December 7, 2022

Apps to share sparingly – from food to tools

Tomas Ribeiro is a regular user of money-saving apps © Anna Gordon for The Financial Times

“If I can spend £2 on dinner instead of £10, of course I will,” Tomas Ribeiro told the FT during his lunch break. “Even though we can obviously afford [to buy food]everyone, to some extent, is becoming more cost-conscious. »

Ribeiro, 28, is far from the bread line, earning over £60,000 in his job as a London-based financial planner at Budweiser. But he is among those across the UK income spectrum who are embracing a new wave of recycling apps and services, attracted by the ethos behind these companies as well as the substantial savings they can make in a time when budgets are stretched.

Websites and apps such as Olio for food sharing or fashion marketplace Depop have sprung up in recent years to meet a growing desire for community sharing. Ribeiro is a fan of Too Good To Go, an app that sells fresh produce from local cafes or restaurants for a fraction of the usual price, just before closing hours.

“Supermarkets are very expensive and Too Good To Go is a good option because everyone likes local produce and minimal effort,” he says.

He only started using the app this year after friends recommended it. The rising cost of living has led to a surge in activity on the site: the number of food bags sold increased sixfold between January and July this year, according to Too Good To Go.

Having just moved in with his girlfriend, Ribeiro used Gumtree, a local market website, to buy a sofa for £30. Depop is his favorite site for basketball jerseys and sneakers. He estimates he has saved around £700 by using similar apps over the past year.

Solomon Wilkinson, 34, discovered Too Good To Go when he was a student. Now a freelance digital producer at London-based marketing firm Jellyfish, he uses it to shop at his local Planet Organic. He says this means he can buy ‘a really good bag of food and veg for £3-4’ in a store he considers to be ‘normally very expensive’.

He earns around £80,000 a year but doesn’t feel immune to the economic climate. “Even though my finances aren’t directly affected by the cost-of-living crisis, so far the general mood of belt-tightening has seeped into my consciousness,” he says. “As a freelancer, I know a slowing economy could mean less work for me, so I have to be sensible about how I spend my money.”

Inflation in the UK has reached a 40 years tall 10.1% in September, driven by food price increases of more than 14%. As mortgage rates and energy bills have skyrocketed, so have the lures of savings-based apps.

Selina Flavius, financial coach and host of the Black Girl Finance podcast, can see the appeal of young professionals, but says savings are a drop in the bucket when her clients worry about getting on the job. scale the property or pay the mortgage. “[These apps] are a sticking plaster at best. . . People cannot salvage their way out of this current crisis. »

Others point to the effort required to display clothing or other goods for sale or recycling. “I won’t list anything again unless it’s worth more than £10,” says one app enthusiast.

Olive: an app that lets people pick up unwanted household items or neighbours’ groceries for free. Users leave bags hidden outside their homes for others to retrieve.

Too good to leave: a market where cafes and food stores list fresh food they would otherwise throw away at heavily discounted prices. Buyers don’t know what’s inside the bag, but only pay 10% of the normal price.

Depop: a peer-to-peer shopping platform for second-hand fashion

big llama: an application to rent and lend tools and household equipment to other users below market rates

Gum: an online marketplace for second-hand items, known for its informal style and low prices

Rising food prices, however, helped fuel a surge in the use of some sharing apps. Olio, an app that saves waste and money, has seen its listings quintuple since 2020. Valentina Zito, 32, a sales manager at Yahoo, started using it two years ago to recover free food and household items listed by its neighbors in Hoxton. , East London. She also posts her uneaten groceries on Olio for others to eat, saving them from being wasted. “I think supermarket prices are high even for [earners above the median wage].”

Tools and electrical appliances can be borrowed (for a fee) through apps such as Fat Llama. The service is a favorite of Pete Abboud, 31, a data analyst at Bloomberg who earns over £50,000, who rents lighting and sound equipment to other users when he throws a party. “These devices are very expensive and take up a lot of space, which I don’t really have. Abboud recently started using Fat Llama to list his own items, allowing him to completely offset their cost.

David Greenfield, vice president of the Circular Economy Institute, a training agency, points to the Library of Things – where tools and household items are freely available to community members – as a good example of the type of systems that can reduce consumption. “We don’t need 200 drills in 200 homes,” he says.

He thinks the financial climate will push people towards services that operate on a non-monetary basis. “There are platforms that provide opportunities to get things for free, and in a financial crisis, they should be your first port of call.”

Do you use these apps or similar platforms? If so, do they help you save money? Let us know your experiences and impressions in the comments below.