We have four sets of neighbors that are adjacent to our house.
Our children play constantly with the children of one of the neighbors. There’s a swingset that’s on the border between our yards, and the children all play on this equipment. The five of them are making up games constantly together.
Our daughter attends dance class with another of the neighbors. With those same neighbors, we’ve shared many different garden plants and produce and we’ve also worked together to combat a tree fungus that was damaging trees on both of our properties.
Another neighbor drives the school bus that our children take to school. Their children seem to adore our oldest son and have given him countless hand-me-downs of all kinds, including his favorite baseball glove.
Our daughter is best friends with the oldest child of our other neighbors. Sarah has become fast friends with them, too, with the two of them sharing tons of gardening tips and joining a book club together.
In each case, we have an ongoing agreement to keep an eye on each other’s homes when we’re traveling. That means there are half a dozen sets of eyes on our property when we’re away.
What did it take to achieve all of these relationships? It just took a few minutes here and there, along with a willingness to say hello and to offer help when it seemed appropriate.
One of the biggest reasons we’re happy to continue living where we’re at is the relationships we’ve fostered with our neighbors. These relationships are a huge benefit in many ways – socially, personally, financially, and otherwise.
It was actually quite easy to establish them, too. We simply made an effort to get to know each of our neighbors. If we saw them outside when we were outside, we said hello. When new neighbors moved to the neighborhood, I would usually make them a loaf of homemade bread.
In a few cases, it was a bit more difficult to establish a relationship. In those cases, I’d look for a simple way to start building a relationship. In one case, I blew the snow off of their driveway early one morning, making it very easy for them to get to work. When they left for the day, right as I was finishing up, they said thanks and we chatted for a moment.
A great way to continue to build that relationship is to borrow something very simple from them when you need it. I’ve borrowed a screwdriver from one neighbor and a dolly cart from another neighbor. In each case, the borrowing transitioned into a discussion about the project I needed the items for and usually into a nice little discussion about what we had to do.
When we travel, we usually alert the police in the town, but we also tell the neighbors as well and ask them to keep an eye out. This isn’t really a big leap of trust, as they could easily tell that we were traveling, but it causes them to keep a bit of an extra eye on our house, retrieve any packages left on our front step, and so on. We do the same for them.
These little favors add up, both for us and for them. We end up getting more value out of the relationship than we put into it, as do they. It takes only a moment to keep an eye on a neighbor’s house, for example, but it gives them a lot of peace of mind.
Build relationships with your neighbors. You’ll find that you both benefit a great deal from those relationships.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.