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The Simple Dollar

Borrow first, buy later

Borrowing seldom-used items in lieu of buying them will save you money and space. It's also a good way to get to know your neighbors.

By Guest blogger / April 19, 2012

In this Thursday, March 29, 2012, photo, from left, Chris Overbey makes his way up the ladder as Josh Holtackers and Thomas Lefrod hold the ladder steady to rescue a cat in Tampa, Fla. Hamm argues that borrowing items you rarely use, like ladders and power tools, is a good way to save money and get to know your neighbors.

Carolina Hidalgo/AP/The Tampa Bay Times/File

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Last year, one of our younger neighbors was having some difficulty with her bicycle. She got on it, rode for a little bit, and would hop off, telling everyone around that there was something wrong with her bike.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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I walked over to her bike and examined it for a bit, then I told her I had something in our garage that would fix her bike quickly and she could borrow it for a bit.

I went into our garage, retrieved an air pump, and brought it out to her. I showed her how to use it and I told her that if she needed it again, she could just ask.

A few days ago, she knocked on our door and asked if she could borrow “that tire thing-ey.” I let her borrow it and within fifteen minutes, she was happily riding her bike through the neighborhood.

Our bicycle pump is a scarcely used thing, even in a family with four people on bicycles. In that girl’s house, she may actually be the only bicycle rider, so owning a bike pump is a pretty superfluous expense, especially when there’s one right in the neighborhood that she can use.

There’s no reason for them to invest money in a bicycle tire pump if there’s one available that can easily be used. The same is true for a lot of items one might rarely use, from hand saws to drills, from wet-vacs to tall ladders.

Borrow such items from a neighbor (or a friend) and let that neighbor (or friend) borrow freely from you. When you need an item, just check with a neighbor first instead of buying or renting the item.

Of course, this requires having a relationship with your neighbors as well as your own strong social network. It takes relationships for this to work.

So, the first step toward saving money in this regard is simply getting to know the people around you. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Have a conversation with them. Chat with them a bit when you see them around. If you hit it off at all, invite them over for a meal.

Once you’ve done that, it’s not too much of a stretch to simply knock on their door if you find yourself in need of a particular item.

Similarly, if you see a neighbor in need and have an item that can help, don’t hesitate to offer. The outcome of that situation is almost always going to be a positive one and will often open the door to your future borrowing, which will save you money. The cost for you doing this will usually be negligible (a tiny amount of wear on an item that you almost never use), but the reward can be tremendous.

Borrowing items is a great way to save money, provided you’ve got the relationships to tap.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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