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The sharing economy – opportunities to save money

SINGAPORE — For people who want to save money or earn a little extra income, the sharing economy offers great opportunities. The possibilities go beyond the more well-known services such as Uber or Airbnb, and taking advantage of them can help your pocketbook as well as the broader community.

SINGAPORE — For people who want to save money or earn a little extra income, the sharing economy offers great opportunities. The possibilities go beyond the more well-known services such as Uber or Airbnb, and taking advantage of them can help your pocketbook as well as the broader community. 


The sharing economy refers to using apps or websites that enable individuals to share underused goods or engage people for services on a peer-to-peer basis. While people have loaned items informally for centuries, the sharing economy has expanded the concept from sharing with family or friends to using digital connections to share with people you don’t know. 

While services such as Uber or Airbnb garner the most attention, the sharing economy now includes everything from services that help neighbours lend each other household items to apps that allow people to share cars or electronic gadgets, and more. 

The benefits are enormous. Beyond the income the provider receives and the lower amount the user pays, the sharing economy helps to reduce the environmental impact of little-used goods and to build the community. As research associate Jean Chia at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy noted in her paper “Shaping Policy for the Sharing Economy”, sharing economy platforms give users “more choices, and often at lower prices... [Additionally], many sharing economy platforms also promoted ethical, social or environmental credentials.”   


The biggest challenge for many people in joining the sharing economy may be mindset. Many consumers have come to believe that it’s better to buy new items and purchase services from brand-name suppliers. 

Becoming part of the sharing economy entails changing that mindset and accepting that buying used items or engaging less structured service providers is better. Indeed, you may actually end up with something you like better, at a cheaper price, if you rent a fancy ballgown for one-time use or eat homemade ‘kueh’ or share a car for a day. People who have things to share need to decide that it’s better to earn income from sharing items such as their car or long-neglected clothes rather than letting them sit idle. 

Once you’ve made that decision, becoming part of the sharing economy is easy. You simply need to know what items or services you want to share or offer, look for sharing services online, and then sign up with one of the service providers that can help you share.

For transport, for instance, iCarsclub provides a membership-based community for peer-to-peer car sharing. Car owners can rent out their idle cars and may earn up to $1,000 per month. A Toyota Altis, for example, recently cost $10 an hour or $80 per day. 

Consumers who want to offer or rent furniture, tools, toys or other household items can use Rent Tycoons to upload their items for interested renters or look for items they want to use. “Renting can save money and save space,” as Rent Tycoons describes the benefits. Leendy offers a similar service, whereby users can post something they don’t need and exchange it for something they want, then swap it back in a few weeks or keep it if everyone’s happy.

For cooks and foodies, Hcook provides a community for home chefs to offer their best dishes and foodies to get homemade delights. The home chefs operate under the small business guidelines set by the Urban Redevelopment Authority for home-based businesses. “Every purchase you make returns something back to the community,” Hcook proclaims, adding that “we create income and restore food traditions.” 

A multitude of other apps and websites allow sharing of everything from clothes and electronic gadgets to accommodations and events. 


Sharing economy users need to realise that goods or services don’t have the same guarantees as more traditional services, so it’s also important to choose services carefully. 

It’s also important to consider regulations, since there can be restrictions on sharing or regulations may not have been updated to take sharing into account. Accommodation is a case in point. Two homeowners had their flats confiscated by the Housing and Development Board in 2016, for instance, because they rented their units to tourists even though short-term rentals are not allowed. Private properties owners may rent out their property, on the other hand, because the six-month minimum rental period is a guideline from the Urban Redevelopment Authority rather than a law.

The government is working on solutions. As Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament last year, “the sharing economy and in particular new business models like Grab and Uber are benefitting commuters globally... we should not obstruct innovation, especially when it benefits commuters... We should seek to achieve win-win for both the disrupters and the incumbents, with commuter welfare as the underpinning principle. It can be done.”

While government wrestles with how to get it done, both the people offering the goods or services and the people using them need to make sure they stay within the limits of the law. 


With the multitude of benefits the sharing economy offers, more people than ever are taking part and doing more than just using Uber or Airbnb. If you’re not on board yet, it’s worth taking a look so you can grow your income or save money, build the community, and help the environment, all at the same time.

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