What do designer dresses and affordable college textbooks have in common? They’re both a part of the sharing economy. But, what is that, exactly? The term sharing economy (also known as the collaborative or peer-to-peer economy) is a socio-economic system that’s built around us sharing things with each other—think labor, physical goods, and services. Instead of having individual ownership to something (like that designer dress you might only wear once), you’d simply have access to it, and you share that access with a community of others.
The sharing economy really took off with the advent of eBay and Craigslist, and with the onset of apps and an increasingly connected society, it’s now become a way of life. Things that are cost prohibitive, like owning a car, are now accessible to those who only want to pay per use.
I am an avid user of the sharing economy because I like not being burdened with the prospect of ownership. Instead, I pay for things when I need them. I’ve found that I buy less and spend less, but don’t sacrifice quality. There are a lot of handy services you can use to make your life easier (and better!).
… If you’re a student:
I’m no longer a student, but if I was, Chegg.com would be a godsend. Instead of buying expensive textbooks, you can simply rent them through this website for a fraction of the cost. (They advertise that you can save up to 80%.) There are a plethora of books for every subject, and you can search for texts by author’s name, title, or ISBN number.
… If you’re going on vacation:
I started using Airbnb in 2012 and haven’t booked a hotel room since. This service allows people to list their homes and/or private or shared rooms for guests to stay one night and longer. If you’re looking for a unique experience when you travel or want to stay in a specific location, Airbnb is perfect. To ensure everyone is safe and happy, the company will verify you’re a real person through Facebook and encourages users to leave honest reviews.
Figuring out what to do with your furry friend is a concern when you’re planning a vacation. Boarding at a vet is often expensive, which is where DogVacay comes in—it’s like an Airbnb for canines. People in your area host your dog in their home for varying rates (the base rate is $25/night). Feel uneasy about leaving your pet with a relative stranger? Aside from photos and reviews on each dog sitter, DogVacay ensures that you’ll receive daily photo updates on your pup. Your dog is also covered with free pet insurance, 24/7 concierge service, and emergency support.
...If you want a killer wardrobe
Rent the Runway is great for those who have Dom Perignon tastes on a Two Buck Chuck budget. With this service, you can rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of what’d they retail for in stores. Big names like Marc Jacobs, Badgley Mischka, Missoni, and more are all available to borrow for 4-8 days at a time. Prices for dresses generally start around $30 and go up to $500, and there’s a ton to choose from. I’ve used it for weddings, fancy dates, and even casual outings—there’s something for every occasion. And, don’t worry—Rent the Runway has an in-house dry cleaner, so if you happen to stain the dress, the $5 insurance fee will probably cover it.
TIP: If you think you’ll rent more than two dresses in a calendar year, spring for the Pro Membership. It’s $29, but you get free shipping on all your orders (it’s normally $14 anyways) plus a free dress on your birthday!
So, maybe you don’t want to rent, but still want to pay discount prices and remain stylish. Poshmark has you covered. It’s a community of style-minded people whose closets you can shop for new-to-you pieces. Likewise, you can sell your clothes, and they provide a pre-paid, pre-addressed label. There’s no hassle in looking great.
...If you want to get rid of your car
I sold my car several months ago and it feels great. Zipcar is a carsharing service that’s an alternative to conventional vehicle ownership. Users pay a yearly fee and can rent a variety of cars by the hour. They aren’t clunkers, either - think newer Volkswagens, Toyotas, Mini Coopers, and even BMW! The cost covers insurance and gas, so all you have to worry about is getting from point A to point B. Zipcar locations are peppered throughout a city so they’re convenient to pick up and drop off.
Looking for an alternative to the yellow cab? Then say hello to Uber and Lyft. These ridesharing services offer anyone with a smartphone the chance to catch a ride for a price that’s competitive to cabs. Everything is controlled with their respective apps, like summoning a car and paying for it, too. You can track its location via GPS. And, best of all, there’s no awkward tipping involved once you’ve reach your destination.
TIP: Both companies use surge pricing. So, if the weather is bad, it’s late at night, or anytime demand exceeds supply, you could be paying three times the cost of a normal fare.