Share Your Way to Wealth

| 12/18/2012 10:36:29 AM

The Benjamins photo by Tax Credits
Photo by Tax Credits, licensed under Creative Commons 

This article originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission. 

September 17, 2010. At a monthly gathering of 50 executives, I listened to a one-minute piece of advice from each about Shareable, the nonprofit online magazine I cofounded a year earlier. We believe that sharing our resources is more fulfilling than our outdated earn-and-spend MO and that sharing can address issues like poverty and global warming. Due, in part, to the recession, a wave of sharing platforms have cropped up, making it possible to create an entire lifestyle based on sharing cars, housing, nannies — even money. In that meeting of the minds, one message broke through: If I want to lead a movement toward a new sharing economy, I need to show the world how I, myself, share in everyday life. So began my year of living the shareable life, which I chronicled on Unsure at the outset whether my experiment would make a difference, I began in January of 2011, armed with the knowledge of several Bay Area-based services that help people share. I tried about 30 ways to share and saved a ton of money. Here are the highlights.

Experiment No. 1: Sharing Cars
I donated my beloved 1986 Volvo surf wagon to charity back in 2009. For the most part, I rely on my bike and public transportation and use my wife’s car on weekends. But, when her car isn’t available, I rent cars the old-fashioned way — at Enterprise. Each time I rent, I’m forced to endure the robotic corporate ritual of being pitched insurance. I say no every time. Finally at my wit's end, I decided to rent my next car from a human.

Enter Getaround, an online peer-to-peer car sharing service that helps you find a car in your neighborhood or rent out your own by the hour or day. I’ve been able to find cars at half off the price of major rental companies, and Getaround handles the details. Of course, sharing isn’t always easy; Getaround is only available in a few places (SF Bay Area and Portland), and the process can be inconvenient. Once you make your rental request, the car owners must accept before you get the keys. They might not check their email. And they can turn you down.

My first Getaround rental was from Sara, an eco-minded paralegal who lived near my house. After storing my bike in her garage and eating strawberries from her aquaponic garden, she handed over the keys to her Toyota Scion, known as DaffodilPickle on Getaround. As I got in the driver's seat, I thought of my nightmare scenario — wrecking the car of this sweet person who is trying to do something nice for the environment. Assured that the car was insured by Getaround, I drove away thinking, “Holy shit. I just rented a car from a stranger!”

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