Fueled by a rapid rise in collaborative consumption companies, the Sharing Economy has been hailed as “the next big thing” and one of “10 ideas that will change the world”. But what the heck is it, and why should we care? This is the first in a short series of posts that will explain why everyone’s so excited about sharing, and how it can save you money, time, and even rejuvenate your social life.
Every day, we waste energy, space, and money, because we’re obsessed with the idea of owning things. Most of these things see about 10 minutes of use before we move on to the next “must have” item. The things we do use on a daily basis are built to break, and when they do, we toss them in the trash on our way out the door to buy replacements.
In the sharing economy, access is more important than ownership. It’s not the CD we want, it’s the joy of listening to the music. It’s not the cordless drill we need, but the hole it makes. Collaborative consumption companies make it easy to pay a little bit to gain access to what we need without the high cost of buying it or the burden of maintaining it. The sharing economy focuses our attention on connection and collaboration, turning neighbors into a support system and wasted assets into affordable solutions.
There are two basic types of collaborative consumption: B2C (business-to-consumer) and P2P (peer-to-peer). B2C sharing services typically operate like a normal company, where you pay a fee to access a shared resource. P2P sharing services exist to help people share what they’ve got with each other. P2p sharing can take the form of renting, bartering, or swapping, but anyway you slice it, it’s by people for people.
Since we’re all watching our budgets these days, we decided to kick off the series with a selection of stellar sharing services that can save you money without sacrifice. If you’ve got a story about how the sharing economy has helped you save money, please share it in the comments!
Why buy new when your kids only grow out of it in six months? thredUP is a online P2P consignment store where you can find gently used, brand name clothing for a fraction of the price. reCrib does the same thing for gear, providing a marketplace where parents can list and purchase everything from baby swings to toys. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, gather up a few friends to share a nanny or host a baby food swap.
These days everyone’s got an idea for a start-up but no one has enough capital. Coworking spaces are communities where location-independent professionals gather to share expenses and talent. Most are highly social, a hotbed of collaboration, and offer printers, conference rooms, and lots of free coffee. Need to brush up on your HTML skills but don’t have the time or money for a college course? Skillshare lets you learn just about anything from anyone, MaestroMarket lets you pick the brain of industry experts, and crowdfunding platforms give you access to much needed dollars when the time is right.
You know how you love to borrow outfits from your best friend? Well now imagine you have thousands of best friends, all with big closets full of awesome clothes. Rent the Runway works directly with over 170 top designers so you can rent dresses, accessories, and more for just a fraction of the price. Bag Borrow or Steal uses the same concept, only with top brand handbags, jewelry, watches, and more. Looking for fashion you can keep? Attend a clothing swap or browse the P2P swapping site Swapstyle.com.
Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is life-changing, albeit a pricey adventure. Just like clothing swaps give you access to a community closet, travel sharing sites can give you access to the houses, guest beds, cars, and local knowledge of friendly people around the world.P2p lodging marketplaces like Airbnb let you rent a loft in New York, an artists’ pad in San Francisco, or a villa in Italy, all for a tiny fraction of what it would cost commercially. Once you’ve arrived, car sharing services like Zipcar, RelayRides, and Getaround can put you in touch with the perfect set of wheels, or if you prefer to keep it non-gassy, look for a local bike sharing program. Believe it or not, there are even sites designed to help people swap houses for the summer or for keeps!
Image: Phillip Taylor PT