smart spending

Consumers share in savings

NeighborGoods: For anyone who has ever wondered, "Does everyone on the block need to own a lawn mower?" NeighborGoods has the answer: No. And assuming those who do are willing to share, the site facilitates borrowing and lending at no charge. The owners of the lawn mower -- or whatever is lent -- can charge a deposit or rental if they want, however. Verifying your NeighborGoods account for $4.99 is optional, but yields access to more items, the company says. You can also create your own customized lending group -- for your building, block or whatever -- that NeighborGoods will host for as little as $6 per month.

Making a connection

For April O'Connell-Cole, a mom of two from Truckee, Calif., collaborative consumption has paid off big time. "My daughter's only 5 months old and she's already been through three sizes -- she's wearing an outfit only once or twice," she says. For that reason, she joined thredUP, a collaborative consumption site where moms swap children's clothing and toys. The "preloved" goods are $5 a box and you can actually browse online.

The cost savings has been helpful, O'Connell-Cole says. She's received 10 boxes of goodies and only had to pay about $30, thanks to money earned from boxes she sent out and referral bonuses. The convenience is also great, as she lives in a rural area without any children's clothing stores.

But especially meaningful are the bonds she has formed with other thredUp users. "It's a really good community of like-minded parents," O'Connell-Cole says. "That's probably my favorite part about it. People are willing to scour their houses (to help you)."

It's no wonder that collaborative consumption recently made a list of "10 ideas that will change the world" in Time magazine. "There's so much opportunity in this market," says Lauren Anderson, an Australia-based collaborative consumption consultant. "There's stuff around us all the time that we're not using to its full potential."

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