Sharing resources among friends, family or neighbors has been a common practice for centuries. Whether you need a cup of sugar or a ride to the airport, most of us have become accustomed to tapping into our networks for a little help. But now, with the rise of what is known as the “sharing economy,” sharing resources isn’t just something we do with our personal network, it’s an actual business model.
This new type of consumption has various benefits for all involved – those running the businesses are able to churn a profit, those sharing their goods or services can earn an income, and consumers are able to save on things they are likely paying for anyways.
Whether you’re looking for a place to stay on vacation, or you need a ride to get from point A to point B, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the sharing economy. Here are just a few.
Hotels Are Played Out And Vacation Rentals Are In
One of the most substantial costs of taking a vacation, aside from the expense to get to the destination, are the accommodations. Hotels are anything but cheap, and they usually offer no more than a bed and a bathroom.
Sites like Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO have tackled this problem and come up with a solution that’s far more wallet-friendly – room, apartment, or home rentals available anywhere in the world.
When I visited France last year, I rented a two-bedroom apartment with a loft, two bathrooms, a washer and dryer, and a full kitchen in the heart of Montpellier for $200 per night. Since I was traveling with three friends, this equated to $50 per night, per person. Hotel rooms in the same area were at least $150 per night and would only accommodate two people.
With more options and more amenities, this is one aspect of the sharing economy that can completely transform your next vacation.
Vehicles On Demand
In the realm of transportation, it’s undeniable that the sharing economy brought several new options to the table. Instead of hopping in your own car or calling a cab, you can now have a Lyft or Uber driver pick you up in their own vehicle, or you can use a car-sharing service that will allow you to take a vehicle to your destination and only pay for the time used.
Cabs, with fee structures based primarily on use, mileage, and time, are fairly rigid in their pricing. Lyft and Uber have varying prices based on supply and demand which often works in favor of the passenger (unless, of course, you’re going on a long trek in the middle of an epic snowstorm). In addition, with user-friendly apps that allow you to track the location of your driver, receive a fair estimate, and rate your driver once the ride is complete, you, the consumer, can be in charge of your entire experience.
If you’d rather drive yourself to your destination, services like Car2Go and Zipcar will allow you to use a vehicle (you’ve likely seen several in metro areas), drive to your destination, and either park it for someone else to take when needed, or for you to return to later. Either way, you are charged for the time in use – not in day-long increments like car rentals.
With more options, transportation pricing has become competitive – something that generally always bodes well for the consumer.
Try Joining a Community Supported Agriculture for Fresh Produce
If you’ve ever longed for farm fresh produce that doesn’t sit for days under the misters at the grocery store, the sharing economy has a solution for you – joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
CSA essentially allows you to pre-purchase a share of something a local farmer is producing, and receive a portion of that share on a weekly basis for a pre-determined number of weeks. You can receive a wide variety of items this way: vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat; and some CSAs will even deliver them directly to your door.
The pricing varies, but some will allow you to receive items in exchange for your help in harvesting the crops or completing other volunteer work. Often times, the amount of food received on a weekly basis is significantly cheaper than the same items purchased directly from the grocery store. No middle-man needed here.
Usually, the items you receive are based on the crops produced, so if you’re willing to broaden your tastes and get creative with your cooking, this is the perfect option for you.
Are there other aspects of the sharing economy that have helped you save money?