Day 20 of the January Money Diet – Connect With Your Neighbors

In case you’ve just joined us, the January Money Diet is a challenge to take a 31-day break from nonessential spending. You can learn more about the money diet here — and jump right in!

Good neighbors at Happy Simple Living blog

Photo: Chris Scott

“When strangers start acting like neighbors… communities are reinvigorated.” ~ Ralph Nader

One of the things I love best about our neighborhood is its community spirit, and a big part of that old-fashioned spirit comes to us in a very high-tech way:  a few years ago, we created a Google Group to stay in touch. Now, we can easily send each other messages and connect with one another. From the start, the messages generated by this group have been positive and generous. Some of the things we’ve shared include:

  • Free Halloween costumes and sports uniforms
  • Free clothes, winter coats and boots that our children have outgrown
  • Excess produce, free seeds and plants
  • Equipment that we we’re willing to share
  • Free and inexpensive furniture, electronics and other items for sale
  • Garage sale announcements
  • Inquiries and referrals for plumbers, electricians, remodelers and other contractors as well as trusted doctors and dentists
  • Security concerns, such as suspicious activity in the neighborhood
  • Coyote sightings

In a suburban neighborhood like ours where most of us have back patios instead of front porches, it’s easy to lose touch with each other – especially in the winter when we zip in and out using our automatic garage door openers. Being connected helps us save money and reduce consumption, and it fosters a sense of community that is invaluable.

Before we created our Google group, we used an old-fashioned e-mail list and our neighbor Kathy graciously agreed to keep the list updated. This option might work for you if you live in a small neighborhood. My parents have consciously reached out to their neighbors by hosting a party each New Year’s Day. I know other neighborhoods that regularly host potlucks and community dinners, and some groups have started food co-ops.

One thing I’d like to facilitate in our neighborhood is an emergency preparedness group, perhaps something like the plan outlined in 3 Steps,  a non-denomination, non-political group that was started to help neighbors plan ahead so they’re able to respond to disasters within minutes. (If your neighborhood has any kind of emergency response program, will you leave a comment below?)

Homework assignment #20: Is your neighborhood connected yet? If not, could you be the catalyst to start a movement? What step could you take to bring your neighbors together? Be sure to let us know about your efforts.


Win a Deluxe Happy Simple Living Gift Basket

In honor of the January Money Diet, I’ll be giving away a gift basket chock-full of home and garden goodies and a signed copy of my latest cookbook 101 Things To Do With Bacon. On January 31, 2013, I’ll draw one random name from everyone who commented during the month and that lucky person will win the gift basket. I hope you’ll stop by often this month and share your own ideas, thoughts and experiences about taking a 31-day break from nonessential spending.


About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day 20 of the January Money Diet – Connect With Your Neighbors

  • Judy

    Our neighborhood is mostly elderly people (which we love), so one would assume something like the Google connection wouldn’t work well, but I’m going to try it anyway and see what happens. I know my 83-year-old neighbor checks his investments online, so maybe it’s not as unusual as one might think. Thank you, Eliza, for the idea!

  • I don’t consider our neighborhood to be a friendly one. To begin with, on our 2-block-long street we have 6 empty houses. The families that are in residence seem to be gone more then they are home, and with only a couple of exceptions, unfriendly when we have tried to make conversation. It’s sad, really, but after being here for almost 7 years, I don’t expect things will change soon.

  • Recently, I started taking the time to talk with my neighbours when I see them instead of a quick wave and continue to run around. I have found in the few short months that I have developed a nice relationship with them and it’s improved the quality of “our community.”

  • Martha

    My neighbor and good friend who I help sometimes with her knitting questions had just the right size double pointed needles for me to borrow! Project was going to sit a while without them as knitting needles are hardly considered part of the necessary spending category!

  • Deborah Gore

    We have a small neighborhood of around 20 families. We have a community yard sale every spring, which is how our group got started. We watch out for each others home, share tools, extra vegetables, and help each other when needed.

  • Neighborhood connections are one thing I have tried to get started no matter where I live, it can start slowly with meeting one neighbor, and expand from there. I spend a lot of time outdoors, I wave at someone who passes and most time they feel obligated to say hello or stop and make small talk, but the next time they pass they will start up a conversation of something light to not seem aloof. It grows from there. Love your idea of the google group, I never thought of that before.

  • My husband and I have struggled with this considerably. We recently moved to the Mid-Atlantic (just outside of DC) from an area of Texas where Southern Hospitality was alive and well. The culture here is very different from what we are used to. Things like borrowing tools from one another, having “block” garage sales, or even knowing your neighbors’ names do not seem to be commonplace. We are not sure how to foster community spirit without offending our neighbors.
    I’m excited to see what ideas others may have.

  • Carolyn

    What a great idea! Wish I could say ‘we’re there’, but, ’tain’t so. Thank you for planting the seed……

  • Tess

    Bring the neighbors together with a “bacon-themed gathering”… bbq w/bacon bbq sauce… bacon brownies… bacon potato salad… bacon beans… bacon slaw…

    And how to get my name in the pot for the “101 Things to Do with Bacon”???

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