Wondering how to save money while still giving meaningful holiday presents to those you love? Good news: the sharing economy can help.
I often feel very conflicted during the holidays. On one hand, I LOVE giving gifts. Discovering a present that I know will light up the eyes of a friend or family member is intoxicating to me. On the other hand, I realize how consumerism has absolutely ruined the true meaning of the holidays, and hate participating in the spending frenzy.
The rapidly growing sharing economy emphasizes access over ownership, placing more emphasis on positive experiences and relationships, rather than the acquisition of things that will eventually end up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. Companies that facilitate this kind of collaborative consumption have been popping up left and right over the past few years. These services, most of which can be accessed online, make it easy to give gifts that will help grow the sharing economy, in addition to delivering affordable, eco-friendly experiences for those you love.
How To Save Money and Support The Sharing Economy During The Holidays
1. Give mobility – The number of bike and car sharing programs has exploded, both in the U.S. and around the world. Companies like B-Cycle, CitiBike, Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare, Car2Go and others make it possible to access energy-efficient vehicles on a short-term basis: gas, insurance, and parking included! (Also see Top 5 Cities in the World for Bike Sharing.)
2. Give toys – But not in the traditional sense. There’s nothing cheery about big box stores this year, so keep your money in your pocket. Instead, why not host a used toy exchange? Call up around a dozen people who have kids, and probably some gently used toys they’d like to get rid of (make sure a good range of age groups are represented). Then, choose a spot where everyone can come and show what they’ve got to share. Employ a bring one, take one policy. Everyone goes home with something new, and if there are leftovers, donate them to a local charity or thrift store.
3. Shop on yerdle – Touting the motto that “sharing is the new shopping” this beautiful iPhone app makes it incredibly easy to score awesome stuff (even electronics and jewelry) from people in your community. Everything will be new to you, and it’s all FREE!
4. Throw a feast. Giving gifts to immediate family is one thing, but when you start adding friends, coworkers, and the paper boy to the list, it starts to get out of control. Save money by gathering a group together for a shared meal instead. Instead of gifts, ask each friend to bring their favorite potluck dish, along with a few copies of the recipe. Everyone leaves with a full belly and a new dish for the recipe box.
5. Give experiences – If you’ve got adventurous friends who love to travel, or enjoy the occasional staycation, services like Vayable are a great way to deliver an unforgettable experience. Book your friend on a Midnight Street Food Crawl in NYC or forage for seafood in San Francisco. (Also see Seven Experiences to Give.)
6. Subscribe away – Instead of giving just one gift, that will eventually become broken or boring, why not give an entire year of gifts? Check out Pleygo (a Netflix-like service that delivers new LEGO kits each month), GetArtUp and Artsicle (pay a subscription fee to get new paintings for your home each month, many from local artists!), or local CSAs (community supported agriculture projects) and food co-ops. Just sign your friends up, and see the joy on their faces when the first installment arrives.
Related on Ecosalon:
4 Ways the Sharing Economy Can Save You Money
3 Ways the Sharing Economy Builds Strong Communities
3 Ways to Share Your Way to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle
Images: seanmcgrath, jonathanmcintosh