Forget Rummaging Goodwill Bins. Moms Go Online to Swap for Christmas Presents

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A modern version of bartering is gaining in popularity.

The economic downturn has forced many Americans to adjust how they spend their money. Saving rates are up. Credit card use is down. And swapping sites are on the rise.

For Christmas this year, a number of parents seem to be turning to Thredup.com, an online toy exchange that started out as a clothing swap site but is now catering to moms looking for a holiday bargain. The site launched in April and now has close to 50,000 members, according to its CEO.

(Read about the pick-up in holiday shopping this year.)

The idea, though, is as old as the American family itself. Remember when you used to get your older brother’s jeans because he had outworn them? Or your sister’s tennis shoes because they no longer fit? A site like Thredup.com and others allows parents to give toys and clothes away to other families that their own children have outgrown.

How it works: First, you pick a box of stuff from another member online, paying $5 shipping. Then you post a box of stuff online, and when another member on the site picks it, you send your box free of charge. One mom even got a Playstation 2 in one of the boxes. That’s a lot better than those jeans with the holes in them you used to get.

(See TIME’s holiday gift guide.)

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