Remember the years when Mom would send you next door to ask for some sugar? For a lot of us, those days are long in the past. In fact, I probably couldn't pick my neighbors out of a criminal lineup if I needed to. The truth is, we are often too busy running here and there to take the time to get to know the strangers next door.
When my husband and I purchased our first house, we made a conscious decision to know our neighbors. Aside from the friendships we've established, we've managed to save over $600 a year just by being neighborly. In turn, we've helped our neighbors save as well. Try out some of these tips to be on your way to additional savings.
1. Establish a newspaper swap
As a couponer, it only makes sense to subscribe to the Sunday edition of our local newspaper. I save time and money. However, most of my interest in the paper is solely the coupons. Occasionally I'll skim through the paper but rarely ever read the whole thing. After meeting my neighbor in front several times while retrieving the paper, I asked if he would consider a newspaper swap. I explained that I was mostly after coupons and asked if he would give me the coupons that arrived in his Sunday LA Times in exchange for my Sunday edition of the local paper. He was fully on board, and we are now going on two years of swapping newspapers.
Annual savings: $200, the cost of an additional Sunday paper delivery.
2. Borrow tools
A couple of months after our move-in, my husband decided he wanted to handcraft something for our home. After seeing a neighbor in his garage creating something of his own, my husband struck up a conversation. "Guy talk," is what he called it when I quizzed him. Shortly after that encounter is when he had the idea to build a bookcase. I'm a huge fan of one-of-a-kind items, especially furniture, but with the cost of supplies and the plea my husband gave me for a new circular saw, I knew this bookcase was going to cost more than I'd like.
After some thought, I finally made a deal with him: forego the new circular saw and the project is a go. The days after the compromise, he kept hinting at the need to have a circular saw for the project. Finally fed up with his insistence, I replied, "Can't you just borrow it from Bill next door?!" His face froze and then he smiled. "Yes, that makes sense." When he returned from Bill's house, he gave me a kiss and added, "See? That's why I married you." The following weekend he borrowed Bill's circular saw and built the bookcase. He's since borrowed numerous tools and returned the favor.
Annual savings: $40 a day for a tool rental, $60+ for purchasing a new tool.
3. Pet and child-sitter
This next tip isn't anything entirely new, but it is a saving grace. Last year my youngest child took a tumble at the playground. There was blood everywhere. Luckily she was able to be glued back together (glue, who knew?!). When we were running back to our house, a neighbor spotted us and offered to watch my other daughter while we went to the ER. It saved us the headache of entertaining her, and we felt relaxed knowing she was with people we knew and trusted.
After that incident, we have watched their pets while they went on vacation. And we've also taken turns watching each other's kids so the other couple can have a date night. It has been amazing developing this relationship. Believe me, I know not everyone will trust their neighbor with their children, but if you are lucky to find such a family nearby, the savings and date nights could really add up.
Annual savings: $50 per day at a kennel, $10 per hour for a babysitter.
4. Garden swap
This past summer my oldest daughter decided she wanted to have a lemonade stand. As we were out at the neighborhood park, a neighbor who lived behind us came by to buy lemonade. "You know I have a lemon tree," she told my daughter, whose eyes lit up. "Next time you want to have a lemonade stand, come by my house and I'll give you lemons. I always have more than I know what to do with."
This excited my daughter. Later as we were cleaning up, she started talking about having a fruit stand. Then she said, "I wonder if our neighbor has fruit." It got me thinking. We have more avocados than we know what to do with. Who else in the neighborhood could have the same problem? That night, with my daughter's assistance, we walked the neighborhood asking neighbors if they had a garden and would be interested in starting a garden swap. With just an hour of effort, we had three neighbors on board. Since then, we've grown to over five families that contribute to the garden swap. Every couple of weeks we meet and provide the excess of our garden's bounty. It's also been a great way to learn new recipes and experiment with food we would otherwise be reluctant to try.
Annual savings: $240+
Implementing all of these savings tactics takes time. Remember the main objective isn't to get to know your neighbor for the sole purpose of saving. Building a relationship with neighbors can bond you in more ways than one. It's your territory. Protection and a sense of safety are important. Knowing your neighbors allows you to keep an eye out for them and vice versa. Look–I'm a complete introvert when it comes to meeting new people. All I did was start with a "hello" and wave.
This is a guest post by Nikki C. from Oxnard, CA.