Buy now, don’t pay later: how UK families are turning to gifts | UK cost of living crisis

There’s a bike in Woking, Christmas cards in Bristol and a sofa bed and stepladder available in Camden, north London.

Can you really get something for nothing? Thousands of people have realized that you can do it with the free stuff swapping trend, now a mainstay of social media.

As the cost of living crisis rages, Britons are using sites such as Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, Freegle and Olio to find items others no longer want to help equip their homes and gardens or s to dress or dress their children – and even stock up on Christmas gifts.

Gumtree has seen a 160% increase in free article page views since May this year, with user sessions on free pages increasing 15% year over year. The site found that two-thirds of Britons bought an item for free in the first six months of the year, with 29% doing so for the first time.

Gumtree estimates there are £3.96billion worth of items in UK households that we would gladly part with for nothing, making a market ripe for tapping.

Freegle, an exchange site that has been in operation since 2009 and has nearly 3 million members, said activity on the site increased 70% in the year to end February compared to the same period. before the pandemic.

The number of people searching for free content on Facebook Marketplace jumped 75% year-on-year, with 30% more joining UK-based freebies, swaps or discounts groups, while the Neighborhood social network Nextdoor says 40% more free content is on the way. given than before the pandemic.

Freecycle, which has more than 600 local groups in the UK and 5,000 worldwide, says activity has doubled. It recorded a 50% increase in new registrations in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and remains 20% above historical rates.

Freegle’s Cat Fletcher says sharing sites are an alternative to charity shops because it’s possible to donate items that many won’t take – from slightly broken furniture to electrical appliances and children’s clothing. Another attraction is that the goods go to someone in the area who will benefit immediately and who can pick up the item, avoiding the difficulty of finding transportation.

Fletcher also runs the Free Shop in Brighton, where dozens of people bring and take free items every week.

Freegle's Cat Fletcher (green sweater) reviews Catherine Fisher's donations.
Freegle’s Cat Fletcher (green sweater) reviews Catherine Fisher’s donations. Photograph: Andrew Hasson/The Guardian

Catherine Fisher, 46, who donated children’s games and dimmers this week, said: ‘I really don’t want to throw things in the trash. I felt like they were things that had a lot more life in them although they weren’t useful to me.

She’s previously used Facebook Marketplace and sharing app Olio to buy, sell and donate items, but says the free store “takes a lot of stuff that other places won’t take and finds a home for it.”

The speed of getting rid of items for free is part of its appeal. Driven by fear of missing out and no fear of haggling payment, listed items usually leave within a day or two.

“It’s like hot cakes,” says Hannah Rouch, chief marketing officer of Gumtree, where about 1 million free items are listed each week.

She says the growing interest in gifts is part of a general change in behavior over the past year, with greater acceptance of second-hand goods and an interest in sharing with the local community.

Interest in shopping venues was partly driven by necessity during the pandemic, when supply chain issues and high street closures led to difficulties in getting some items through the usual channels – whether it’s be it a freezer, a hot tub or a caravan.

Arrow cat.
Arrow cat. Photograph: Andrew Hasson/The Guardian

Chris Alderman, 27, who lives in Surbiton, south-west London, said he had almost completely furnished his flat for free using Facebook Marketplace and other sites. He was prompted to find an alternative to buying new as he was short on cash immediately after completing his house purchase as deliveries of sofas and beds were blocked during the Covid crisis.

“I initially thought I would only get a few things but it worked so I think I saved a few thousand pounds,” says Alderman who took a bed, a desk and an office chair, dining chairs, coffee table and mirror. He also bought a sofa for £25.

He says, “It’s amazing what people give away for free just to get rid of it. I was selective… I made sure it was made of suitable or good quality wood, made to be taken apart and reassembled.

Alderman characterizes a general shift in openness to trading, sharing and trading with neighbors since the pandemic, while the rise of second-hand shopping sites such as eBay, Depop and Vinted have made fashion the “pre-loved” items.

“There are fewer social barriers,” adds Fletcher. She says interest in trying to live more sustainably has also spurred the trend. “Not buying something new and reusing it in your local community has a huge impact on carbon emissions,” she says, because then they don’t have to be made and transported, often far and wide. ‘foreign. “There are just endless piles of things that we don’t need to make or buy new,” she says.

Inflation on energy and food bills only accelerated the trend. “A lot of people make a post [requesting an item] saying they can’t afford it because of the cost of living, so we know that’s the case,” says Freecycle’s Jacqueline Durham.

A woman uses the Olio mobile app.
A woman uses the Olio mobile app. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Gumtree saw spikes in activity on its free section around certain announcements that piled economic pressure on families such as rising gas prices and rising interest rates.

Michelle, who runs the “discount codes, freebies and glitches” Facebook group with nearly 70,000 members, says she’s been overwhelmed by the number of people signing up online. “We get a lot of inquiries from single parents, retirees and people who say they work full time but are struggling to get by.

“Some brought me to tears. Members thanked us for helping them with Christmas gifts this year. When times are tough, we all need a little treat.

But it’s not all about economic necessity. Rouch says that when she herself has listed children’s toys or clothes on the free site, it not only means she’s gotten rid of the items she wants to empty quickly, but there’s the feel-good factor. be additional. “Every time a family came to pick up something, I felt good because I could see their joy,” she said.

She says the combination of this sentiment, interest in sustainability and the ability to save money will only increase interest in sharing free content.

“I think it will normalize and grow. Once people have found the quality of the articles, they are much more likely to take that as their starting point. [for looking for something] the next time.”

Leave a Reply