How to Set Up a Tool Sharing Database

I’ve talked about sharing tools communally to reduce the cost of home improvements before. The hardest part of tool sharing is knowing which of your neighbors owns which tools. If you’d like to save money on tools and give others in your area the benefit of the tools you own but rarely use, you can easily set up a tool sharing database with just a few clicks. It’s easy to maintain and simple to share.

Broach Your Neighbors about Tool Sharing
You could visit them one-by-one, introduce the topic at a block meeting, or discuss it with them at various neighborhood barbecues and parties. You only need one other person to start sharing. Once others get wind of what you’re doing, they’ll want to participate.

Inventory Your Tools
Go into your garage, tool shed, etc. and create a list of all the tools you own that you’d be willing to share. Ideally, you should share the tools you use infrequently and can live without for a couple of weeks. Don’t list your only hammer or screwdriver. If the tool is difficult to use or very expensive to replace, you might not want to share it at first, but you might be able to add it to your list later.

Establish Borrowing Guidelines
Of course, tool sharing could lead to problems. What do you do if someone breaks someone else’s tool? What happens if they don’t return it? Before you start borrowing, everyone should agree to basic rules:

  • He who breaks it replaces or fixes it.
  • He who borrows it returns it within the agreed upon time.
  • He who borrows it may not lend it to anyone else.

Create a Google Spreadsheet
Go to Google Docs and create a new spreadsheet. If you don’t have a Google account, they’re free and easy to set-up. Everyone you’re sharing tools with will also need a Google account so you can grant them access to the database. All you have to do is add their Gmail address to the list of collaborators and they’ll be able to edit the document, too.

Enter Your Data
Start by entering your name, tool, phone number, and email address into the database. Include your name and contact info with each tool. Also add columns for “borrowed by” and “borrowed date.” That way you can track who borrowed a tool and how long it’s been out. Once it’s returned, just delete the data from those fields. The other alternative is to add a “returned on” field. When it’s reborrowed, delete that field and fill in the first two fields with new information.

Invite Others
Ask your tool sharing partners to add their data to the document. Everyone stores their tools at their homes and then contacts each other directly to borrow them. Your only involvement is in creating the list. Borrowers and lenders police their own activities, and if there’s a problem, they deal with it.

Start Borrowing Tools
The next time you need a specialized tool, go to the database first. If your neighbor already has it on the list, it will be much cheaper to borrow it than to rent or buy it. Take care of borrowed tools as you would your own and be sure to return them as soon as you’re done. If the project takes longer than expected, ask if you can keep it longer.

Sharing tools with your neighbors isn’t just a great way to save money, it will also help you get to know your neighbors. You might discover new projects to improve your home, or be able to learn a new skill. You might even be able to recruit some of those neighbors to help you with your home

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