Have you ever received a financial boost by being part of a community?
Back in April, I wrote about how (and why) to build community. Along with the article, we also conducted a survey (both of the GRS community and, later, of the general population) about points in the article. The survey covered questions such as:
- Does your community improve your lifespan?
- Can you rely on them during hard times?
- Can your community help your finances?
Ready for some results?
The majority of the respondents agreed that community can improve their lifespan. (Fully 57.44 percent of the general population respondents and 95.29 percent of GRS respondents held that opinion.) And when personal tragedy strikes, both groups agreed that community gets even more important. (Almost 74 percent of the general population respondents said they were able to rely on their community in the face of tragedy. Compare that to nearly 86 percent of GRS responders.)
The results that really surprised me? Just 26.17 percent of general population respondents reported that their community helped improve their finances. The GRS respondents? 60 percent.
So how does your community improve your financial situation?
Assuming you already have your community foundation, let's get practical. How can you save your community money? And how can they return the favor?
Personal finance experts often recommend attacking your food budget to gain some financial wiggle room — and for good reason. Food is a flexible part of our budgets. All the more reason to band together with our communities to decrease all our food budgets.
But that's not what happens … at least, not according to our survey results. We saw that 80.02 percent of the general population respondents don't rely on their community to help with their food budget. And 70.59 percent of GRS respondents don't either.
We can fix that. Here are some options:
1. Share purchases.
My normal grocery store is running a big meat sale this week. The 80% lean ground beef is on sale for $2.59 a pound, which is the best price I've seen for months. And New York strip steaks are on sale for $7.99 per pound.
Just for fun, I called up my friend who raises beef cattle and asked what he charges per pound. $2.50 per pound, whether it's a pound of roast, ground beef, or steak.
If you have steak tastes on a ground-beef budget, along with a very small freezer, you could team up with someone in your community to buy half a beef and split it. Or buy a quarter and split that.
(“Half a beef” sounds grammatically incorrect, but I confirmed with my husband that that's what we say 'round these here parts. If that sounds weird to you, you can call it “50 percent of a bovine.”)
That very small freezer I was talking about? Splitting half a beef may net you around 150 pounds, a little too much to fit in a regular freezer/refrigerator combo. If you don't have a standalone freezer, perhaps you could barter a few steak packages for space in one of your community members' freezers.
2. Share excess
I love the idea of community gardens. If you don't have one near you, maybe you could just share your excess garden produce with friends.
It may be October, but my tomato plants are still producing. Each week I secretly hope that the tomatoes will just be done, but they aren't. Since I don't want to waste any of the tomatoes, I keep disguising them in different ways: tomato juice, salsa, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato soup, and I have one pot of southwestern chicken soup (heavy on the tomatoes) bubbling away on the stove as I write this.
All of this to tell you that I just want some friends to take my tomatoes! But they have enough of their own.
And another friend collected apples to make apple cider and has too much. She wondered if I wanted 4-5 extra bushels of apples. And really, I don't want to process them, but the applesauce is nice to have in the winter. Decisions, decisions.
3. Share labor.
As I drive through our small towns, I see fruit trees weighted down with apples and pears. It's been a bumper fruit crop year, so I am sure someone would welcome a knock on the door with a request to pick apples. No one wants food to go to waste; but after so much, we literally can't store/save/use everything.
Or is there another arrangement you could work out? Maybe you do the pruning and picking, maybe another member of your community processes the food and owns the trees. Then you split the fruit 50/50.
And trust me, if someone offered to help me weed my garden in exchange for some produce, I wouldn't stop at green beans. No, sirree. If they stayed around long enough, I'd stack some eggs, chicken, and herbs in their arms before they got away.
Kid's play — and other stuff
And what about the toys your kids haven't played with in a while? Don't forget that something your children have outgrown could be very interesting to other kids. (Just make sure not to give away their favorite toy or something that has a lot of meaning to them.)
Right now, I am storing baby clothes, baby paraphernalia, and cloth diapers that are too small for my toddler. I would love to lend these things to someone if it would alleviate their need to buy these items. It seems silly to store them when someone else could be using them.
I pass along my oldest son's clothes to friends. For free. I'd love to pass along my daughter's clothes to someone for free, but I haven't found anyone who has a daughter the right age. And I love to save money, too, when someone passes their outgrown clothes to our kids.
Look for opportunities
“Hey, I'm going to yard sales today. Want me to look for anything for you?”
Isn't that a beautiful sentence? This is how I usually respond, “Sure, I am looking for x. By the way, the roast I made yesterday made so.much.meat. Would you like some?”
On the surface, it might feel like you're just sharing your excess. Maybe you're just dropping off someone on the way to a place you were going anyway. Maybe you're just lending items you were planning to put in storage. But when you do these things, it really reflects your intention to look for opportunities that can help build your community.
I believe all our lives collectively improve when we help each other, even in small ways. When we support each other during tough times or share our excess in good times, we create stronger relationships.
Life is hard. Let's get through this together.
Even though the survey results said that respondents weren't saving money on food because of their community, do you agree with that? How can you help your community? How much can you all save if you start building your community?
Lisa Aberle is a college professor by day and a freelance writer by night. Always an aspiring writer with an interest in money, she once ironically misspelled “mortgage” during a spelling bee. Most of her current adventures take place on the four-acre mini-farm she shares with her husband in the rural Midwest (where she writes with gel pens whenever possible).