Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn: Take your pick; social networking has become America's new favorite pastime. These platforms help us find new jobs and long-lost high school loves, spy on our neighbors, post pictures, and fan Betty White. But did you know social networking can help save you money, too?
Here's the thing: We already share plenty of random news with friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers. Right now the status updates on my Facebook page announce the following:
- Daniel is "in a open relationship."
- Inna is asking for donations for a friend whose house burned down.
- Sarah is inviting us to join her at her Red Cross Blood Drive next Saturday.
- Ajay "finally got to reserve an iPhone 4."
- Nick just had a baby boy!
If relatives know you're saving up to redo your deck and your goal is to save up $15,000, maybe they'll get you Home Depot gift cards for birthdays and holidays instead of stuff you don't really need. Perhaps your Uncle Tom will whisper a recommendation for a trustworthy contractor.
And if you're shopping around for a good savings rate, let it be known. Someone you know may have a great tip.
Financial companies are also tapping into the social networking market to help customers boost savings.
At Smartypig, for example, you can sign up for a savings account specific to your goal and invite friends and family to donate money. Once you've reached the finish line you can redeem your cash on either a debit card or various gift cards.
At GreenNote, students saving for college can use the online service to create a college savings campaign and request donations from their social network.
The FriendlyFavor site helps you ask friends and family members for favors - like donations, swaps or volunteer help. For example: "I'm moving out of my house on Friday, come one, come all. Free pizza in exchange for your time and upper-body strength." At the end of the move, you've gotten all the needed help and saved a few hundred bucks in moving costs - all thanks to your social network.
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