Save Thousands of Dollars with a Sharing Economy

Sharing economy. That sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Alas, it’s not. It’s the simple idea of sharing. It’s an age-old tradition that society would do well to reconsider, in my opinion.

Several people (hands) planting a tree in the ground together


Imagine, if you will, a suburban neighborhood. Every house on the block has a patch of lawn (or weeds) needing to be kept at a reasonable height, so every resident has a lawn mower to do the job. Each lawn mower comes out once every week—or every couple of weeks—during the summer months. When the lawn mower is not being used, it sits in the garage. What if, instead of each of us owning a lawnmower to the tune of hundreds of dollars a piece, we shared?

Makes sense, no?

Sharing items can save you money, reduce the environmental impacts of producing more than we really (truly) need, and free up some of your precious storage space. We’re seeing the sharing economy as a business model — Zipcar, Netflix, AirBnB — but the idea is something that can easily be incorporated to suit your specific needs. Call it a collaborative lifestyle.

Of course, there are things you wouldn’t want to share. You’re likely going to need your own broom daily. You probably don’t want to share your favorite cast iron pan. If you do a lot of building projects, it might make sense to have your own power tools. But there are a lot of things out there that we own and maintain and store but use just a fraction of the time.

From bicycles to sewing machines, lawn mowers, and camping gear, sharing

Consider these for a community sharing economy:

  • Canning equipment
  • Camping gear
  • Camp trailer/RV
  • Lawn mower
  • Weed eater/trimmers
  • Dehydrator
  • Power tools
  • Tractor
  • Rototiller
  • Books & movies
  • Bicycle
  • Ski gear
  • Luggage
  • Paper shredder
  • Musical instruments
  • Sewing machine
  • Party supplies
  • Exercise equipment
  • Special occasion clothing
  • Utility trailer
  • Folding tables/chairs

There are so many things that could be shared among several people – or a neighborhood – with very little inconvenience to users, and so many ways to do it. Years ago, I joined with two other families to purchase a rototiller. We split the cost and took turns using it.

I’ve loaned out my canning equipment, my dehydrator, and (in another time and place) my heavy snow boots that I used only rarely. For many of my friends, I maintain a “What’s mine is yours” attitude. On the flip side, over the years I’ve borrowed things like a chop saw, a window washing tool, a giant cooking pot, and an extension ladder.

Probably the simplest way to get started with collaborative consumption and to encourage others to “share” is to let your friends know what you’ve got to offer.

Related: Essential Life Skills for Living a Good Life

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Related: Tool Sharing: From Community Exchange to the Tool Library

A sharing economy builds community

It just takes someone who will take the first step–unless you’re lucky enough to live in a community that already has a system for sharing set up!

If you live in a community that embraces a sharing economy, you might find yourself able to borrow garden or kitchen tools from a lending library, clothes from a clothing library, or books from an uber-local Little Free Library. (Great for residents who live some distance from a municipal library.)

Collaborative consumption as a community builder

Beyond the environmental impact and the cost savings of a sharing economy, though, think about the possibilities for community building.

Sure, there’s always going to be that one guy who doesn’t return things on time (or in one piece), but finding him and weeding him out is totally worth it in order to meet like-minded neighbors and create an ongoing sense of community that will extend beyond just sharing an item or two.

Excess veggies or eggs? Are you going to share those with complete strangers or people you’ve had the chance to meet? And when an emergency happens, knowing that your neighbors are keeping an eye out for you — or for that elderly neighbor who doesn’t get around so well — is golden.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

7 comments… add one
  • M Nicole Morrow Mar 25, 2016 @ 8:18

    We have been blessed with moving to a new community where our neighbors all around us are all generous and kind. We all look out for each other, not in a nosey who is doing what sense, but by sharing knowledge, extra gardening supplies and plants, harvests, eggs from ouchickens, garden tillers, bulbs from splits of beautiful flowers and plants ect. We have become like family and know if we needed anything, or if there was an emergency we would, and have been there for each other.
    We were stiffed by a contractor we hired to build our fence, while the law was after him there was no way to recoup our money, materials or hire another company. Our neighbors chipped in physically to help finish it, along with the ones who gave us valuable knowledge on how to complete the project.
    I saw someone comment about communism…but it’s actually a huge freedom to be self reliant and be able to share those gifts with neighbors on your own free will. No one is telling you at you had to do anything…there’s a big difference.
    I am huge on conservation and bring my passion to the table here. My neighbors have stated composting, using less if any toxic chemicals, and recycling… There’s no harm in a friendly “did you know white vinegar kills weeds and won’t seep into the water systems?” Or offering for them to toss veggie and compostable scraps in your pile.

  • Melissa D. Oct 16, 2015 @ 6:16

    My sisters, cousins and I have this going with clothes for sure. Sometimes without knowing it. I’ve been to so many family gatherings where someone asks to borrow a sweatshirt only to get the one they loaned us a few months ago back. I also almost never have to buy my own nice clothes.

    Specialized crocheting and knitting equipment like looms could go on here. Also things like bread makers, and even children’s toys. When one kid outgrows them, pass them on to a neighbor until your next child is old enough to enjoy them.

    Sharing stationary equipment like swing sets, club houses, and basketball hoops also works is a great way to create a friendly neighborhood environment and a safe space for kids to spend time in. Sharing sports equipment (which can often be very expensive) can help your kids share common interests as well. If you have kids who are no longer playing on school teams, other kids and parents would appreciate getting to use equipment, the cost of which can often prevent kids from participating in team sports.

    A mini-fleet of neighborhood bicycles, skateboards and scooters (as well as helmets and safety equipment) would have a similar benefit. One person might take responsibility for storing the bikes, and other families might lend out theirs in exchange for freeing up space in their garages. It would be a great opportunity to teach kids the skills needed to maintain the bikes, maybe even fixing up broken bikes for the fleet.

  • Melissa Aug 1, 2015 @ 1:00

    I love this idea! The possibilities are truly endless 🙂

  • Paul Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:33

    Commune-ism. When everyone owns something no-one looks after it. Defused responsibility.

    • M Nicole Morrow Mar 25, 2016 @ 7:47

      If we don’t make an effort to save and repair the earth, there will be nothing left to be selfish over anyway, so why not try to save it anyway we can?

  • Super Mom - No Cape! Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:03

    There are many of the things on your list that I’d be more than willing to share except the sewing machine. I sew/quilt with mine almost daily and I’m pretty particular about who I allow to use my vintage beauty.

    And I’d be willing to share my regular water bath canning equipment but I’d have to know someone pretty well to trust them with our pressure canner.

    I guess that would be something to think about… you’d have to develop a level of trust with those you’re sharing with to know that proper care is taken of things.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 2, 2015 @ 8:18

      I think the list will vary from person to person, but interesting to think about, right?

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