3. Your daughter wants a clarinet, and you need to get rid of that old couch, but it’s still got some life left in it.
Solution: Try freecycling. Community groups across the nation have organized to help consumers give away stuff they no longer need and find free stuff they could use. This isn’t a barter arrangement. You give or you get, but not necessarily from the same person. Once you find a recycler who has something you want, you make arrangements to pick it up.
Nancy Castleman of Elizaville, New York, has given away Jerusalem artichokes from her garden, lawn mowers, a television, stereo speakers and a sewing machine. She’s received computers, a stove, a lawn tractor and a 30-gallon pail of birdseed.
The granddaddy of online recycling is freecycle.org, a network of nearly 2.5 million members in 3,710 communities around the world. Also global is freesharing.org. Members offer
furniture, clothing, appliances, computers and more. Check out the list of other “sites like us.” For a smaller, folksier site, go to sharingisgiving.org. Search by ZIP code for local garage sales and thrift shops.
4. Your son left for college, and you want to keep in touch — without paying huge phone bills.
Solution: Talk for free on the Internet. Go to skype.com and download free software that allows you to make free domestic calls (and very inexpensive international calls) to other Skype users. David Kavaler, a junior at Northeastern University in Boston, went to Venice, Italy, for a summer photo program and used Skype to call home. “It was very cheap, so I didn’t bust my budget on phone bills,” he says.
Google is also developing a network to handle calls and instant messages to friends anytime, anywhere. Google Talk is free. Go to google.com/talk to sign up.
JAJAH recently introduced a free global calling plan. Go to jajah.com, enter your own phone number and the number of the person you want to call. Your phone will ring and a recorded voice will announce that you are being connected to your friend’s phone. Within moments, you are talking. Free. After this initial call, both you and your friend will need to register (no charge) at jajah.com to continue the free chats. Most countries are in JAJAH’s free zones, but check before calling. Take note: Some phone companies charge for incoming calls.