Websites take the work out of gift swapping

HOUSTON Item swapping is a huge trend online. Users offer up items to trade and make a list of the things they want. The website does all the work for you and finds a match.

To say Lisa Ritchie is an avid reader would be an understatement. But instead of buying books, the working mother of two trades for books she wants using a website called

"If you really like to read books, or you use video games, watch movies, like to listen to music, it's a great way to exchange any of those things with other people," Ritchie explained.

At there's no bidding or money exchanged. You offer to trade a single item, and then you can choose from thousands of books, movies, CDs and video games that you can receive in exchange for your item.

"This ends up being a nice even trade," Ritchie said. "Everybody agrees to make the trade. You get a choice first. When everyone accepts the trade, then everyone mails their things."

In the last two years, Ritchie has traded more than 170 books and saved more than $1,000. She has even collected the entire collection of the 007 movies for her husband and new DVDs for her kids.

She said, "It's a great way to change stages without having to buy all new things." charges a fee of 50 cents to a dollar per item you swap, plus you have to pay for shopping as well. That typically averages out around $3.20. The good news is that you can print your labels from home.

If you kids have a lot of toys and clothes check out It's free to join. At this website you can swap a box full of your old children's clothes with another family. The cost is $5 plus shipping. is another way to score free things. It's an auction site where you bid on other people's items using credits instead of money. The highest bid wins the item. You simply list the items you don't need and get the items you want.

For Lisa Ritchie, has worked for her and she still has plenty of books to read.

"So instead of spending $9 or $10 or even, for a hardback, $22, and I can spend $3 and get a book and then when I'm done with it, I can get another book," Ritchie said.

For those who don't want to pay the cost of shipping, don't forget about sites like Craigslist and where you can barter with locals and pick up the items you trade.

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