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How to Use the Sharing Economy to Buy Less

Investing in the sharing economy is an incredible way to curb your consumption while saving a ton of money on items you’ll only use occasionally. I’ve listed a ton of sharing resources, so take notes!

This last summer, Josh and I had the incredible opportunity to enjoy an Alaska cruise with Josh’s entire family, as a gift from his parents. As we prepared for our trip, I learned pretty quickly that I would need a number of cocktail formal ensembles for our evenings on the ship.

However, as I looked at my closet I was extremely underwhelmed by my options. I had never needed a wide selection of formal dresses before, and moving to Wyoming only amplified that trend. I wasn’t comfortable spending a few hundred dollars to reboot my selection of LBDs and heels, so I had to come up with another solution.

In the end, I was lucky to borrow a lovely number from a fellow spouse on our base, plus a second dress from a friend, and found a cute pair of Cole Haan pumps secondhand.

I came out the other end, fully outfitted for less than $20!

Why Borrowing Matters

We live in a culture in which fashion is a very “throw away” item. Rather than buying high quality items we genuinely love, then intending to wear them for years to come, we scoop up ten ludicrously cheap (and poorly made) tops at a time and then toss them when they fail us or go off-trend. 

It’s a horrible, horrible habit. The better way is to live your life in the careful balance between minimalism and excess, then look to the many resources around you to fill in the gaps as you come across them. This applies not only to clothing, but to household items as well!

When we got back home to Cheyenne after the cruise, I promptly laundered and pressed the dresses I borrowed, then returned them to their owners.

Did I ever miss those items in my closet? Not at all! I’ve haven’t needed to dress up like that since, so why would I cram my precious closet space with items I’ll wear once a year at most?

If, in the end, I find myself attending enough formal events to purchase a dress I’ll do so. But at this stage in my life, I’m content with what I have.

Where to Borrow Short-Term Items for Free

1) Family and Friends: 

Look to your personal network first! Ask around to see what you can find close to you. Bonus: Looking to revamp your wardrobe for free? Host a clothes swap!

2) Neighbors:

Odds are, your neighbor would be glad to let you borrow his lawn mower once-a-week during the summer. Don’t underestimate the kindness of the people around you!

3) Religious Community: 

Faith communities are also a wonderful place to seek out items for borrowing. Check to see if your church, mosque, monastery or temple has some sort of a classifieds where you can post about your need.

Where to Find Long-Term Items for Free or Cheap

1) Local Thrift Stores:

There are few places I love to shop more than thrift stores. I mean that! I think the hunt for that perfect buried item is a real treat, and you can’t beat the savings! That is, other than free…

2) Buy Nothing Facebook Pages:

Buy Nothing is an excellent organization that helps connect people to free items over the Facebook platform. When I lived in Seattle, I was able to round up a bookcase, an IKEA chair for my living room, two bedroom lamps, a winter coat, and a film camera for free. I still use those items in our home today!

3) Poshmark & ThredUp:

Poshmark is a platform through which women can directly shop the closets of people all over the world. You can connect with specific people, or browse for sellers with style similar to yours. It’s like match-making, but for secondhand clothing.

ThredUp is similar, but slightly less personal. Just mail in your bag of high-quality secondhand clothes and get a return when they sell! It’s actually really simple.

4) Craigslist & Ebay:

These two should be a given, but I can’t leave them off the list! eBay is a great resource when you’re on the hunt for a specific or semi-rare item. We bought our vintage safety razor off eBay when we replaced our old plastic ones with a lasting alternative. We’ve also had a lot of luck with Craigslist over the years! Just keep your eyes sharp for scams as you shop.

A Fun, Random List of Things to Borrow and Not Buy

  • Ladder
  • Infant swing
  • Food processor
  • Steamer
  • Lawn mower
  • Hiking gear
  • Camera lens
  • Easel
  • Blender
  • Formal dress
  • DVDs
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Books
  • Picnic basket
  • Sewing machine
  • Punch bowl
  • Cat crate
  • Travel backpack
  • Pasta machine
  • Power drill
  • Rake
  • Card table
  • Bike
  • Serving trays
  • Tools
  • Video games

I hope you’re inspired! Have you borrowed anything useful from your local sharing economy? What was it?


Sunday 2nd of April 2017

Some public libraries are also starting "libraries of things" where you can borrow a sewing machine, board games, tools, musical instruments, baking supplies--whatever they've stocked for the local community's needs. I definitely recommend checking to see whether your library loans items, or asking if they have plans to do so! If they get enough requests, they might apply for a grant to start a Library of Things.


Tuesday 4th of April 2017

I love this idea! Our library definitely doesn't, but I could certainly bring it up :)

Leslie Hernandez

Thursday 19th of January 2017

Great Post!!! I am not picky person but I do like to look nice name brand or not if it looks cute I'll get it. Usually if I don't wear something that is pretty new I donate it because I don't like to throw away perfectly wearable clothes, shoes or even handbags.

Leslie xoxo


Tuesday 17th of January 2017

This is such a good point, I don't really borrow items unless I'm over at someone's house and going out that evening but it's definitely a good idea to plan ahead and ask around in advance! xo

Sarah | Lavender Life

Monday 16th of January 2017

I don't often borrow things, because I don't have a big need for 'borrowable' items. I watch movies online, don't buy cd's because of Spotify, don't need ladders or larger tools because I live in an apartment where someone takes care of that, I read books on my Kindle, etc. The only thing I own from that list are camera lenses and a blender, because I use them all. the. time., so borrowing those would be weird. But I do think it's a good idea to borrow stuff that's expensive and will only be used once or so!


Sunday 15th of January 2017

This was such a helpful post, I never knew there were so many places that you could go to online to borrow items and get freebies! Definitely will be having a look!


Sunday 15th of January 2017

Please do! We've had great success with each of them.