Recently I saved $600 by making my own slipcovers. However, I needed to borrow a sewing machine in order to do that. That got me to thinking – what other ways could people save money by sharing community resources? Here are a few areas where I think people could start sharing resources.
Although it would be difficult to share frequently-used tools among more than a couple people, other tools are used less frequently and can be more easily shared. Let’s say you live in an area where lawns need to be aerated annually. You and your neighbors could pay a service to do it every year, buy your own aerator, or pool your resources to buy the tool together. Then you could set up a schedule to rotate it between you. That way no one would pay the full price of the tool, and no one would bear the repeated cost of paying a service. The same thing can be done with other tools like specialized drills, snow blowers, band saws, and belt sanders.
If you don’t want to pool your resources to buy one tool together, you could also agree to buy a set of tools. Each person would pay for and own one tool with the agreement that everyone could borrow everyone else’s tools. For example, you could buy a band saw, and then borrow a belt sander from a neighbor when you needed it.
If you and your neighbors have vegetable gardens or fruit trees, you can all cut your grocery bills by sharing the bounty. You’ll also save the cost and labor of growing a wide variety of those items yourself. Instead, focus on nurturing a few trees or vegetables. My family grew peaches and apricots. Our neighbors had cherries, tomatoes, and other produce. At the peak of the harvest, we would swap large bags full of fresh fruit and veggies.
If you choose to can the food, you could also buy a good set of canning tools to share between you, or even hold canning parties. My family canned much of our fruit. We gave some of it to neighbors, who returned the favor with their canned goods.
Many women own sewing machines, so you can probably find someone to borrow one from if you don’t have one. In return for borrowing my friend’s machine, I gave her a piece of cooking equipment I couldn’t use and made her a couple of produce bags with the machine. There are also specialized sewing or crafting machines people don’t use on a regular basis that can be shared by a group.
This one is a difficult for individuals, but it is being done successfully by Zipcar. http://www.zipcar.com/ Members pay a membership fee and an hourly or daily rental fee and in exchange can pick up a car when they need it and return in when they’re done. They don’t pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, or storage.
Using Craigslist to “Share Tools”
If you don’t live in an area where sharing between neighbors and friends is reasonable, Craigslist is one way to find low-cost “shared” resources. My best friend’s dad is remodeling the bathroom and bought a tile cutter on Craigslist. When he was done, he re-sold it on to another man remodeling his bathroom. This same tool had been bought and resold numerous times already, each time reducing in price about $5. Although it wasn’t strictly a community resource, it did keep the same tool in rotation and saved everyone the expense of buying one brand new. It was more like a very cheap rental.
The best to way develop a sharing network is to meet your neighbors or find out what sorts of things your friends own. If you have a project in mind, ask around. You just might find that someone already owns something you need to borrow. Once you’ve gotten used to sharing, suggest pooling your resources. What starts as a one-time thing could become a neighborhood practice.