"Neither a borrower nor a lender be" has been sound advice for ages, but when you need a typically pricey item for a single use, borrowing may be your cheapest option. For those who have been burnt in the past by lending, say, a weed whacker to a neighbor, never to see it again, there is another way to borrow and to lend items—through specialized websites. The practice can save money and safeguard your items.

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 NeighborGoods : Borrow and lend items. This site is particularly good for things you'd normally borrow from a neighbor, like hand tools, painting supplies and other tools for home improvement projects. The site gives you control over who can see your available items, and whether you want your items to be free of charge or available for a small fee. Joining is free, although you can opt to pay $4.99 for access to a greater range of items. The site gives you all the tools you need to keep track of your items, including reservation calendars, automated reminders, private messaging and wish lists. All members are peer-reviewed, so you can feel better about who you lend to. Don't see a group in your area? Organize some friends to create your own—for $6.00 a month.

SnapGoods: Users charge a rental fee or deposit for their items. The site offers a guarantee that ensures a replacement if any damage is done to your item. This site isn’t free. But the rental fees are mostly reasonable and cheaper than investing in new tools or gear. For example, if you need a high-quality camping backpack for a one-time trip, buying one is likely not an option. Borrow one through SnapGoods for 75 – 90 percent cheaper than buying. SnapGoods is free to join and charges a very small fee of $0.50 cents plus 7 percent of the transaction for each rental. SnapGoods also provides points and dollars for helping connect people who want items to people in your network who have it. It pays to act like a broker!

Rentalic: Free to join and to list for items from baby strollers to camping tents and beyond. Extra safety measures exist in a unique "secret code" issued to each renter, who will then give that code to the owner of the item. Like the previous two sites, Rentalic provides peer reviews but also uses PayPal to ensure that each potential borrower has sufficient funds to rent the item from you. However, Rentalic does not provide a rental agreement and does not take responsibility for damaged goods.

Category-Specific Sites:

Swapbabygoods: Buy, sell, or swap baby items.

Neighborhood Fruit: Allows users to offer excess fruit from their own trees or helps neighbors find community fruit trees on public land. Though such sites are a little harder to find, they are often smaller communities that are more likely to offer their services for free, so it ends up being worth the extra detective work.

All the above sites have earned excellent reviews and even better press. Still, be sure to read all terms and conditions carefully, as well as any rental or lease agreements you sign. Then, enjoy saving money and encouraging green community living the next time you "knock" on your neighbor's door!

  This has been a guest post by Deborah from Brittany from Sacramento, CA
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Help in the 'Hood: How to Use Neighborhood Lending Sites