Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Festival Of Neighborhood Frugality

Few people are rich enough or powerful enough nowadays to avoid facing the worrisome future that looms over us, a future brought on us by overconsumption and the end of abundant natural resources. Yet there are strategies for dealing with that future which can enable a person to live without worry to a great extent, even if such a person does not have a great deal of money or political power. The root causes of our present societal problems boil down to greed, overconsumption and the massive concentration of wealth into the hands of a few. One key remedy for these and for the many symptoms generated by these root causes consists of learning to live more simply, learning to live well on less.

That's why I am pleased to announce that I've been given a chance to host an upcoming Festival of Frugality at this blog, The Well Run Dry. The Festival of Frugality is a “blog carnival” in which various Internet authors volunteer to host a page consisting of blog posts and articles addressing a particular topic related to frugal living. (Their link is on my sidebar, under the title “Other Wells.”)

I'd like to dedicate my upcoming Festival to “Neighborhood Frugality.” That is, what are people doing as neighbors to save money together, to cut down on costs, to alleviate the financial impact of our present economic troubles? What ideas are people coming up with? There are many things that neighbors can do together. For instance,

  • Has anyone started a barter network?

  • Has anyone started a “lending library” of commonly used tools or machinery? Not every guy needs his own table saw every day; a group of neighbors might get together to buy such an item for the entire group and work out a scheme for sharing it.

  • Are there any homeowners who have rented out space in their homes for storage? Are there any homeowners who have rented rooms to boarders? How is it working? Do you have any suggestions or tips?

  • Have any neighborhoods gotten together to buy needed items in bulk, like food? What arrangements did you make? How is it working?

  • What neighborhood ideas do you have that I haven't listed here?

If you read The Well Run Dry and you have a blog of your own, feel free to submit a blog article on this subject. Share your tips and practical wisdom. I will be hosting Festival #158, which will be published on 30 December, so you will have until the 29th to get your blog entries in. To submit your entries, go to this page: And feel free to check out this week's current Festival at the Naturally Frugal blog.

As for The Well Run Dry, my posting will be a bit light this next week. I am traveling to visit relatives over Christmas. I'll be driving, so three days of my time will be tied up. I may be able to get out another post by next Saturday, if time permits.


Kiashu said...

We've done quite a lot in being frugal, but it's not been neighbourhood-based.

Frugality is not a popular idea out here in the suburbs. Everyone we know has a decent income (middle-classed rather than working-class) but finds it not enough, and so has a credit card, too.

And a few people we know took advantage of the real estate boom of 1996-2007, using the rise in their house price to borrow more, effectively using their mortgage as a low-interest credit card.

The global economic troubles haven't really hit Australia yet.

TH in SoC said...

Thanks for your comment, Kiashu. Frugality is rapidly becoming very popular in the United States, at least among certain sectors of the population. Yet there are still many people here who act as if business as usual will continue on ad infinitum.

One of these days I will post my story of how I became "Peak Oil" aware, and the reactions I got from neighbors in Southern California when I started talking to them about it.

Funny about Money said...

Hm. It's hard to see how residents in this central-city neighborhood would help each other when they barely speak to one another outside of the occasional Block Watch meeting.

I do know we all danced a little jig when poor old Dave, proprietor of Dave's Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum, was finally evicted in a foreclosure. Not that anyone wished badly for Dave, but in a middle-class neighborhood with no HOA, a house allowed to run to ruin tends to draw disdain rather than sympathy upon its owner -- because it pulls down property values for all the neighboring houses and because its unsightliness harms everyone else's general quality of living.

But this is a big city, with the typical big-city anonymity that infests so many American urbs. Some of the neighbors are renters, and many others are widows and younger single women who live behind locked doors.

In a small town not so far from here, though, people do help each other out, largely through a complex off-the-books economy that involves barter and trade. You can live comfortably there for lots less than you can here if you have a trade or a skill someone else needs. A friend there has acquired materials to upgrade his family's home in return for building, maintenance, and repair projects he has done without benefit of contractor's license or permits. Many other kinds of barter go on, from yard clean-up and housekeeping to trades of garden produce and building help.

Here in the city, though, you might help out friends, coworkers, or coreligionists, but not neighbors...because you tend not to know the neighbors.