In these tough financial times, I guess lots of people are looking for new ways to tighten their belts and save money. I think the trick is to find ways that save you cash without denting your lifestyle very much. No one likes the feeling that they’re deprived or being resentful that they have to do without. I discovered this unique way of saving money by swapping, sharing and hiring quite recently, when I needed a specific tool to complete one of my DIY jobs.
I was part-way through reconditioning an old piece of wood furniture and needed to rebuild one of the drawers. The original had been made with tongue and groove joints and I wanted to keep the piece authentic. Now, you can cut the joints out by hand but there is a nifty little tool that does it for you, saving heaps of time. I don’t have one so I started to research them.
We have a rule in our household; before you buy an item that you don’t usually buy, stop and ask yourself some questions. Do I really need it or do I just want to have it? How often will it be used? Is there a cheaper alternative to it? Do I have the cash for it? This process might not seem much fun but I tell you, it has saved us lots of money over the past couple of years.
Anyway, the end result of this story is that I discovered a friend at work has the tool I needed and I asked to borrow it for the weekend. He was happy to lend it as he said that it was just sitting gathering dust in his garage; he had bought it for a single project and never used it again. This got me thinking; how often do we buy something that could be borrowed or hired or swapped for something else? How much money could be saved by looking at these options before outlaying cold hard cash?
Asking around my friends, relatives and neighbors, I found that nearly everyone had at least one item they had bought for a specific task or occasion that had never been used or worn again. Like me, it had never occurred to them to find another way of getting it, other than going out and buying. Most of them thought it was a great idea to try and borrow or hire things that you don’t need very often.
As I continued to research this idea, I came across a neighborhood where the concept had been put into effect. A group of homeowners had formed a co-operative group that owned all the garden-care equipment and tools that a home gardener would need. Some of these had been owned by members of the group, others had been purchased out of the small levy that each household paid to maintain the tools properly. The idea was that if you wanted to trim your hedge on a certain weekend, you booked in the hedge trimmer, picked it up Saturday and returned it late Sunday in a clean condition. The same applied to the mowers, edgers, spades, hoes and all the other tools owned by the group. What a fabulous idea to promote a sense of community and save the purchase price of these tools, some of which can be fairly expensive.
Even if you don’t form a group like this, it’s still possible to increase your access to seldom-used items by asking around. Offer to share your tools with a few friends; ask if anyone you know would be interested in taking part in a sharing scheme; when you need a specific item, ask if anyone could lend you one.
So much for the sharing part of this idea; what about hiring? For that specific tool or piece of equipment you need for a single job, research the tool hire companies in your local area. Many people think that paying to use someone else’s equipment is wasted money but I now think about the wasted money sitting around all those garages and tool sheds. Why buy an expensive tool when you can hire it just once for a fraction of the cost; and you don’t have to store or maintain it either. The same could be said of buying an outfit for a specific function, if you know you will never wear it again; maybe hiring would be a cheaper option.
There are several people in our area who have established vegetable gardens and there is quite a range of different plants being grown. Just recently, I swapped a bunch of rhubarb with the lady next door for some of her delicious strawberries. I’ve also offered to swap rhubarb with the guy across the road who keeps backyard chickens, in exchange for some of his fresh eggs. I think this idea of swapping your excess with someone else’s produce is a great idea and I’m hoping to get more of the neighbors involved. Check out your friends, relatives, work colleagues and neighbors and find out if they have any excess produce that they would be willing to swap for some of yours. No money needs to change hands and you get something you don’t grow yourself.
I’m sure there are many other ways that you could think of to save money by swapping, sharing and hiring. Check it out and see just how much you can save.