members or neighbours. The site gives groups an easy system to make sure everyone is doing their fair share: You spend tokens when other members sit for you, and you earn tokens when you sit for other members.
In addition to baby-sitting, you can also use the site to arrange pet-sitting, carpooling, tutoring, house-sitting and more.
Do you find yourself wanting to buy more clothes and accessories than you can afford?
A good solution is to share some articles of clothing and accessories with friends. You can either borrow clothes you each already have or pool money and buy a few key pieces.
Of course, when it comes to shirts, dresses and shoes, for instance, you'll want to make sure you're sharing with friends who are about the same size as you, though size doesn't usually matter for accessories such as bags, jewelry and scarves.
To keep track of who has what, consider creating a free wiki page that each person can access and update through a Web site such as wikispaces.com.