Sharing Economy in College
The sharing economy is huge on college campuses, where it can bring people together while also helping them cut down on expenses. Today, the sharing economy goes beyond Lyft, Airbnb and TaskRabbit – students can now share everything from parking spots to textbooks to good-as-new coffeemakers. Carey Bentley, digital nomad and CEO of Lifehack Bootcamp, says, “What’s great about young people today is that their priorities and ideals match up well to saving money on major expenses.” Learn more about sharing services to see how they can help you reduce your overall spending.
Students are constantly on the go, and sometimes traveling on foot doesn’t cut it. But buying a car – or even a bike – is expensive. That’s where the sharing economy comes in. “The sharing economy makes big expenses like a car unnecessary,” says Bentley. Instead of “dealing with owning,” as Bentley calls it, students can try these ridesharing services to save money:
Bike sharing allows students to grab a bicycle from a station on campus then drop it off somewhere else. As of yet there are no companies with comprehensive national coverage. Instead, each college either starts its own program or has an agreement with a bike share company. For instance, Zagster partners with more than 15 colleges. Dozens of cities also have their own bike share systems, such as BCycle, which partners with corporations, municipalities and campuses to improve public transportation for everyone.
Maven, which joined the ridesharing scene in 2016, is currently only available in 11 big cities, but it has several advantages over traditional car rentals. First, users of the app don’t have to pay for gas or insurance, and there’s no membership cost. Second, they can use the app to find a car nearby and unlock it with their phone. The cost can vary by car, but the hourly rate can run as low as $8.
Turo is a reliable standby for when a particular vehicle is needed — say, a pickup truck for moving day or a fancy sedan for a date. Individuals sign up to rent a car for the day directly from the owner, who often will deliver the car. Renters under age 25 pay extra, but the insurance is covered. Bentley used Turo for two weeks while living in Hawaii. “It was significantly less expensive than renting from a regular place. In fact, it was the difference between us renting and just not being able to afford a rental at all!”
It’s doesn’t make much sense for commuter students to drive solo on the freeway alongside their peers who are also heading to campus. Zimride is a carpooling network that connects students – and coworkers – to peers going to the same destination around the same time. Riders pitch in for gas via their college’s online network. Another benefit – commuter students can get to campus faster since they can access the carpool lane.
Need a car today? Reserve a Zipcar on your phone for the hour or the weekend, then unlock it with a keycard. Memberships are cheaper than Netflix, and then it’s under $10 an hour to make the trip to Costco — or $70 a day to head to the beach. Unlike traditional rental cars, that price includes gas and insurance. Students only need to be 18, and Zipcar partners with colleges to put cars right on campus.
For students who already have a car, there are some ways to save on car-related expenses like parking. The cost of a university parking permit isn’t cheap — and spots aren’t always available. Street parking can be expensive too, especially if you’re stuck in class when time is up on the meter. The following services take care of that:
If your campus is located in a busy city, it’s easy to be swindled by urban parking, especially when you’re already late for class. A $10 garage spot might be $5 around the block. Enter a location and time, and Parkopedia will show you the nearest available spots to your destination and how much each one costs.
Every day, college students head toward campus while nearby residents commute to jobs, leaving their driveways unoccupied. Parqex allows students to rent private parking spaces from local residents and businesses when other options are scarce or too expensive. Users download the app, find a spot, reserve it for however long they need it, pay and park. The service is based in Chicago, with a handful of other markets, but it’s looking to expand to college campuses.
Headed into the city for the day? SPOT covers eight of the biggest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Parking spot owners can list their spot on the app for hourly, daily, weekly or monthly rental. From there, students can pick a time, get a price, pay via the app and park. Prices vary depending on location, but SPOT recommends owners rent their spot for 50-75% the price of the nearest garage or lot – a decent chunk of savings for those in need of parking.
Textbooks are essential for college but are extremely expensive. And in most cases, students only need them for one quarter or semester and never open them again. Even used textbooks can add up quickly. Students may be able to find better savings with the following options:
Chegg is a textbook and eTextbook renter and seller that offers free shipping on orders over $50, which is usually a couple of books. It also offers a 3-week return policy in case students drop a class. It even allows students to highlight in their rentals.
Some forward-thinking universities are embracing open-source textbooks that can be downloaded onto e-readers for free. The books within Open Textbook Library aren’t out-of-date or marginal texts either; they’re recently published books covering everything from accounting to social sciences.
Instead of going to individual sites to check for books, go comparison shopping for textbook rentals and purchases via Slugbooks. It aggregates info from Amazon, Chegg and a dozen other sites to find the best price. Then, when you’re done, get a similar comparison of how much each will buy back your books for.
Student2Student is a mix between Chegg and a bulletin board. Students can post their own books and prices online and sell directly to other students, often on their same campus, through the site.
The best source for a textbook may be the person down the hall who just finished taking the class. Check campus or dorm bulletin boards – or hit up your social media networks – for applicable postings so you strike a good deal with someone who just finished using the textbook you need. Many colleges even host websites or organize in-person exchanges through the student bookstore.
Home Goods & Furniture
Students have to move out of the dorm sometime, and filling an empty apartment can be daunting and pricey. Bentley says today’s savvy student is always looking for ways to save. “I find that millennials and Gen Z’ers care less about possessions and bend more towards minimalism,” she says. “Finding ways to save on their living area – either by renting a large space and sharing with others or by renting an extremely small space – is a great way to save overall.” And the following options can help students save when it comes to furnishing those living spaces.
Originally a blog for all things apartment-related, Apartment Therapy leveraged its community to launch a marketplace where users could buy and sell home décor in a safe, trusted space. Users can post and/or buy refurbished, antique, used and locally made furniture and home décor with ease.
Campus Furniture Exchanges
The best source for furniture is typically other students, especially those graduating. Some schools, such as MIT, have established furniture exchanges, essentially thrift stores that are open only to students. Before heading to IKEA or Target, see if your college hosts a furniture exchange or something similar before the school year starts.
CORT rents furniture on a monthly basis and takes care of deliveries and pickups. CORT offers student packages, which cover a bedroom, living room and dining room set for less than $100 per month. It also carries furnishings like tea kettles and toasters for an a la carte monthly price.
It’s the oldest player out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. Students and non-students alike can find amazing steals on Craigslist to furnish an entire apartment down to the smallest detail. “We furnished our three-bedroom in LA exclusively from Craigslist,” shares Bentley. “Used IKEA furniture plus spray paint for the win!”
Billed as “the private social network for your neighborhood,” NextDoor can be a good place to find out about community gatherings as well as see who’s looking to get rid of a couch. And because it’s in the neighborhood, pickup should be easy and cheap, if not completely free.
If students want to save even more money, Bentley recommends trying the ‘recycled goods’ economy that’s on Craigslist and other second-hand platforms. “It’s less important that the item is new and more important that it functions correctly.” The stuff on OfferUp fits the bill – it’s cheap (or even free) and runs the gamut from old vacuum cleaners to curtains to dressers. If that sounds like Craigslist, that’s because it kind of is, with one key difference: Users have to communicate via the app, which allows OfferUp to step in in case of problems.
While students can’t purchase furniture off Pinterest, they can use it to find great money-saving ideas. “Pinterest is the best for seeking out hacks for home furniture,” says Bentley, who used it to maximize the space in her home. “We got an idea from Pinterest to have our living room double as a dining room and dance floor and we could do it using an extendable table. Then we found one on Craigslist for about $150 and bought it. It was amazing to have a table that could seat 20 but collapse down to the size of a side table.”
Not everything in school is about, well, school. Sometimes it’s important to get away, whether to go camping for the weekend or to party during Spring Break (we won’t tell Mom and Dad). And even though staying local tends to be cheaper, Bentley makes an argument for going abroad: “The most important consideration is where you’re traveling to. If you can get outside the U.S., there’s a lot of opportunities to save money.” And the sharing services below can really help cut travel costs for students on a budget:
Before Airbnb, there was Couchsurfing, which Bentley recommends as a “free or next-to-free option.” Couchsurfing connects happy hosts who like to meet people with travelers who need a bed or, ahem, couch to sleep on. It’s like being an exchange student for a day or two.
As great as REI’s return policy is, one is bound to catch some serious shade for buying a tent or mountain bike then returning it muddy and dented three days later. That’s what Gear Peer is for. Use it to find someone with the camping or recreational equipment you need, then pay to borrow it.
Looking for free accommodations? HelpX lists farms, homestays, B&Bs, hostels and even sailing boats where volunteers can receive free short-term stay. In exchange for putting in a shift or two, travelers get free room and board. They can then spend the rest of their time exploring nature (especially if on a farm stay) or the city (like with a hostel). There are 1,000+ U.S. spots in the network and many more abroad.
“It’s quite expensive to travel inside the states, even if you’re camping,” says Bentley. Best, then, to at least avoid pricey campgrounds. Like Airbnb, Hipcamp lets users find cheap places to set up tents on private vineyards, ranches and farms. It also mixes in public and private campgrounds for comparison, and registered users can book and pay for a spot via the app or website. PitchPlace, which launched in 2017, does the same as Hipcamp but lets a camper put their tent up in someone’s yard. Unlike Hipcamp, it’s free and leans toward hosting, giving it a Couchsurfing feel.
Want to get together and rent an RV to travel down to Baja? Outdoorsy, and its competitor RVshare, both let users rent everything from trailers to motorhomes by the night, week or month from people nearby. Outdoorsy provides the insurance as well as roadside assistance. Expect to pay a refundable security deposit via credit card.
Rdvouz is ridesharing for long distances. Just enter in where you’re leaving from and when and/or where you want to go. The site will show you who is passing by your area and can pick you up. There’s no cost to join the site, but users must register.
Workaway offers similar connections to HelpX on its 170-country network, but with more emphasis on intercultural exchange and language learning. Volunteers can work on farms, serve as babysitters or staff hostels. It’s a great way to see another place, meet tons of people and do something interesting without paying for accommodation. Plus, says Bentley, once abroad “services that would be insanely expensive in the States suddenly become attainable, such as surfing lessons or horseback riding.”
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