MAKE YOUR OWN SHARING ECONOMY
From Airbnb to Uber, the "sharing economy" is a hot topic. Although much of the attention is on networks of strangers renting residences and rides, there's more than one way to save money by sharing goods and services. Consumers can tap into neighborhood groups, family, and friends to reduce the costs of all kinds of products.
Successful collaborative consumption requires a clear understanding about the details of the arrangement. Where will the shared item be stored? Who's responsible for maintenance? What about insurance and liability? You may decide casual, over-the-fence conversations are enough, but sometimes a more detailed agreement makes sense. Simple contracts freely available online can help define the terms of the collaboration.
Cheapism rounded up a robust set of goods and services that can be shared for savings all around. The possibilities are endless, but this should help jumpstart your frugal imagination.
CELL PHONE PLAN
AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile all offer some sort of family sharing plan. The details of each plan vary so you'll have to read the fine print to determine what works best for you, but the savings can be substantial for as many as 10 people. Keep in mind, too, that T-Mobile and Sprint are merging, which may affect their offers.
STREAMING VIDEO SERVICE
Streaming is a hot topic in the sharing economy, and many streaming services make it easy to share accounts. Netflix allows users to maintain five individual profiles per account, perfect for sharing. HBO also allows sharing but puts a limit at three simultaneous streams.
Amazon Prime members can invite family members and unmarried partners to share their accounts. This makes it fairly easy to cut the annual cost of membership by half or better.
Time-shares are popular but if you don't want to go the official time-share route, you can set up your own share situation. Go in with several others and split the cost of a property, then set up a calendar of who uses it when. Be sure to decide ahead of time and draw up a legal contract regarding utilities, maintenance, and repair costs.
Members can bring up to two guests with them to shop at both Costco and Sam's Club, so one membership can cover more than one person. Guest shoppers at Costco must have the member pay for their purchases and then pay them back later. Likewise, only Sam’s Club members may purchase items there.
BULK GROCERIES AND SUPPLIES
Even without membership at a buying club, buying in bulk often saves money. But who needs all that toilet paper and tuna fish? Team up with a friend or relative to buy products by the case and split the products and the savings.
Fitness sessions aren't just one-on-one these days. Group training sessions, in which three or four people share the cost of a personal trainer, are becoming more common. This works best when you find several people that are at the same fitness level as yourself.
Many private music instructors offer shared lessons, which usually consist of one to three students at roughly the same musical level. The whole family or a group of neighborhood kids can learn guitar or piano while paying less per hour.
Like music lessons, language lessons can be shared. Being on the same level helps, which means beginners are all set. You'll also get a partner to practice with outside of class time.
If your neighbor has her pooch walked during the day, it doesn't hurt to ask if yours can join. Most dog walkers will walk several well-behaved dogs at a time, and adding an extra dog usually reduces the price per dog.
Do your neighbors have a fulltime nanny? Maybe they will let you drop your kids off for babysitting a few times a week. Or, if you have a monthly date night, invite another couple with kids and share the sitter fee.
If the storage unit you rent isn't full, partner up and let a friend use half. Or ask around the neighborhood to see who might want to go in on rented storage space.
Shared office spaces are cropping up in many cities. With basic office supplies, copiers, printers, and conference rooms typically included in the short-term rental cost, these arrangements are good for many small businesses and start-ups.
DISCOUNT WITH MINIMUM PURCHASE
Some stores give discounts once you buy a certain amount. For example, Old Navy might offer $50 off a $150 purchase. Try teaming up with a friend to get to that $150 level. You will both get what you want for less and avoid buying more than you need just to collect on the discount.
Maybe you don't need two of the same thing, but a store is offering a buy-one-get-one deal. Partner with a friend and split the price for a nice 50 percent discount.
An extension ladder is a big purchase and not something you will use often. If you split the cost and share it with someone it will get twice the use at half the cost. Just decide prior to the purchase who will be responsible for storing it.
Snow blowers are another big purchase that spends a lot of time sitting in the garage. If you have a few neighbors who need one, pitch in and share the cost. Arrange to rotate gas purchases as well as routine maintenance costs.
If you live in a neighborhood with open backyards, a shared swing set might make sense. A nice wooden swing set can cost many hundreds of dollars, so sharing the financial burden would help a lot. Of course you have to decide ahead of time where the swing set will reside and make sure that sharing the space is acceptable. A legal agreement defining liability would be prudent.
MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS
While publications aren't usually easy to share, one way to do so without worrying about the location of the product is to give one person the paper version and another digital access.
Angie's List, real estate sites, and many special interest groups are easy to share. Simply create an account and share the password with your partners.
Power tools often go unused for long periods. Purchasing one with a friend ensures you pay far less and it gets more use.
Sharing lawn-care tools such as lawn mowers and weed eaters is good way to reduce home maintenance costs. It's important to create a schedule and to define responsibility for gas and maintenance.
Much like a swing set, this works well in neighborhoods with lots of kids. You should first agree on where the hoop will be set up and make sure everyone has access.
If you want to stay in shape at home, ask a friend who has a similar interest to pitch in and buy some of the equipment. The sharing arrangement will save money and give you a workout buddy.
A party can be quite expensive once the cost of venue rental, entertainment, food, and beverages is factored in. Sharing the party with someone else can cut the cost substantially. Parties that are good for co-hosting include graduation celebrations and birthday bashes. When you do host, check out the dollar stores for essential party supplies.
Tubing is a fun summer sport and something that can easily be shared with a neighbor. If you live on a lake or near a river, share your tubing equipment and split the cost.
Unless you fish daily, sharing a fishing rod is pretty easy. Just make sure everyone gets fair time with it and you'll be set for a nice summer of good catches.
Have a friend who wears the same size? Since special occasions don't happen often, sharing formal dresses or suits makes financial sense.
Unless you travel on a regular basis for work, sharing luggage makes financial sense. Good quality suitcases can cost hundreds of dollars, so splitting the cost and the use is a win-win. Otherwise, pricey luggage is a big expense that collects dust instead of miles.