Smart Buying

Why Buy New When You Can Swap?

Swap.com and its new mobile app make trading books, movies, music and games easy.

The May issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, which hits newsstands today, features 32 ways to stop wasting money. Among the tips is to borrow or trade items rather than buy new. An easy way to do this is to use a Web site such as Swap.com. And if you have an iPhone, you can download Swap.com's new free mobile app that makes trading your unwanted books, CDs, DVDs or video games for other items you crave really simple.

Launched April 1, the Swap.com app lets you scan barcodes on your media items then see what you can get in exchange for them. You also can scan barcodes in stores to see if the items are available in Swap.com's inventory.

You can set up an account through the app or at Swap.com and create a list of haves and wants. You will get an e-mail alert when there is a swap opportunity or you can simply click on the "what can I get?" link next to the items you have and search by media type to see what book, movie, CD or game you can get in exchange.

I used the app to scan the barcodes of several children's DVDs my kids no longer watch and found out instantly that I could get any of nearly 83,000 items in exchange for Alice in Wonderland, for example. Now I have to decide whether I want to get a new DVD for the kids or a book for myself.

If you accept a trade, you are responsible for shipping the item to the recipient and will be charged a swap fee of 50 cents for low value items and $1 for high value items, such as video games. Swap.com makes shipping easy, though, because its database has the weight of items and can generate a U.S. Postal Service shipping label (with the recipient's address) that you can print at home. Shipping costs average $3.20.

So for about $3.70 and an Alice in Wonderland DVD that's collecting dust, I can get a Wall-E DVD for the kids. That's far cheaper than the $20 (plus shipping) I would have to pay if I bought it new at Amazon.com.

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