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Sharing, borrowing goes hi-tech online

September 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sharing is one of the first lessons we learn as children, but lending things like toys and books isn't just child's play anymore.These days, penny pinched consumers are taking sharing to the Web and trading anything and everything - even their set of wheels.

From books and electronic gadgets to appliances and more, borrowing has gone high-tech. On sites like sharesomesugar.com, neighborrow.com, frenting.com or neighborgoods.net, you can post and share items you own and borrow things that you need, all from others in your area.

"Tools, airbeds, the list is really endless. Someone listed their car even," said Adam Berk of neighborrow.com.

Think of each site as a match-making service. Consumer psychologist Matt Wallaert said temporary ownership is a hot trend.

"A lot of people are feeling the pinch of not having enough money right now and so they're turning to borrowing, particularly for more expensive items," said Wallaert.

By borrowing just once, Wallaert said you can save tens of hundreds of dollars, sometimes even thousands, depending on the item.

Keara Schwartz, the creator of sharesomesugar.com, said the sites also give users the chance to go green.

"It's environmentally friendly to be more resourceful and to not buy as many items," said Schwartz.

Each site works a bit differently but the basic idea is the same. Simply search for the item you are looking for based on where you live. Some sites allow you to search by zip code while others require you to form local groups and share among those you've invited in to your circle.

"From there, you submit requests, arrange to meet the person and make a transaction," explained Berk.

Before you give sharing a go, it's important to set some ground rules. First, understand what you're borrowing.

"There might be a picture of the item on the website and a description of the item, the condition of the item, approximate value of the item," said Schwartz.

Work together to set a time frame and never share anything you can't afford to lose. While these sites make virtual introductions, they are not responsible for your items.

Also, keep an eye out for fees. While most sites are free to join, some may charge for additional services, like renting or private sharing groups, and some lenders require a security deposit.

"If I'm going to borrow a nail gun from you, I could put $100 into escrow so that if I don't return it, you know, you get some compensation," said Wallaert.

Wallaert said it's also important to be friendly when you borrow and said to consider sending a thank you note when a transaction is complete.

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