Keys to spending less & living well: join communities


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about five fundamental elements of saving money and enjoying a fulfilling life. These steps have worked wonders in my life, and I know they can for you too!

We’ve already talked about Cherishing Your Long-Term Goals, Tracking Spending, and Being a Planner.

Number four is:

Join Communities

So many of us are separated from our families by thousands of miles. Participating in groups can not only make us feel less alone, safer and happier, it fosters co-operation, which can save us all a lot of money and make life easier. Think about a neighborhood association, a PTA, a scrapbooking group, or a book club.

Are you a parent? Then run, don’t walk, to join a group like one of these:

Local email groups

One of the easiest groups to join are local online communities (or email groups) that connect people in a certain city or neighborhood. (Search Yahoo or Google groups for one near you, or if you are a parent, see Babble’s Top 12 Listserv Parent Networks.)

I love these groups for a quick and immediate way to exchange with a bunch of people at once — ideas, advice and tips on everything from affordable handymen and kids’ allowances to rummage sales and job openings.

In-person, common interest groups

If you are a parent, then you already have something in common with A LOT of other people: raising children.

Whether it’s a casual playgroup born through your pre-natal class or a chapter of a national organization like Mothers of Preschoolers, parenting groups are perfect venues for organizing co-operative efforts such as babysitting co-ops, clothing swaps, or meal deliveries to new moms.

Setting up a “free table” or a book/magazine/dvd table where people can leave or take whatever they want is a simple way to spread good karma and help people declutter or fill their needs.

Improve Your Finances — and Your Health — by Participating in Groups

Plus, by joining communities — such as churches, knitting circles, and tennis clubs — and by just being a friendly person, you create social capital, or mutual goodwill. You create social capital when you help someone carry a package, attend a neighborhood block party, or bring a plate of cookies to a shut-in.

In Is Social Capital More Valuable than Money?, the people at Get Rich Slowly explain how these everyday kindnesses “compound (just like compound interest) to yield larger returns in the future.”

Get this:

There appears to be a strong relationship between the possession of social capital and better health. ‘As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half. If you smoke and belong to no groups, it’s a toss-up statistically whether you should stop smoking or start joining’. Regular club attendance, volunteering, entertaining, or church attendance is the happiness equivalent of getting a college degree or more than doubling your income. Civic connections rival marriage and affluence as predictors of life happiness. (Cited from a 1998 book by Bo Rothstein in the definition of social capital at Informal Education.)

Next and final key: Find the Free.

Have you noticed that belonging to groups brings you more than companionship?

By Amy Suardi, Buttoned Up’s Savings Expert

Amy Suardi loves to find the silver lining of living on less at Frugal Mama.