From Buy Nothing to Freecycle, gifting groups help bolster budgets and build community

Sherose Badruddin (38), joined the Chapel Hill Buy Nothing group five years ago in order to save money. She was a single mother and had a limited budget. She said, "I joined my Buy Nothing Group in 2016 to get free stuff. I thought that was it." "I discovered that there was more to it very quickly." She was just 5 years old when she started the program. She also found new shoes and clothes for her son and made connections with people in her community she would never have met otherwise. Learn more from Invest in You.

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Equifax now offers Spanish credit reports. Badruddin, who is a librarian and later became the administrator of Chapel Hill's Buy Nothing group, said that she could have taken them to a thrift shop. "But the chance to be able give to a neighbour feels really good." There was a boom in the gift-giving movement during the pandemic. Groups that encourage exchanging goods or services for free and gift-giving have been around for a while. Deron Beal founded the Freecycle Network in 2003 to recycle items. Liesl Clark, Rebecca Rockefeller and others started Buy Nothing in 2013 to experiment with a local gift industry and reduce plastic usage. Both groups saw growth during the coronavirus epidemic. According to its founders Buy Nothing saw a 33% increase in membership in just one year. It now has 4.27 Million members in over 44 countries using over 6,800 Facebook groups. (An app is also in development and will launch soon.)

Rockefeller said that communities realized that sharing was a key ingredient of resilience. He added that lockdowns made it difficult for many people to get to stores, but they felt more comfortable picking up a clean item from their neighbors' porches. Freecycle saw an increase in activity during the pandemic. This was something that Beal noticed more than a decade ago during the Great Recession. Freecycle now has more than 9 million members, and it is present in over 5,000 communities around the world. Beal stated that the organization's growth is totally counter-cyclical. Kate Muth (44), a budget-saver, said that her local Buy Nothing group in Brooklyn has allowed her family to experience things she wouldn't normally be able to afford or would never have thought to buy. She also purchased a pullup bar for one of her daughters, who was 4 years old and 9 at the time of the pandemic. Muth, a customer service strategist, said that it was a great thing and something I wouldn't have paid the money for. Sometimes, the group has protected Muth from repeat purchases, such as with her blender. Although she had given it away years ago, she thought it would be nice to get one again. She was able to find one in the community, instead of going to the shop.

These gift-giving groups can help people who are trying to spend less or be more mindful with money, according to Tania Brown, a certified planner and coach at SaverLife. This non-profit focuses on helping low-income Americans save their money. Brown felt the need to reduce her consumption during the coronavirus epidemic and decided to try a one-week no-spend challenge with her family. She now recommends similar challenges for interested clients. She said that the core of it was mindful intention about your spending. Additionally, being part of a group of gifters can help you reduce emotional spending and slow down your knee-jerk reactions by finding something in one's local community. Brown suggests starting small for those who want to spend less and be more mindful consumers. Brown said that it could be as easy as avoiding impulse purchases or spending a week without credit cards. It doesn't need to be a major change. These groups have an environmental impact. To be clear, these groups were founded with the primary goal of helping people to recycle more and reduce their consumption. Both founders and members agree that there are financial benefits to these groups, but they also want to connect with their communities and be more sustainable. Ramona Monteros (AGE) said, "I believe it has a greater environmental impact because we throw away less things." She is also an administrator for the local NAME TK FROM CAMEN group in Los Angeles. She has received things from her group but she is more involved in the giving side, donating toys and clothes that her boys outgrew, as an example.