Old-fashioned bartering and new sharing technologies are together carving a disruptive niche in our economy. Yahoo is collecting first-person accounts from Americans who are sharing, lending and bartering their way through everyday activities. Here’s one story.
FIRST PERSON | Frugality was a tough lesson for me to learn as a 29-year-old living in Chicago during the recession, but in the process I have found ways to save money by breaking the traditional economic model. Going back generations, I have utilized methods taught by my grandparents while using popular websites. Joining in the sharing community has changed my life for the better and hopefully the environment. Here are some ways I accomplish a frugal lifestyle.
Trading for special occasions
Whether it’s a bridesmaids dress, prom dress, or gala attire, these dresses are expensive and only worn once. I’ve found the best way to get these is through sites like Tradesy. After using my $230 Donna Morgan “Emily” bridesmaids dress in Grey Ridge for a March wedding, I put it up for sale online for $90 “as-is.” It was in fair condition, but had a couple of holes on the bottom, so I marketed it toward shorter girls who could hem it. I also needed another dress, so I used the money from the sale and bought a black BCBG Max Azria cocktail dress for $80 since Tradesy takes a 9 percent cut. I found a cheaper one to make sure I was making an even swap. Switching out dresses is my go-to way to buy them for special occasions, but also get rid of them. Sites like Tradesy are for clearing out my closet.
The DIY movement
Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects have really taken-off with help from sites like Pinterest. At first I was skeptical of my ability to make products since I don’t consider myself a crafty person, but I was wrong. My daughter wanted to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween, and instead of spending $50 on a costume, I took some of her old cottons shorts and some red material I had, and hand sewed a skirt. Then I added some white buttons with a $1 price tag. There were a couple learning curves, but nothing that I couldn’t work around. With a little confidence, DIY projects are attainable.
Growing and trading for groceries
After getting tired of expensive grocery bills, I have taken my friend’s advice and started growing alfalfa sprouts in a jar, cilantro, oregano and other herbs at home on a window sill in my apartment. Not only are they organic, but they grow fast, allowing me to trade more often. This past summer was my first, and during the good growing months, it saved me around $25 per month even with the small scale of food I deal with. I first started networking through friends on Facebook across Chicago, and have found two that have enough room for a garden. Then I trade my herbs for foods like tomatoes, bell peppers, squash and cucumbers — foods I can’t grow at home because I don’t have an outdoor space for large plants. This may break the traditional economic model, but it saves me money and leads to a healthier lifestyle.
Trading for child care
This is probably my favorite way to break traditional methods, and it has saved me a lot! Child-care is expensive for good reason, but without family near-by, it can be a burden. The minimum price for child-care in the city per hour is $10 even for one child, but fortunately I have a friend with kids that has been swapping child-care with me since my daughter, Dawn, was born. Now that she is three, it’s like a play date for her and free babysitting for me, and vice versa for my friend. We don’t keep a tally on who watches more, but instead just call each other when we need a free sitter to go get a haircut or attend a doctor’s appointment, etc.
I know the hand-me-down method seems ancient, but it truly is cost-saving. My daughter’s dad has a friend with kids that are kind enough to pass on some of their girls’ old clothes. My daughter finds this to be exciting, and I find it to be financially rewarding. There are also stores I patronize that let me swap her old clothes for lightly worn clothes.