Swap and save doesn't just apply to supermarket loyalty cards. Thanks to the frugal and green movements, more consumers are opting to swap their unused items, rather than go through the hassle of a garage sale or the expense of tossing them into the county landfill.
As a result, swap and barter websites have become vastly more popular than in their early days. We found 24 that allow you to trade just about everything, including services and jobs. Before we begin the list, however, here are a few tips for safer swapping.
And now to our list of 24 websites. Please note none trade in X-rated or adults-only materials.
Swap: Babysitters, Carpools, Services
BabysitterExchange is made up of co-ops of people who exchange services for services, from baby- and pet-sitting to carpooling and odd jobs. Members earn tokens which they exchange for services, and earn tokens when they provide services. The site aims to create trustworthy communities of people who already know and trust each other, and works to connect people on budgets.
The cashless Barter Quest offers the added feature of verifying users for member security. Matches for haves and wants are instantly made and you can trade nearly everything internationally. Negotiating is entirely up to users and availability for everything from services to computers to jewelry. Trades can be made between two people or multiple parties, all coordinated by Barter Quest. Members are charged a one-time verification fee before trading and there are fees for the transfer or redemption of "sale points," the site's non-cash exchange currency.
BookMooch approaches swapping very simply; give away books you don't need and get books you want for free. The service is free and sellers receive points for each item sold, which they turn around for more books. It's an endless cycle, but voracious readers will love it.
What frugal list is complete without a Craigslist mention? While the majority of transactions on this free website are monetarily based, you'll find a "barter" section under the "For Sale" tab. Trades tend to be quite unusual, as in the recent offer of hunting equipment for an iPad. There's an interesting proposition.
This well-known website is really more of a give-away service. Grassroots developed and entirely nonprofit, Freecycle connects those who want to give away something -- from autumn leaves to goats -- with those who need leaves and goats. The goal is to recycle and repurpose while keeping stuff out of the landfill. Each group is moderated by local volunteers and membership is entirely free.
Swap: Gift cards
Most sites don't allow users to buy, sell or trade gift cards because they're considered second-kin to cash. GiftCardGranny.com, however, allows you to buy and sell discount gift cards at up to 50-percent off the face value. It's a great place to dump unwanted cards and buy those to merchants you prefer.
Swap: Vacation homes
Need a vacation but can't afford hotels? The website allows you to swap homes, yachts, RVs or whatever space and location suits your fancy. A three-month membership is free, then the basic annual fee of $9.95 per month gets you unlimited inquiries and access to member-only features, including notifications of potential exchanges in your desired location.
Swap: Vacation homes
Exchange your home for another in more than 70 countries with no charge for the service. Users upload personal info, details of the swap, desired swap dates and locations, and lots of photos. The English-language site is worth a look just to see some beautiful homes around the world. The itamos service is connected to social networking so users can exchange with friends-of-friends and endorsed contacts. The most popular home exchanges are between the U.S., Paris, Amsterdam, London, Barcelona and Berlin.
This auction site allows you to earn credits for giving away your extra stuff and then use them to win stuff you want. Receive 400 credits automatically when you register and another 100 after listing your first auction. You can also earn credits for inviting friends to join and connecting with Facebook and Twitter. The site is definitely G rated, with an extensive posted list of prohibited items.
Swap: Makeup, perfumes and other personal-care products
Did you ever buy a powder pack or lipstick only to find it just didn't work with your coloring? Then this site might be right up your alley. While it might sound a bit gross to use someone else's makeup, the savings well make it worth getting over that ick factor. (Just NEVER someone else's mascara!) Members swap for points towards future purchases. MakeupAlley is actually more of a community than a swap site as it also allows members to review products, trade tips and participate in message boards.
As with many of these sites, this service uses a point-driven system in which members earn a point for sending in books and are charged a point for receiving books. With over three-million titles available, however, there's little chance of getting stuck with points because you can't find a desirable book. Membership is free. but PaperBackSwap does solicit donations.
Swap: Women's clothing, accessories and (go figure) textbooks
This online Mecca for fashion hounds allows users to trade online for clothing and accessories (with the occasional textbook thrown in.) This virtual thrift store allows members to swap clothing and accessories while chatting about fashion. You can exchange items in person, if your swap-partner lives nearby. There's lots of member interaction, in which fashionistas can create a profile page, ask each other questions, post photos of their finds, and generally keep in touch with like-minded gals.
Swap: Books, games, music, movies and clothing.
Trade media (games, books, music and movies) in "Swap Media." Refresh your wardrobe at a local swap meet through "Swap Events." Swap.com also is in the process of developing "Swap Market," where you'll be able to swap anything with anyone, notify your Facebook friends of exchange desires; and review what your friends have and want.
In short, film fans trade DVDs for preferred discs. You'll find an intuitive search engine similar to IMDB.com, which allows you to search by title, keyword, actors or directors. Can't find the title you want? Simply place it on your Wish List and the service will notify you when it's available. Credits are issued and deducted for swapped titles and shipping is paid for by the seller.
SwapAce allows users to negotiate, trade, buy and sell just about anything, including services. The site design is a thing of usable beauty, which is rare among swap sites. Listings top 80,000 items from more than 200,000 users in over 150 countries.
Swap: Sports equipment
SwapMeSports.com is your source for sports and athletic gear trading. There are no fees for listing, selling or shipping, and you can either buy, donate, trade or sell sporting goods. There is even a handy list of equipment required for a variety of different sports, so you’re sure to know and find exactly what you need.
Swap: Clothing, accessories and cosmetics
This international fashion website claims to offer 100 percent sustainable items, but that's difficult to verify. Now in its sixth year, the club has more than 40,000 members around the world, including Oprah Winfrey and Jessica Simpson, and over a million swap items. All trading is strictly one-on-one and no points or swap bucks are involved. If the person you contact doesn't see any items in your profile they want, then it's no deal. There are no user reviews but members can endow tokens indicating the swapee is trustworthy.
One of the best and biggest online consignment shops for clothing, ThredUp is fairly simple: send in a box of clothes, they’ll price it and post it, and once it sells, you earn money. Popular among parents seeking children’s clothing and hoping to donate outgrown clothes, this site holds high standards for their accepted items, ensuring the buyer is getting quality items. They also offer coupon codes for your first purchase, as well as other deals.
The Title Trader website allows members to swap items for "Request Credits," but you can also pay cash for desired listings. Standard trading is free, but users can now pay a $19.95 fee for such Premium Features as buddy lists and a daily newsletter. Mailing is the sender's responsibility, although you can track UPS deliveries for 18 cents per shipment.
Swap: Anything, including real estate
Standard listings and registration are free on Trade Away, where you can sell, buy and trade auction style for nearly everything imaginable. Trades can be bartered for cash or TradeCredits, which you can spend immediately or keep for future use.
Swap: Donations for a Dominican Republic vacation
Here's an interesting concept in charity giving: Donate your materials and/or time to help schools in the Dominican Republic and cut the cost of your visit by 10 percent to 50 percent. The do-gooder system is possible thanks to villa and hotel owners on the island.
No barters, commissions or currencies are involved in U-Exchange trades. This multi-national site allows users to search by local or international traders, as well as by keyword. Privacy is guaranteed and each member is given a homepage that's password protected. U-EX charges no commission, preferring to pay for the service through advertising.