One of the biggest untapped resources for frugality is one’s neighbors. If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, the frugal benefits for both of you can be tremendous. Here are seven frugal suggestions for shared activity with your neighbors that can save you both a wad of cash.
Reciprocal babysitting Offer to watch a neighbor’s children one Saturday night a month in exchange for them watching your kids one Saturday night a month. This makes for what amounts to free babysitting one night a month for both of you. This can be especially valuable near Christmastime – my parents and their neighbors used to do this in order to get the children out of the house so that presents could be bought and wrapped.
Neighborhood meals Get several of your neighbors together and have rotating meals – once every other week or so, one family cooks for everyone. This works well for cooking something simple: hamburgers on the grill with vegetables, boiled sweet corn, or a giant cajun feast (lots of stuff boiled together).
Shared equipment Look into buying a lawnmower with your neighbor. Or an edger. Or other such expensive equipment. This saves for all of you – for just a few hundred dollars, you can wind up with many years of use of a top-quality riding lawnmower and only have to bear a small fraction of the maintenance effort and expense.
Shared food If you have a gardening neighbor, agree to grow different things in your garden and share equally. For example, I know many techniques for growing tomatoes, so I might offer to grow a large number of tomato plants and share them with several neighbors in exchange for some of their produce.
Bulk buying Talk to several families about purchasing a fully butchered and packaged head of cattle. Quite often, you can get this far cheaper than sticker price if you get ahold of a meat locker. Sell shares of it and split up the meat so that you don’t overload your own freezer. You can basically do this with any very large bulk purchase to save a lot of money over the long run.
Summer camp! The families on our block are doing a very interesting thing to save them all significant daycare expenses this month. All of the children three and over are attending a rotating day camp at the different houses of their parents. Each week, one set of parents uses a week of vacation, hosts the camp at their house, and watches all of the kids while finding fun activities for them. If daycare costs $100 a week per child that you have and you have two children, this can save $2,600 over a thirteen week summer. (If there is interest in this, I’d be glad to describe it in more detail.)
Shared resources Need pruning shears but don’t have any? Don’t run to the hardware store for something you might use once – knock on your neighbor’s door and ask. Quite often, you’ll be able to find what you need.
So, how does one get started? My wife and I have simply invited several neighbors over for a meal, just to get to know them. We do this one family at a time so we’re not overwhelmed with names and such. Then, hopefully, they’ll reciprocate and you have the basis for a relationship where you get to know them well. Don’t be afraid of your neighbors – get to know them and you’ll find a powerful resource in your life.