We often ask ourselves, “How can I keep more of my hard-earned cash in my bank account?” It’s a constant frustration to see the money fly out as quickly as it comes in.

However, the fact is that we know perfectly well what the answer is: Buy. Less. Stuff. Sounds simple enough, but in this consumerist world we live in, it isn’t so easy. We need (and want) new stuff, and most of the time, that costs money.

There is a way to end up with wonderful new things without emptying your wallet (and it doesn’t involve criminal activity).

Host a Swap Party.

You have plenty of great items in your own home that might not seem new to you, but would be “just the right thing” to someone else. And most likely, your friends and family have a whole lot of fabulous bounty just waiting to find its way into new hands.

First, how to swap: Decide on a theme for your party, and a date and set time frame (I suggest three hours max). Send an e-vite, specifying you’re looking for gently-used items. You can make the swap a free-for-all, but I suggest giving each person a chit recording the amount of items they’ve brought (3, 6, 14, whatever). Everyone gets to take the same amount of items home, unless they stay to the end and get their pick of whatever’s left over. Any unwanted items go to your favourite charity.

Here are six sensational swap ideas:

1. Clothing: The clothing swap is the obvious first choice when it comes to swapping. Bags and jewellery are also extremely “swappable” – many of us have purses we’ve never used that are just gathering dust in the closet, or costume jewellery that is perfectly lovely, just not our taste anymore.

2. Books: Does it seem like you’re always looking for something good to read, yet you don’t want to spend the money on a new book? A handful of hardcovers can run you close to a hundred bucks, and you might not even like them. Invite your book-loving friends and family to a book swap, separating the book type (fiction, non-fiction, cooking, kids, etc.) or even genre (romance, horror, historical fiction, mystery, etc.).

3. Toys/Games: This is a great idea for those of you with children. Most kids grow out of their playthings in a year or two, and we often have a whack of great toys and games that our kids never really took to. Hint: Try to make sure you invite parents of kids of ALL ages, so you don’t end of with seven preschooler moms all dumping off the same board books. A variety of age groups means a variety of books to choose from. This swap also apply to kid-free types  – you may have tired of Taboo, but perhaps your neighbour hasn’t.

4. Food: Now is a perfect time to set up a December cookie swap if you and your friends are big bakers. Bake several dozen of your personal specialty, invite a group of friends to do the same and voila! You’ve got a selection of delectable holiday treats all ready to go. Food swaps have become popular for the canning/pickling/jam-making set, and it certainly will save you a bundle on the tasty home-made delicacies you crave.

5. Baby/Pregnancy Gear: If you’re smack dab in the middle of those years where everyone seems to be either currently pregnant, bringing home a newborn or just heading into toddlerhood, it might be the perfect time to host a baby gear swap party. No one wants to spend money on maternity clothes, and many of us keep them in the back of our closet well after we decide our child-bearing years are over. Strollers, exersaucers, rockers, bottle warmers and breast pumps can cost an arm and leg and are only useful for such a short time.

6. Movies: This is another swap idea that’s custom-made for parents. You may have shelled out good money for Dora or Barney or Little Einstein flicks, but now your kids are seven, and would rather check out Ghostbusters or Harry Potter. This is particularly great for those hard-to-find Disney films (as opposed to waiting three years for a title to become available). And though we all have access to films through Netflix or iTunes or OnDemand, you can’t beat free, portable, classic DVDs.

Shelley White is a Canadian freelance writer, editor and TV producer who contributes regularly to The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, The Grid and Spinner.com. Shelley is also a mother of two who aspires to never again carry a credit card balance.