Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Neighbor Exchange

Don't you sometimes wish you could exchange a crotchety neighbor with a friend who has awesome neighbors? It would be nice... But that's not what this post is about.

I live in an apartment building. It has its perks and its drawbacks. Sometimes I love apartment living and sometimes I hate it. One thing that is really awesome about apartment living is that you've got so many neighbors. (That's pretty much the most annoying thing about dwelling in an apartment, but I'm going to try to focus on the positive aspects.) Sure, people who live in houses, either suburban or rural have neighbors as well, but not nearly as many neighbors as those who reside in multifamily buildings.

Sometimes I hear my doorbell and its a neighbor asking for an egg or two. Or some carrots. Or potatoes. Or really anything. The list is endless. I gladly “lend” these items out to the neighbors but when they want to pay it back, I tell them to keep it. I would rather engage in some neighborly loving, a give and take, than to expect people to return all the food items they “borrowed”. When I am cooking a recipe and it calls for orange extract and I don't have that, I would rather get a few drops of the extract from my neighbor than buy a large amount for that one time use.
If you engage in a give and take with your neighbor, you end up saving money.

I remember once I had a recipe that called for some jam. As I am not a jam eater, I saved a good few dollars by getting a few spoonfuls of jam from my neighbor. She saves money by not buying a drill; my neighbor borrows mine whenever she needs to bore a hole in something.

Give and take with a neighbor helps you save money in the long run by making it unnecessary to spend money when you don't have need for it frequently.

Last night I did some babysitting. No, I did not get paid. My neighbor knocked on my door, told me she needed to step out, and asked if I could pop in and out of her apartment to keep an eye on her sleeping baby until her husband arrived. Not liking the idea of leaving a sleeping child, even one in a crib, in an apartment by herself, I gathered my troops and we hung out in the neighbor's house until the man of the house came home.

Little acts of kindness like this benefit me. No cash changed hands but I still gained monetarily from this.
One night I heard that there was a sale of farm fresh eggs for cheap at the end of the block. Both kids were sleeping so I couldn't take them along with me to the sale; my husband was working that evening.
It was a relief to be able to knock on my neighbor's door and ask her to pop in for 15 minutes while I went to buy eggs. I saved money on a babysitter that I would have needed otherwise; I saved money by buying the eggs on sale. I didn't feel bad taking advantage of my neighbor like this as I have no problem lending a hand and babysitting her kids when the need arises.

Bartering is a great tool for those without much money. Sometimes I have an extra something that my friend can use; she has goods or service that would benefit me. Since neither of us have money to pay for these goods or service, bartering works very well. I gave my neighbor an extra baby wrap that I had; in return, she gave me some hand me down clothing that would fit my sons.

The only way to get from neighbors is to first give. If there is no give and take currently with your neighbors, try starting one. Ask your neighbors if you can borrow a potato when you run out, and then tell them that they should feel free to borrow from you if they ever need. When they do, let them know that they should not return what they borrowed, that you gave it to them in the spirit of neighborliness. They most likely will extend the same courtesy to you and not expect you to return foodstuffs that you borrowed and will lend out equipment of theirs to you without a problem. (When it comes to expensive things or whole packages, even the most neighborly of neighbors should return the item. You don't want to cost your neighbor money. A potato or an egg is quite different than a bottle of honey, for instance.)

Penniless Parenting's rule number 6: When you give, eventually you will receive. The world works like that. By being a giving neighbor and saving your neighbors money, your neighbors will generally be willing to help you and end up saving you money.

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