How to Save $5000 a Year — As a Homeowner or a Renter

Friendly married couple, both professionals in sustainability, seeks one competent, friendly person to serve as Home & Garden Manager in exchange for free rent.

That's the opener to the Craigslist ad that has saved us about $5,000, turned our weedy front lawn into a beautiful garden, and freed up six hours of our time per week.

Conversely, two bright, energetic college graduates have each repaid about $2,500 on their student loans that they would still owe if they hadn't been (one at a time) our housemates, working in exchange for rent. A work/rent exchange can be a win-win for both parties, especially in this tightening economy, and could revolve around child care, home repairs, cooking, painting, etc. rather than gardening. While some people would craft this as a landlord/tenant arrangement, especially if living quarters were completely separate, it works nicely for us as a housemate arrangement.

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