Making the Most of Your Neighbors


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Making the most of your neighbor

It was September 1st, the hottest day in weeks. And the day we happened to choose to move into our townhouse last year. We’d moved from Boston just a few weeks earlier and had been living in corporate housing until we found a place that suited us. Our home before Boston had been NYC, so we were used to close quarters. In New York and Boston, both cities where the populace literally lives on top of each other, we lamented our lack of space. But then we got used to it — and even found some comfort in it.

So when we moved to a smaller city with wide open spaces, we were ready to no longer live on top of or below people, but we weren’t quite ready for more than that. The obvious option seemed to be a townhouse community. It gave us space, but not too much of it. So that’s what we did. Now we share walls on either side, have our own garage and driveway, and each house is exactly like the next. The HOA keeps up perfect lawns, and 50 identical trash cans line our street on trash day. It looks a bit Stepford-ish. Someday we’ll want a house and full yard of our own, but for now, it fits us perfectly.

That said, aside from the occasional “Good morning’s” and “Hi’s,” when we take walks around the nabe, we’ve yet to get to know any of our numerous neighbors. It might help if we had a dog because then we could bond with all the dog walkers. (I don’t think putting our cat, Persie, on a leash would have the same effect.) But we hope that as we live in our neighborhood a little bit longer, and as the weather warms up, we’ll get to know some of our peeps a bit better. (And find out if they like me calling them “our peeps.”) It’s always nice to make new friends. Plus, there can be logistical and financial perks as well, which we’d love to be able to take part in.

Ohh, tell me more!

Babysitting Each Other’s Pets

When we lived in NYC, we had neighbors who were fellow cat owners. When we took our respective vacations, we took turns looking in on each other’s fancy felines. We didn’t have to worry about the cost of boarding our pets. I’d love to get to that point with one of our current dog-loving neighbors as well (who also tolerates cats!).

Holding a Spare Key

Giving a neighbor a spare key can have multiple benefits. The obvious one is getting locked out. Have I locked myself out at our current residence? No. But I have done it elsewhere. So it’s only a matter of time. Also, if we’re on a trip and we get delayed for some reason, it would be nice to have someone we could call to check in on things — the dying plants, our overflowing mailbox, etc. And having that same neighbor be aware that we’re out of town would be beneficial for keeping an eye out for suspicious folks trying to break and enter. Unlikely, but you never know, amiright?!

Complaining

Everywhere we’ve lived, we’ve had complaints with our neighbors. Unfortunately. And we’re not high maintenance folks, either. It just happens with close quarters. In NYC it was that our downstairs neighbor’s marijuana smoking became a tad too frequent (a few times a week) and would seep up into our bedroom. We finally drew the line the day it made Persie high. It was funny but sad. And bad. We contacted our landlord.

Our NYC apartment

This is where our unwanted 150-sq ft. hotboxing took place.

Where we are now, our 30-something next door neighbor plays very loud, bass-heavy music, which reverberates our walls late into the night. With the loud-music guy, we had never met him before the problem had to be dealt with. I went over to his house at 11:00 at night and 35 weeks pregnant. I apologized for complaining and sweetly asked if he could turn down his music. If you had seen how sweet I was, you’d have been ever so impressed. Five minutes and no apology from him later, his music was barely turned down, and he has since played it loudly at least a dozen more times. If we knew him, I could go over again and talk to him about it in a jokey/serious way. But I don’t, and now I feel angry feelings, so we’re just gonna let our landlord handle it.

Both situations would have been much easier if we were on friendly terms with our neighbors before a problem arose.

Sharing

We don’t currently have a lawn to take care of, but when we do, it’d be awesome to be able to share some of the financial burden of buying lawn equipment. We’d have to be pretty good friends with our neighbors, but sharing a lawn mower, leaf blower, weed eater, power saw, etc., could save some serious dough. Of course, this only works if it’s two-sided sharing. Nobody likes a moocher. :)

Borrowing

This is similar to sharing, but different in that it refers to items we’d only need once. Time and again I’ve needed just ONE MORE egg or ½ cup more of flour to complete a recipe. How nice it would be to be able to call up a neighbor in such a crisis. And then there’s those obscure items needed during a home improvement project that we REALLY don’t want to buy because we KNOW we’ll only use them once. Borrowing it from a neighbor would sure be a sweet solution.

Conclusion

While we might not become best friends with the guy living directly next to us, we do hope to make good friends with some of the rest of our neighbors. We might save each other a few dollars in pet sitting and power tools, and who knows, we may even make some BFFs while we’re at it!

Have you benefited from becoming friends with your neighbors? Are your finances better off because of it? Do you have any neighbors who mooch off you? Are YOU a moocher? I want all the scandalous details!

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36 Comments

  • Reply Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank January 4, 2013 at 7:37 am

    There are so many benefits from being good friends with your neighbours. Unfortunately for us we live in a defence housing area and we regularly get new neighbours because the old ones get stationed to a new location.

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Dang! Well, at least with blogging, you’re able to make friends with lots of virtual neighbors! :)

  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 4, 2013 at 8:25 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes at different phases of life. The day we moved into our house, our (then) 90-year-old neighbor brought over freshly baked banana bread and introduced herself. We’ve been on decent terms with her since, stopping to talk for a few minutes every couple of months – nothing big. But fast forward 3 years, and her investment in getting to know us paid off big time when she had a stroke this summer. The neighbors had noticed that she hadn’t gotten the paper, so called the paramedics. I went to the hospital and stayed with her for awhile since her family lived in another part of the country.
    I think as we need more people – when we have kids or something like that – it’ll probably pay more to get to know the neighbors. But for now, we’re mostly good with “Hi” and NOT being the annoying neighbors.

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      That’s awesome you guys were able to help your neighbor out. I’m from the South, where there’s some kind of unspoken rule about bringing fresh-baked goods to your neighbors. I’m hoping to live up to my heritage a bit better and start doing that!

  • Reply Michelle January 4, 2013 at 8:27 am

    We aren’t super close to any of our neighbors, but that’s mainly because of big age differences. However, we would love it if someone closer to our age moved in! :)

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Yeah, there’s not a lot of motivation to get to know neighbors who are 40 years your senior. I think that’s about the age gap for the couple living next to us. But I’m planning on bringing them cookies the next time I bake them up, so we’ll see how it goes!

  • Reply Lyn @ Pretty Frugal January 4, 2013 at 9:11 am

    I’ve lived in the same building for over a year and haven’t met a single one of my neighbors, including the one who keeps calling my landlord to complain about ‘noise’ coming from our apartment. I don’t think I’ve been friendly with a single one of my neighbors since college. I thought the midwest was supposed to be friendly??

    We are looking at renting a townhouse for our place in the suburbs. Boyfriend wants a house, but with the farm work we’re going to be doing, I don’t want to be doing yard work and upkeep, too. I want to come home to something pristine after picking veggies in the mud all day.

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      I think it’s hard to be friendly in buildings because you’re all living on top of each other. You’d think it’d be the opposite, but that was never the case for us.

      And I’ve loved the townhouse living so far… I think it’s a great next step after apartment living!

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money January 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

    We aren’t super close to any of our neighbors, but we just moved in late October and once the freeze comes in Minnesota nobody really sees their neighbors except to shovel snow 😉 The neighbors on one side are a young family who came up and introduced themselves pretty early on, which was nice. They have a newborn and another kid who is probably only a couple years old. I’m hoping we can become better friends with their family. On the other side we have a couple we haven’t met who are already annoying me because they don’t spend a lot of time on their yard and have a couple ugly trees that need to come down…essentially I’m annoyed because they are hurting my own home value! Oh, and across the street is a park and a church, but next to that is an older couple who are SO friendly and made us cookies when we first came. They seemed super happy/excited that we had moved into the house since it had been essentially vacant for 3+ months. He said he has quite a bit of tools he’s collected over the past 40 years so I just might have to borrow some this Summer. I secretly am praying he’s a retired electrician so he can help me with some projects that are too big for a novice like me 😉

    • Reply Johnny January 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      And here we are complaining about rainy winter weather in the 40’s and 50’s. You Northerners must despise the way we think. :)

      I know I’d share your annoyance with neighbors that don’t keep up with their landscaping or home upkeep. It’s hard to find a lot of positives about HOA fees, but I’m happy to pay them when everyone in our neighborhood is forced to keep things looking good.

  • Reply Brian January 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

    We are in a fairly unique situation in our house. We purchased my grandmother’s house when she passed and as a result already knew the neighbors. The crazy thing is, most of these neighbors had purchased their houses from their parents so there are a lot of second (and in some cases third) generations living in this neighborhood. So the 5 houses surrounding us are very closely knit. Other than that we just briefly chat with the neighbors when shoveling snow, walking the baby (he LOVES walks) or just out for a run.

    Some people think the neighborhood we are in is a little scary (read: a little too multi-ethnic for some), but we love it and the people are just hard working middle class folk!

    • Reply Johnny January 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      That’s amazing how many of the homes are multiple-generation tenants! In our transient society, I think that’s becoming increasingly rare, especially in such a tight cluster of homes. I’d love to keep the same home for our kids all through their life. But considering we’ve already moved six times in five years, we’re off to a terrible start.

  • Reply Roo Ciambriello // NiceGirlNotes January 4, 2013 at 10:22 am

    We’re friendly-ish with our neighbors, but no one seems to match our demographics, so it’s not like we’ve made close friends, if that makes sense. But we do have some awesome neighbors that we could totally rely on a pinch (late one night, one of my girls had to be rushed to the ER, so they rushed over and offered to stay at the house while the other girls slept), and this post is making me want to connect with them a little better, even though they’re just under my parents’ ages.

    The house next to me, the house across the street from me, and the house diagonal from me are all for sale. The families all moved out after we moved in. This probably has more to due with the economy, but maybe it’s me? Maybe it’s Maybelline.

    I would loooooove for another fam like us (young-ish couple with little kiddos) to move in to one of those houses.

    • Reply Johnny January 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      I think it’s Maybelline. Also, you could just move into our neighborhood so that you could have the privilege of watching our cat.

  • Reply Budget and the Beach January 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

    That sucks about the music. I love where I live currently and like my neighbors. I think the benefits of knowing your neighbors are all the things you mentioned, and safety is another one. Because they know me, they can sort of look out for me, or know what might be suspicious. It takes a long time to find that area where everything fits, that’s why when I considered moving for financial reasons, I was so depressed. I’m still not sure what to do.

    • Reply Johnny January 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      That’s a really good one. You’ve basically got a built-in security system without the false alarms. In fact, my grandpa used to watch his neighborhood like a hawk. He caught a guy going into a neighbor’s mailbox and followed him in his car while alerting police. The police caught up to him and he ended up being a pretty major player in a counterfeiting ring. Kudos to my gramps, the small town superhero.

  • Reply Chris January 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I’m not great friends with everyone. I just sort of recognize them when I go running. The neighbor across the street built an attached salon so she cuts my hair. It ends up being more money than before even though she only charges $10 because I always tip her double for squeezing me in whenever I decide to text her. The one on the right is a pastor and is really never home. He’s nice and all but his yard sucks and it pisses me off. The neighbor’s yard on the left also sucks. They need to paint their siding and get a new roof. They also need to clean up all the trash in their yard. This makes it hard for me to be friends with people :). I think I need an HOA because I judge people based on their yard conditions.

    • Reply Johnny January 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      That’s awesome that you’ve got a hairdresser in your ‘hood. And she does it for a really good price.

      Maybe you can offer some “selfless service” and offer to help them with their yards… while helping your own home value. :) No one said service can’t be mutually beneficial.

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup January 4, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I have made friends with only one neighbor next to us because he is extremely nice. Now he is moving and priced his house so low that it is going to kill us when we try to sell later this year. I don’t know if I like him anymore.

    • Reply Johnny January 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Haha. Awesome. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be his friend anymore. Friends don’t lower friends asking prices. Not cool.

  • Reply John S @ Frugal Rules January 4, 2013 at 11:15 am

    We’re not really close with many of our neighbors, just a few of them really. It’s honestly a little sad because I remember growing up that we were friends with a lot of our neighbors. That said, we’ve been in our house for almost six years now and id the first five of our marriage in apartments, hopefully we’ll never have to go back.

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      The next time you or your wife bakes up bread or chocolate chip cookies, you can take some to your lesser-known neighbors! If you still don’t get to know them, at least it won’t be for lack of effort :)

  • Reply Rob January 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    When first we were married (many moons ago – lol) we lived for 3 years in an apartment complex where we hardly met any of our neighbours – including the guy and his wife who lived right next door on our floor – and just happened to be my brother-in-law ! Go figure ! lol

    Anyway, after we finally had saved up to buy our first house, a detached bungalow on it’s own property, and started having kids then things improved – neighbour wise – in that then we met others of our own age around the neighbourhood who also were raising little ones. And thus began the BBQ parties and year round house parties with our new found friends. Long story short, things hopefully should socially improve this summer for you guys when you start taking kiddo out for strolls around the block :-)

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      I hope so, too! Little babies seem to be an easy conversation piece. And neighborhood BBQs and house parties sound so ideal… I hope we’re in a neighborhood like that someday! Or maybe I’ll just have to make our current neighborhood be that way :)

  • Reply [email protected] January 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Our old neighbors had 6 dogs! For a long time, we felt like prisoners in our own home. It’s not fun to have a few drinks or grill out outside with 6 dogs staring and barking at you. Luckily, they moved. Actually, their house got foreclosed on. I didn’t wish that on them….but I was glad when they were finally gone.

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Whoa! That’s a lot of dogs. I’m pretty sure our cat would die of a heart attack if we were in that same situation.

      Hopefully there will actually be some benefits with your current neighbors, rather than just annoying barking! :)

  • Reply Diane January 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Well, in the past the neighbors did talk to each over here. But once the political signs went up, the cold front came to our suburb street pretty early. Funny enough the couple directly across who usually sit in their driveway will get up and close the garage door when we come out. Now I just have fun with it and pretend to retrieve something from the car once they are cozy :-)

    • Reply Joanna January 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      Haha, our neighborhood was also riddled with political signs this past fall. Hopefully by the time things warm up in the spring, your neighbors will warm up and forget their political disagreements as well 😉

  • Reply Canadian Budget Binder January 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    If we ever move from this house I will make sure there is a HUGE distance between our house and the next. Like you our neighbour plays the guitar and Mrs.CBB went over once at night to ask them to turn down the amplification as it is a city by-law. The sound ripples through our home and we can’t even watch the television let alone sleep at night. Time to call the city but it all could be avoided by having consideration for others.

  • Reply Catherine January 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

    We’ve lived on our street for over 2 years and hardly know our neighbors. We’re friendly with the retired couple next door- they even bought us a baby gift, but no one else, we seem to have different schedules. A younger couple moved in across the street not too long ago though so we’ll try and get friendly with them this summer when we’re all outside a little more.

  • Reply Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Maybe it’s because of my background but before I ever move somewhere I knock on the doors of my potential neighbors and let them know we are looking at “such and such house” and are curious to how they like the neighborhood. You would be amazed at the amount of gossip I have gotten within 3 minutes of talking to these random strangers.

    Sorry to hear your neighbor was VERY inconsiderate when it came to the loud music. You both will be having an infant here soon and that crap just won’t fly. I like to pride myself on maintaining my composure but if you wake my sleeping baby, I practically turn into the incredible hulk!

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  • Reply Jin July 15, 2013 at 7:01 am

    I love your blog and have been reading it for a while. I’ve become a very close friend with my neighbor. We watched each other’s dogs, got mails, and shared neighborly gossips. Now that I am in a different city, I realize how precious that relationship really was. We are still good friends to this day but I do miss having a close neighbor to help out and also to just hang out.

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 2:56 am

      We moved into our new place on Saturday, so this comment was a great reminder to get moving on finding our neighbor-friend(s). We’re fortunate to have some family fairly close by to cover most petsitting and other needs, but we’d love to have someone that could check to make sure the stove is off or do x, y, or z for us in a moment’s notice. And I’m sure Joanna would love to have someone that she could share her baking treats with since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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