One of the things I value most is community.
For most of my life, I’ve had a large community in one sense or another. Growing up, my family lived near my large extended family, and during the summers we’d spend every day at a different cousin’s house (I have around 40 first cousins).
When it came time to choose a college, I landed at a small, public liberal arts college. The smallness allowed me to find a new kind of extended family. My social calendar was always full and I made close connections with staff and faculty around campus. I was an involved student and took advantage of all the close community that college had to offer.
Some of the hardest times of my life have been when I’ve been missing that community piece — when my family moved across the country, away from my extended family just before I started high school. When I moved to a new state right after graduating college and only knew my now-wife.
All of these experiences have made me a community builder. I plan ways for the important people in my life to get together. I love cooking for others and introducing new people to each other, expanding their connections.
I’ve recently realized that this habit of mine isn’t just benefiting my social life and mental wellness; it’s also benefiting my wallet. Your community network can have powerful effects on your net worth. By focusing on building a strong community you not only enrich your life, but you also create incredible opportunity to save (and make) more money.
This is a list of 8 ways that you can improve your finances while also strengthening your community.
1. Share Your Stuff
Whether it’s a Netflix password, a pitchfork, or a winter coat; borrowing and sharing things among your family, friends, and neighbors saves you money. Next time you think you have to buy something that you may only need or use once, check to see if anyone in your network has one and is willing to let you borrow it for a short amount of time. This is also more sustainable, if you’re looking to improve your environmental footprint.
2. Barter Skills and Services
Bartering or exchanging different services among your friends is a great win-win situation for everybody.
We and our neighbors take turns watching each other’s dogs when we go out of town; this helps each of us out by not having to spend $35 per night boarding our dogs. I’ve gotten haircuts from friends and my wife, had friends pick us up from the airport to avoid parking fees or an expensive Uber ride, taken many a photo for my friends’ holiday cards and engagement announcements, and once, even let a friend use our yard to have a yard sale. I put some stuff out as well and ended up making some extra cash!
Bartering services can be a great way to save money, as long as it’s not just going one way. You don’t want to take advantage of your friends’ kindness or not compensate them in some way for valuable skills, but you can usually find a fair exchange that costs less than paying a stranger, plus it usually involves getting to hang out together!
3. Entertain on a Budget
Having a good community lends itself to the possibility of a lot more fun for much less money. Inviting people over for a game night and make-your-own pizzas is a lot less expensive than getting dinner and drinks out — and is often a lot more fun.
In October, we usually invite a bunch of people over each weekend for an outdoor Halloween movie screening. We do the same thing in December with Christmas movies. Our friends look forward to these events, and they barely cost anything. People bring their own chairs and their own drinks; we supply a few snacks and some hot chocolate.
We routinely end up spending an evening hanging out with our neighbors around the fire, talking, laughing, and sharing a $3 bottle of wine. Much better than spending $10 a glass out — and a lot cozier.
4. Motivation and Accountability
Community is also great at holding you accountable and helping you stay motivated when you’re working towards larger goals (such as FI)! By sharing your aspirations with your friends, you often create more momentum to stick with them.
I’ve even gone so far as to create an accountability club with some friends. We meet once a week (well, we try) to touch base on long-term goals and set three action items we each want to complete that week. Often, at least one of the long-term goals is related to finances.
By speaking our goals out loud and discussing them with others, we are able to ask for help, think of things in new ways, and celebrate our smaller accomplishments.
5. Learn New Skills
Building a community of talented, smart, and skilled people opens up countless opportunities to learn new skills — and have fun doing so.
My wife has helped multiple friends learn the ins and outs of social media marketing and ad design. I’ve helped friends with money questions. I have a friend who’s helping another friend out with a home renovation so that she can learn DIY skills that will come in handy on her future home. We have plans in the works for our neighbors to teach us sailing.
I love the idea of sharing knowledge and learning from our friends so much that I’ve been wanting to start hosting “Brunch and Learns” where members of our friend group could sign up to teach the group different skills or talk about a topic they’re passionate about, all while we enjoy mimosas that don’t cost $10 each. Sounds like a delicious win-win to me.
6. Knitting a Web of Opportunities
A major way that building your community can help build your net worth is through future income potential.
Experts say that between 70–85% of all jobs are secured through networking, and I know that this has often been true for both me and my partner. Since many jobs aren’t even posted online, the larger your network, the more likely you are to learn about (and be recommended for) a job.
So, if you’re looking for a new job, let your community know! Just maybe not your work community — check those social media privacy settings!
7. Discovering Local Resources
Staying involved in your local community can also lead to learning about resources you never knew existed.
Check out your local library’s calendar of free events or your city’s list of annual events. Sign up for Eventbrite emails and get notified of the free social and educational events that are coming up in your neighborhood. Follow local online groups, join Meetup, search for local events on Facebook, or volunteer — basically, find a way to get out there and meet new people. Where I live, there are tons of free lecture series, classes, tours, and activities going on, and every time I go to one, I learn about several more.
8. Happier Kaylie; Happier Wallet
I’m an extrovert, so getting to socialize and hang out with my friends boosts my energy and my happiness. When I’m happier and have more energy, I naturally end up spending less. I have the energy to come home and cook food rather than opting for the convenience of takeout.
Feeling happier and more satisfied with my life, I’m not looking outward at what else I think I need in order to be happy. I start to desire fewer material things and instead, end up focusing more closely on the people I’m with and experiences I’m having. The caveat, of course, is that you should plan your socializing around less spendy activities (see item #3).
Of course, saving money is only one of the many benefits of building community. Having a strong support network and giving back to your circle improves your happiness, health, and general wellbeing.
The fact that it may also improve your finances is just a sweet, sweet cherry on top.