Renters: Use Neighbors to Save Money

renters use neighbors to save moneyMarla Mathless had been a renter in her downtown Manhattan building for seven years before she formally met her neighbor. "He came over and asked if I'd split my cable costs with him," she says. "He said he couldn't afford it anymore and wanted to just drill a small hole in the wall to run the cable into both apartments. Of course I said yes. Who doesn't want to save money?" (Before attempting something similar, don't forget to check with your local cable operator to see if it's legit.)

As the new year begins, resolutions run amok and usually end up abandoned. But this year, renters, why not take your pledge to save money to heart and make 2011 thrifty -- and while you're at it, make it neighborly. It's easy. Just by knocking on a few doors you can slice your monthly bills in half. Here's how:

1. Have Money-Saving Meetings

Encouraging biannual meetings with your neighbors to look into ways to save money -- as a building and as individual units -- can be a great way to begin changing spending habits. For example, whether or not you live in a building that shares a single meter, you and your neighbors can work together to bring down electric costs. Your first meeting might include a discussion of ways everyone can save money by unplugging unused chargers and appliances, turning off unnecessary lights, and doing laundry and running dishwashers at off-peak hours.

2. Internet and Cable

You and your closes physical neighbors can easily knock $30 to $50 per month off your Internet bill and cable by sharing a single wifi and internet/cable account. If you have ever shared the internet with multiple laptops in a
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neighborhood coffee shop, you know that more users will not noticeably slow most servers, and unless you have a fancy job where you are keeping major government secrets or something similar, there is little risk in sharing Internet with acquaintances. Same goes for cable. (Please check with your local Internet/cable operator before attempting similar cost-saving measures.)

3. Babysitting

If you live in a community of young children, why not offer to babysit in exchange for babysitting? In other words, date night no longer needs to cost $200! By sitting for each other once a week, you and your neighbors can all enjoy nights out, while saving money. In the event that you are both going out on the same night, you will also find it is cheaper to hire a single babysitter for more children and split the costs.

4. Compete With the Joneses

Turn your savings into a game, whereby whomever has the greatest percent increase in savings at the end of year wins their first electric bill of the new year paid by everyone else in the building-or maybe they win a bottle of wine. Motivation by incentive -- no matter the incentive -- is a great way to encourage neighborly competition and lifestyle changes that help everyone's bottom line.

5: Learn Together

Are you interested in increasing your computer skills? Want to learn to waltz? How about exposing yourself to new ideas you wouldn't otherwise understand? Since you live in a building full of interesting people, why not start a lecture series during which a neighbor teaches everyone else something at which they are an expert? Or bring in experts -- preferably friends of neighbors who will offer their time for free or a nominal fee. What better way to take advantage of a diverse and transient community of renters than by coming together once a month and learning something new?

6. Exercise Together

Sometimes living in a multiunit rental is a good thing. Like when you want to get in shape but don't feel like spending the time and money to go to a gym and do so. Arrange for a yoga or Pilates instructor to come by your building two or three times a week to teach a class to you and your neighbors. Not only will you save time by not having to leave the building, but you can probably make a deal to pay less than you would if you had to venture out to a gym.

Saving money can be easy, especially when you add a social component. By even implementing one of these major money-saving techniques, you will find yourself saving hundreds of dollars per year.

"Because my neighbor motivated me to share our cable bill," says Mathless, "it was a no-brainer. And now I am saving thirty-dollars a month, which is fantastic."

Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help:
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