Can I Get Rich By Sharing My Stuff?

Mrs. PoP is under the weather and hopped up on decongestants, so today you’ve got me, Mr. PoP.  And we’re going to be talking about something danced around a while back when we were discussing AirBnB –  the so-called “sharing economy.”


What Is The Sharing Economy?

article in the Economist, the sharing economy is essentially anything that involves a consumer to consumer transaction that is facilitated over the interwebs. So AirBnB is one example where you can rent the room of another person, or rent your own room out. The core issue is that most of us own assets that we don’t actually use for 90% of the time, and with the advent of communication platform we call the internet, we can get buyers and sellers together in ways we never have been able to in the past.


So What Else Is Out There? And Is This Legal?

So what else can you borrow or rent from your fellow man? Try your car! Thats right, with services like RelayRides you can rent your car out. If this sounds strange, consider that I spend about 1.5 hours in my car commuting to and from work every day. If I could rent out the car for the other 22.5 hours and make money from it (assuming we factor in gas and maintenance), why not rent the thing out on

Other services like Paperback swap, CD and DVD swap have been around for 5 or 10 years (eons in internet time); other examples like food, tool and even babysitting co-ops have been around for generations.

This doesn’t stop “The Man” from trying to put the kibosh on all of the services.

Here is a great aricle in the NYT that explains the situation with auto insurers, and the laws put restrictions on what it means to “own” different forms of media like CD’s and books are in flux as well (DRM, as the cool kids call it). Keep in mind that large corporations make big money when 5 people buy a car and then use them 20% of the time, instead of sharing one car that gets 100% usage. The same goes for the insurers who would get to insure less vehicles, the record labels who would sell less albums, and the publishing companies who will sell less books.

RelayRides in particular has big issues around insurance as some insurers like Geico are changing their policies to explicitly state they don’t cover accidents involving ride sharing. The media swap sites seem to be ok; possibly because the big media companies are too busy right now to care.

AirBnB appears to suffer from some local tax and law burdens in some cities like NYC, but by and large the personal property rights you have as a part of home ownership appear to outweigh any legislative actions by  the local Motel 6 that just lost some business (I assume they’ll still keep the light on…)


Why Could This Be A Big Deal For Frugalistas and ERE Inclined Folk?

One of the first rules of financial independence  is keep your cost structure low, and your flexibility high. For many of us, that means not buying much stuff, and making the most of what we have. The sharing economy does both by letting us easily borrow or rent instead of own, and also make money from the assets that we do end up purchasing.

The PoPs are trying out some CD and paperback swap sites to augment the awesome library that we also pay for with our property taxes, and we might try to rent out my car in the future. If we were not surrounded by retirees, we would probably try to start up a tool exchange as well. So can I get rich by sharing stuff with others? I don’t think we’re going to net much on this idea, but as a way of avoiding future purchases it looks promising.


So would anybody else out there consider renting out one of their rooms through AirBnB, or renting a car from RelayRides?  How does the sharing economy play a role in your daily life?

46 comments to Can I Get Rich By Sharing My Stuff?

  • After reading your AirBnB story, I’ve been all about renting our rooms. Sadly, I live in a small town where most of this is difficult (there won’t be car sharing…probably only pickup truck sharing!).

    I saw this uproar with the new XBox announcement, also. Apparently they want to stop people from playing used games (or someone else’s games) and make it so everyone has to buy their own copy. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Around The World In Less Than $20k – 2 Guys and Your Money #38My Profile

  • I have never rented out my stuff, but I do have things that I trade around with family members- tools from my dad, beach chairs from my sister, etc. We trade things around so that we don’t all have to buy duplicate items that aren’t used often.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..From Spending to Saving: Tips for Turning Debt Into CashMy Profile

  • I’m not interested in sharing my stuff. Why? Because most people will treat it with less respect than a dog. Car sharing sounds like a great idea until you get your car back with a dent in the side, your change drawer emptied, and mystery stains in the back seat. And a ticket from a red light camera too!

    Book and music swaps sound great, if you like what’s popular. If you have more esoteric tastes, good luck getting access to that.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..Caterpillar (CAT) Dividend Stock AnalysisMy Profile

  • trudy

    Too many problems. Of course, family and friends are different.

    Unrelated fact of the day. Close your amazon account? Lose all the books on your Kindle for PC. I found this out this weekend when I go so fed up with Amazon’s lousy customer service that I closed my account. 320 books down the tubes. Fortunately they were able to resurrect my account and I got the books back, but am I the only one who thinks that when I’ve forked out for a book, it should be mine?

    • Ouch! Actually, I’d say that totally is related. Amazon is re-structuring what it means to “own” something, the same way that consumers are. Digital goods are tricky things…I’m probably going to avoid buying a new kindle for the reasons that you’ve listed above.
      Mr PoP recently posted..Can I Get Rich By Sharing My Stuff?My Profile

  • Great post. We have been using paperback swap for years. We actually ‘swapped’ most of our DVD and used the credits to get books. We don’t really own many physical books but they are great to use as gifts.

    I really enjoy the idea of sharing things (we do a lot of this at home with tools)
    Stephen at SE recently posted..Automate the ImportantMy Profile

    • Nice. I like that you’re able to use it for gifts. That’s awesome. Our DVD collection is pretty small, but we don’t watch most of them anyhow.

  • Ivy

    I guess the word “sharing” doesn’t work for me, and we wouldn’t consider doing it for money. But exchanging things with our friends – and still benefiting from this as we don’t need to buy something, or hire somebody – this we do all the time
    My husband frequently borrows and lends tools to friends. We do a lot of children clothing and gear passing along – we get it from friends and acquaintances and then pass it on to others (I literally haven’t bought any clothing ever, except for socks, for my 2 year old, and he has 2 more years worth of used clothing and shoes waiting for him). We also trade help with friends quite a lot – only yesterday a couple of friends came to help my husband cut down a big tree and stayed for a long lunch, etc. It’s the power of a friends network

  • I’ve not tried to make money from lending stuff, but it sure is nice to be able to borrow a neighbor’s yard tools that I only need a couple of times a year. If you think about the cost per use, buying it myself just seems silly.
    Tina @My Shiny Pennies recently posted..What are You Willing to Do for Money?My Profile

  • CincyCat

    Agree w/ sharing with friends & family to avoid purchasing something that gets used infrequently. In this way, you’ll avoid an unnecessary expense, and so will they. (A penny saved is a penny earned.)

    Our next-door neighbor lets us use his tiller (once/year need). My mom lives across the street, and she uses our lawnmower & garden tools as needed. We all swap goodies/cuttings/bulbs from our gardens.

    I save my kids’ outgrown clothes & toys in good condition for family members & friends with younger kids. I can’t tell you how many maternity clothes we’ve swapped around.

    We also borrow cars when the other is in the shop, etc.

    Not sure if I would do the same with total strangers, but in my mind, this is a large part of what friends are for!

    • Hey Cincy-it sounds like you live in a rural area (tiller and gardening). Do you think you would be more open to this sort of thing if you lived in a city where storage was as a premium and you already had to share personal space much more often?
      Mr PoP recently posted..Can I Get Rich By Sharing My Stuff?My Profile

      • CincyCat

        We live in the ‘burbs, in “small lot” cape cods built in the 1940’s, but a lot of us are avid gardners. :) We all know each other, so borrowing/sharing/swapping isn’t a big deal. If I lived in an area where I did not know my neighbors very well (rural, suburbia or urban area), I would probably be more hesitant to lend an expensive piece of equipment, or my car, unless it was some sort of emergency.

        • I think I thought a lot like you for a long time, but then joined a community garden in the neighborhood of my last apartment before marrying Mrs. PoP. (A pretty urban blue collar area.) There was a closet full of gardening tools that we all had access to and it was great to see them treated with respect. People put them away clean for the most part, didn’t leave them out, etc.

        • That community Garden was great! Until your neighbor “discovered” the Marijuana plant growing in her planter…
          Mr. Pop recently posted..Can I Get Rich By Sharing My Stuff?My Profile

          • Ha! I forgot about that. I thought we determined that it wasn’t pot and the problem was that I had never seen pot in my life and didn’t really know what it looked like. =)

  • those concepts really speak to me, not only to keep costs low but also to minimize waste. I used to have roommates in a flat I owned, then move out and rented the whole thing, now I am considering renting a couple of rooms in my new house and maybe my motorcycle to European travelers. And I love getting a good deal by renting things I need for a short time too.
    Pauline recently posted..Little house in Guatemala, week 24/25My Profile

    • Definitely minimizing waste, too. I think that’s something that we’re going to continue to work on eliminating waste from our lives slowly but surely.

  • I’m taking a motorcycle trip soon from SoCal to the southern US. Hotels are going to be my biggest expense.

    I’m bringing a sleeping bag and a tent. Somehow if we had some kind of sharing forum, wouldn’t it be cool to share our houses? This is a trusted community and if it could somehow work out to build something like that, I think we’d all be richer for the experience.
    Mike @ UB recently posted..My man, Dr Joel FuhrmanMy Profile

  • I wanted to sign up for RelayRides a while back, but it just wierded me out too much. I figured that there were less risky ways to make some money, though I wish I could lend my car to trustworthy people who need it…
    CashRebel recently posted..A Whole Post About Wrinkle Free ClothesMy Profile

    • I think it’s something that we’ll probably consider a lot more readily once we reach FI and getting places on time is less of an issue. I can see lending it out for a day to someone who needs to make a few trips with material to haul or something since it’s a great small work vehicle.

  • I’m not comfortable enough to rent out either my car or apt, but I do media share with a friend of mine. He subscribes to Hulu plus and I subscribe to Netflix. I heard Netflix is trying to do something about this, but in the meantime it’s still working. I wouldn’t give out my info to tons of people, but one person is fine. I know a lot of people who also give out their hbotogo (I think that’s what it’s called) as well.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..The Worst Job I Ever HadMy Profile

    • I heard something about Netflix trying to limit it, too. Sounds like they’ll allow 2 simultaneous streams at once but that’s it. You need to pay for more. Seems mostly fair…

  • I guess for me it would depend on the item I’d be sharing. I’d think I’d be more OK sharing my home then my car. At least with my home I’d be there and if the person(s) who came were sketchy I could tell them they couldn’t stay. Once your car leaves the lot you don’t know what the other person will be doing with it. But I’m paranoid like that. I love the idea of sharing resources and cutting back on waste. Bf uses the library frequently, but I’ll have to look into paperback swaps.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Save $50 a Month Not Dry Cleaning-5 TipsMy Profile

    • Who knows what they’re doing with your car is right! We took my car to valet a couple of weeks ago and when the valet brought it back he said, “This car handles verrry good” and I had flashes in my mind of the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! =) Luckily it’s insured.

  • I would not consider renting a room mainly because we have a small child who would likely not give them any privacy, but I do like the idea, especially for those with second homes. We got a great deal on a beach cottage for our trip this summer off VRBO. I don’t know about my car, but it would be nice if several people could share a lawn mower or similar items. That would be a really cool thing for a neighborhood to start, but we’d probably have a bad apple who’d spoil the whole thing.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Things I Refuse To Save Money On: Wasteful or Smart?My Profile

    • I love that it’s not for your daughter’s safety, but to protect the guest from her curiosity! =)

      As for the tool / lawn care share it might go better than you think! The community garden I was a part of a few years back had a decent amount of success with people treating the tools well. I think if there’s a buy-in (maybe a key deposit? or a small tool upkeep fee?) people would be pretty good about it overall. I wish there were more DIY-ers in our neighborhood. It’d be great to start one up!

  • Sharing kid’s clothes, toys, book, etc. among family and friends is a life saver. It seems like nothing fits or is interesting for more than a couple months tops.
    Mr. Bonner recently posted..When to NOT pay off higher interest debt firstMy Profile

  • I heard about the Airbnb from Pauline but it’s not something we would want to do in our own home. We’ve rented rooms in the past but it wasn’t the experience we expected. Some of the people were complete slobs, didn’t clean their bathroom or bedroom and kept us up, came in late. One girl in her mid 20’s had clothes all over the floor like carpeting. Some people don’t mind it but it’s not for us.
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Junk To Funk: Some Woman Down The Road Left Me With HardwoodMy Profile

    • ooh, that’s no good. The part that I liked about AirBnB was that you got to see reviews from people who actually stayed there before. So if you had seen the messiness, you would write that in your review and people would know before they booked. Not perfect, but helps a bit.

  • CF

    We use Modo for our regular car use and we love it!

    I haven’t used Air BnB – typically, if I’m renting a vacation rental, I’ll look through Craigslist. I’ve stayed at places in NY and Berlin this way.
    CF recently posted..I am an introvertMy Profile

  • Funny, I feel pretty comfortable renting from AirBnB and have done so several times, but I wouldn’t rent out my home on the site. Too much risk with people going through my stuff and liability that probably isn’t covered by homeowner’s insurance.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..Summer Internship FinancesMy Profile

    • I think I’d either want to be there or have pretty much everything of value locked away if we were having a perfect stranger in the house. Kitty PoP’s not the most threatening guard animal.

  • I like this idea. I’m definitely going to use air b&b when we travel next year. :)
    Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) recently posted..How Much Money Would It Take For You to Go To Mars?My Profile

  • I haven’t thought of the idea of having my car rented for an extra income. This could be very helpful.
    Alexis Marlons recently posted..Business to Business Marketing StrategiesMy Profile

    • I think there’s an element of risk if you need the car at a very specific time, but if you’ve got flexibility or an open schedule, I think it could totally work in your favor

  • […] the PoPs want to know if they can get rich just by sharing their stuff. I’m guessing they can. The PoPs are pretty smart […]

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