Could You Live Off Collaborative Consumption For One Year?

I was having a drink with a friend last week when we started talking about the ridiculous amount of income we’ve both made using collaborative consumption platforms this year. As a startup founder who is pouring his heart, soul, and bank account into his business, I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it’s been to make extra cash while working 80 hours a week. Without Airbnb, I would be in far worse shape financially right now.

And we started talking about our jobs, our friends jobs, our parents jobs, and what we wanted our future professional lives to look like.

We started to joke about what we would do if we were fired today.

And all of the sudden as just the right amount of alcohol was flowing through his blood, he said something brilliant, or maybe brilliantly stupid, I’ll let you decide.

“Could you live off collaborative consumption for a year, and write a book about it?”

I had to think for a few seconds. First, the fear of not having at least one steady source of income hit me, hard. Could I live without the peace of mind that I would be at least making something like 30K a year guaranteed (nothing is guaranteed in this labor economy) to feed myself and keep my apartment? And by the way, that’s not even close to enough to keep an apartment and live a normal life in Manhattan, it would just be a base to work off of.

My first reaction was that it just couldn’t be done. I am the master of collaborative living and only owning what you can pack in your suit cases (including hockey and suf board bag), but still, it takes money to live in NYC.

And then as we started to think about it more, it became clear that there were so many different sources of revenue you could pull in, that it might be possible to live off collaborative consumption for a year.

Off the top of our heads we could list at least a half dozen things we could do to make money, if they were properly prepared a few months ahead of time.

Rent the second bedroom of your apartment out on Airbnb, my friend already does this, and I rent my whole apartment when I’m away.

Give tours on Sidetour, my friend already does this.

Teach a Skillshare class, I already do this.

Cook meals on Housbites.

Rent your tools and other appliances on NeighborGoods.

Do odd jobs on TaskRabbit.

Tutor students on Tutorspree.

And I’m sure there are many more.

But that’s only on the income producing side. The other part of this year living off collaborative consumption would be on the, well, consumption side.

When people think about the new economy, they shouldn’t just think about how people will make money, this is about how you’ll spend money as well, and how much money you’ll need to live a great life. My contention has been for a while that you will need to learn to live with making less income, but that doesn’t mean your quality of life has to decrease. In fact, I believe it will increase as we learn to access instead of own more things.

If you really were to do this project, you would need to have 10K in savings before you started, just in case. My feeling is that it would be an amazing experience which would push you to step way outside of your boundaries, meet a ton of new people, and really learn to enjoy your life. To be clear, this is not an exercise in frugality, clipping coupons, or anything like that. I’m talking about living as you normally would off a 65K salary as a single twenty-something in NYC, just doing it with an attention to spending your money in a collaborative way using these new tools.

And yes, like many of these “I spent a year doing…” books it would be quite over the top for a normal person to really execute, but that’s not the point. The book would be fun to write, and fun to read. It would be an exposé of how to live a 21st century collaborative urban lifestyle if you went to the extreme.

And at the same time you could bootstrap a startup.

If I didn’t have the opportunity of building a big business at Estimize, I might have really given thought to doing this.

But if someone else were to write the book, I sure as hell would read it.



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