Five ways to save £500
In recent years, the sharing lifestyle has become more and more mainstream, with nearly half of all UK adults opting to rent or share everything from cars and clothes to homes and holidays.
This is according to research by YouGov along with Zipcar, the pay-as-you-drive car club, one of the pioneers of 'collaborative consumption'.
The findings reveal that cash-savvy Brits could save a hefty £531 by opting for the 'pay as you live' way of life.
"It's often more convenient and more flexible to hire, lend or share," says Mark Walker, general manager at Zipcar. "This, coupled with the cost saving, has seen UK consumers enthusiastically embrace the shared hire model. It's a viable option for families trying to cope with the everyday pressures on their household budgets, as they can save money on essentials such as transport, while freeing up cash to help offset rising food and energy bills."
Car usage is one of the most popular ways in which people have embraced this movement, with car-sharing schemes providing a convenient, flexible and cost-effective alternative to car ownership - especially in big cities.
Zipcar operates in urban areas across the UK and has more than 1,500 cars across the capital. According to the firm, its members can save more than £3,000 a year compared with owning and running their own car.
"Hiring a car means you'll never have to worry about depreciation, costly repairs or getting through an MOT," says Walker. "This can make more financial sense than buying outright."
This is certainly the view of career coach and mother-of-two Antoinette Peters-Adenle, who has saved more than £2,000 by ditching her car and using Zipcar instead.
The 36 year-old, who lives in Herne Hill, south-east London, with Ella, eight, and Louis, one, says: "In the past I'd tended to buy old bangers which were expensive to keep on the road but around three years ago I signed up to Zipcar. This works out far cheaper at £60 a year, and then from around £5 an hour. I tend to use Zipcar when travelling further afield and there's a vehicle parked on the next street to mine, which makes life very easy. I also love the fact I don't have to worry about petrol costs or the congestion charge."
One of the newer entrants to the car-sharing market is easyCarClub, which launched in February this year.
With this online community, you can borrow a car from a like-minded neighbour when they're not using it – meaning you don't have to pay the prices charged by the big rental companies.
Other firms operating in the 'car usage' market include lift-sharing sites such as GoCarShare.com, Liftshare.com and BlaBlaCar.com, where you can take advantage of empty car seats. Then there are sites such as ParkatmyHouse.com, which connect homeowners who have a parking space with drivers looking for parking.
According to the site, renting a private garage, driveway or space can save you up to 70% on your parking costs – plus you'll also be doing your bit for the environment by not driving around in circles looking for somewhere to leave your car.
There are now many online companies that connect property owners with local people looking for storage space, including Storenextdoor.com and Storemates.co.uk.
With Storenextdoor, monthly prices range from £80 to £100 for a spare room, loft or vault, to £130 for a garage or outbuilding – a fraction of the price you'd pay to rent space from a commercial storage company. Or looking at it the other way, there's some real money to be made from space you're not using.
So how does the service work? "You can contact the owner via an online message platform and arrange a viewing or book straightaway," says Rosie Bennett, co-founder of Storenextdoor. "All transactions are handled by the site; storage arrangements are covered by a legal contract and are also fully insured by Aviva." To cover these costs, the company charges individuals with space to spare 15% commission each month their space is rented.
According to Bennett, renters can save up to 50% by storing with a neighbour. "The cost per foot for is much lower than if you rented a comparable sized commercial unit," she adds.
Janet Allen, who runs her own soft furnishings business, is making significant savings by storing her belongings in a garage she rents from someone just a few streets away.
The 40 year-old has just moved in with her new partner, Paul, in Bath. Between them, they have three children, Millie, 10, Lola, seven, and Ella, six.
"When I divorced, I had to downsize and looked at commercial storage," she says. "But those firms wanted to charge more than £200 a month for a tiny space, and I realised I could save a lot of money by going through Storenextdoor. We're now in the process of selling two houses, and I'm renting my second garage through the site for £109 a month. The whole set-up is very convenient as I can easily pop in and grab things I need for the children; it's also a lot more personal."
Operating in a similar way is Rentmygarden.co.uk, a site which operates a model along these lines but with spare ground – perfect for anyone needing somewhere to host a barbecue, a garden party or just somewhere to grow some spuds. It costs the garden owner £25 a year to advertise on the site and renters pay anything from £30 a day to £3,000 a year.
With firms such as Ecomodo.com, RentMyItems.com, and Zilok.com, you can now hire tools, camping or gardening equipment, a bike, a folding bed - or almost anything you can think of - from someone in your local area for a fraction of the price of buying the item new.
"Hiring items through the site can be a good way to save money, while also being neighbourly and local," says Paul Savident, co-founder of RentMyItems. "It also avoids the need to buy something you may only use once."
Tradeyourstuff.co.uk and Tradeyourtoys.co.uk are both also useful sites where you can trade unwanted goods.
If you don't want to pay through the nose for a family holiday abroad, you could join the growing band of house-swappers, and get a break overseas without breaking the bank by staying in someone's home.
With LoveHomeSwap.com, you can now choose from more than 50,000 homes listed in more than 150 countries worldwide.
"Members enjoy big savings on travel accommodation when they swap – saving an average of £2,202 per trip," says Debbie Wosskow, founder of LoveHomeSwap. "I've always loved to travel and was a boutique hotel addict but that all changed when I had children; hotels no longer made sense. What I really wanted to do was take my own home and transplant it somewhere else – and that's exactly what I've done."
If you are thinking about letting people stay at your home, it costs from just under £10 a month to advertise on the site.
Alongside house-swapping, there is now a host of sites offering you the chance to "holiday like a local" by shunning hotels and staying in someone's spare room – or apartment – instead. These include Wimdu.co.uk and Airbnb.co.uk, while Onefinestay.com runs a similar model but for more luxurious properties.
Residents of a Gloucestershire town have taken the 'sharing economy' in a slightly different direction by setting up their own community energy scheme.
After investing (via a 20-year-bond) in a wind turbine on a nearby farm, the locals of St Briavels now enjoy an annual 8% return on their investment, reduced power costs - plus they receive £20,000 a year for community projects.
At the same time, the farmer who owns the land (Great Dunkilns Farm) receives free electricity worth around £9,000 a year, which he uses to power his meat and small-goods business.
Andrew Clarke, 49, director of The Resilience Centre which developed the model, says: "The turbine was installed to re-localise the energy needs of the community by allowing local people to invest in the project from as little as £5, and to receive annual returns on their investment," he says.
"This has provided electricity for local homes via Co-operative Energy and given us a community fund, which has been spent on projects such as repairing the roof on the village hall. This is about bringing people together and getting everyone to work as equal partners.