Scott King is the guy with the chainsaw. When neighbors need to hack down a stump, they borrow his, rather than buy or rent one. His friends in the Dallas neighborhood of Sparkman Estates help him, too. He borrows Shelby’s ladders, Mark’s spare bike parts, Carl’s tiller and Ryan’s fertilizer spreader. It costs him nothing — just the time it takes to walk to the neighbor’s house and maybe enjoy a beer while he’s there.
Sharing a chainsaw is one of many ways you (and your neighbors) can save money. Get to know the people around you, and they may feed your dog while you’re away, recommend an affordable plumber or give you their extra umbrella. So start connecting.
Ways to connect with neighbors
Friendly waves and “how-you-doings” can certainly lead to fruitful friendships. But to expand your network and money-saving opportunities, check out these free online forums:
Facebook groups: Search for groups specific to your neighborhood, in which neighbors may share items and services they’re giving away or selling.
The Buy Nothing Project: Check whether your community has a Buy Nothing Project Facebook group, in which members post items they want to give away, lend or share without any money or services exchanged. To see whether your neighborhood has a Facebook group, visit buynothingproject.org and browse groups by location.
The Freecycle Network: This forum emphasizes keeping items out of landfills, so members give away unwanted items, rather than pitch them. Search Freecycle.org to find a group near you.
Nextdoor: This is an app and private social network for your neighborhood in which members share information, give and receive recommendations and post items they’re selling or giving away. Search Nextdoor.com to find your neighborhood.
How to save money
Try these tactics using the forums above or through in-person interactions.
Get free (or discounted) stuff
You may be surprised by what people are willing to give away, often because they’re moving or don’t feel like reselling or returning something. Marcello Orlando, lead moderator of the Freecycle Network group in Somerville, Massachusetts, has received a couple of laptops, two couches and a window air-conditioner unit through Freecycle.
Paige Wolf, who started Philadelphia’s first Buy Nothing Project Facebook group, will often ask her neighborhood group if anyone is giving away what she’s about to buy in her online shopping cart. “A lot of times, if you ask, someone will be like, ‘Yeah, I have a sofa for you,’” she says.
Wolf rarely buys clothes for her kids, either, thanks to the group. “My kids outgrow their clothes — their clothes go in the group. My kids need clothes — I ask for them on the group,” says Wolf, who is also the author “Spit That Out!: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt.”
Neighbors give away items on Nextdoor, too, but unlike Freecycle and the Buy Nothing Project, they also sell them. These sales can yield bargains compared to other sites, says Annie Barco communications manager of Nextdoor. That’s because Nextdoor verifies users’ addresses, she says, which may help sellers trust buyers with a deal.
Get trusted recommendations (and maybe discounts)
Whether through a community Facebook group, Nextdoor or word of mouth, a personal recommendation can save you from hiring someone who overcharges and underperforms.
Nextdoor surfaces recommendations for many kinds of businesses and service providers, including neighbor-vetted electricians, roofers and carpenters. Sometimes you can even get a locals-only deal, Barco says.
Share goods and services
Whether you coordinate online or in person, sharing services can save you and neighbors money, too. For example, as kids go back to school, Barco has seen neighborhood parents organize carpools, nanny-shares and babysitting duties through Nextdoor. And Wolf belongs to a Facebook group for locals who feed each other’s dogs and cats for free while owners are away.
In addition, sharing goods you use infrequently (like a chainsaw) can save you money, as well as space in your home, garage or shed.
Extra perks of leaning on neighbors
Buying less stuff — whether through sharing or reusing neighbors’ goods — helps both your wallet and the environment. So does giving away your old things. “You’ll feel good, because you’re helping someone else and also reducing landfill waste,” Orlando says.
And you may feel good for another reason: By participating in the Buy Nothing Project page, “we get to actually know our neighbors,” Wolf says, adding: “It fosters so much gratitude.”