Frugal Friends Don’t Let Friends…


“Friendship is the soul’s heaven,” according to Bronson Alcott, and it’s also a key to unlocking frugal synergy. Expensive friends certainly exist; they aren’t pretending to be poor and always invite you on expensive outings. Even frugal friends have their costs (weddings!). But a network of friends is invaluable, financially and otherwise, as friends can naturally share talents, time, and possessions with each other. Not to mention the many immaterial beauties of friendship. Here’s how to increase your financial flexibility with frugal friends synergy.

Frugal friends don’t let friends…

Pay for professional services. Don’t worry, I don’t let my friends drill cavities or deliver babies. But there are lots of skills you can trade for or discount among your comrades. For example, Neil took graduation pictures for a number of high school students we knew and charged only a fraction of typical studio costs. More recently, my brother-in-law shared extensive labor and expertise to help Neil DIY a major home repair project. It’s always good to know a mechanic, a computer whiz, a cosmetologist, a pastry chef, a remodeler, and people from any number of other fields since it’s cheaper to enlist a pal’s help than to pay a professional.

Of course you should always show appreciation for your friends’ time. Give a thoughtful gift, buy lunch, or offer your own talents next time they need help. Lending a hand is a great way to inflate your usefulness instead of your lifestyle. When you do need a professional, ask friends for recommendations.

Buy stuff they can borrow. Does every homeowner on earth really need to own a 15-ft extension ladder? Or pick-up truck? We lend and borrow tools, gadgets, and other special-use items among friends regularly. Currently we’re in possession of a friends’ electric smoker. Neil and his buddy even bought a bike tool set to share between them. It just doesn’t make sense for everyone to multiply the cost, storage, and maintenance of special use equipment. Borrowing is a great option to consider before buying used.

My girlfriends and I also lend everyday items like clothing (especially baby and maternity), books, baby gear, and special occasion shoes or accessories. All of the punjabis I’ll wear on my trip to India this summer are on loan as well (thanks!).

Being part of a community also opens opportunities for receiving free or friend-price items. Almost all of our furniture has come through our network of family and friends (and their network of family and friends). With hand-me-downs it helps not to be too picky; remember, life is not about your preferences.

Pay movers. When we moved into our home we didn’t have to rent a truck or hire movers because 25 people showed up to help! I’m sure if we were going farther than eight doors down we might’ve needed a truck. But we’ve always moved for the cost of pizza for our volunteers. And we’ve helped many other friends move. That’s how frugal friend synergy should work.

Pay babysitters. We spent less than $100 total on babysitting during our first four years of parenting, despite leaving the kids with sitters a couple times a week. We are very blessed to have help from family and many trusted volunteers from our church. However, much of the free childcare we’ve received has come through swapping with friends. For example, we have a date-night co-op where we trade off babysitting on Friday evenings. When we do need to hire a sitter, we’re happy to use references from people we know personally. (Update: Three years later, this has changed and we have spent more in this area, but the date night swap is still a great idea for many people.)

Over-spend on entertainment. While it’s fun to go to restaurants or movies with friends sometimes, we’re more likely to invite people over for dinner, a cookout, or a bonfire at our house. Hosting has its costs, but can often be done inexpensively when you shop sales, cook homemade, or ask people to potluck or pitch in toward pizza. Plus hospitality is a habit we’re willing to spend on.

Get lonely. An American epidemic of loneliness is in effect as we work extra hours, shuttle kids to extracurriculars, and zone out in the front of the TV in sheer exhaustion. Instead our family opts for building community. We believe close relationships, along with generosity, are a integral part of a good life so we make them a priority by setting aside several evenings a week for social and church gatherings (these two are often one and the same for us). We aren’t side-hustling during these times, but we also aren’t over-spending on recreational shopping or entertainment.

Whatever your faith or schedule looks like, don’t end up lonely at the top. Make time for friends. A good pal will offer their power tools, sewing services, and a listening ear. It truly pays dividends to have friends.

How have friends helped you save money? Share your examples of frugal friends synergy!

19 Responses to “Frugal Friends Don’t Let Friends…”

  1. Tiffany D. says :

    Great read! I loved the title and all of the real life examples. Life is not about our preferences…

  2. DC YAM says :

    Really love your focus on community. It’s something my wife and I were intentional about the past few years but recently have fallen off the wagon. It’s something we need to make a higher priority in our lives. I helped a friend move just this past weekend and I would gladly help anyone else if they asked! I felt very blessed when a group of friends and family helped my wife and I move from our apartment to our house, and I want to extend that feeling to as many others as possible.

    • Kalie says :

      There is definitely a wonderful sense of camaraderie and others having your back that comes from helping or being helped. So glad you’ve prioritized this and I hope you can continue too. I can’t imagine how busy you must be right now!

  3. Kirsten says :

    We don’t particularly have frugal friends, but I will say that I have actually never paid for a babysitter in my daughter’s 4.5 years on this planet. We do not go out often (we should actually go out MUCH, much more) but we have always had friends from church who volunteered with the duties.

    It’s an aside from your post, but I will say this in my comment anyway – folks, this is an awesome service you can provide for the married couples with little ones. They need that time and money is almost always tight for the parents of small children. This is also a critical time for them to stay connected and engaged with one another – they need the time together. You, as a free babysitter, are doing an awesome service for the future generations.

    • Kalie says :

      Preach it! Babysitters are such an important part of family life. Glad to hear you have friends willing to sit for free.

  4. Hannah says :

    Being frugal makes it possible to befriend people across the socio-economic spectrum. I never would have thought of this on my own, but recently I suggested to our prayer group organizer that so-and-so has a way nicer house, so we should consider meeting there (instead of our house). He responded that more than half the group only comes to the group because our house isn’t intimidating to them (like they don’t feel that they need to be wealthy to meet at our house).

    It hasn’t stopped us from making upgrades to the house, but I am glad that our humble (to put it nicely) house makes this type of community possible.

    • Kalie says :

      That’s a great point and I love the example. I think I’ve experienced this principle in small ways, too. I really like anti-status symbols like driving older cars and wearing hand-me-downs!

  5. Abigail says :

    We are always willing to lend someone something if we don’t think we’ll need it in the immediate future. So far we haven’t generally had the item in question, but at some point, I’m sure we’ll be a help.

    If we manage to have a kid, we won’t have to worry about babysitters. My in-laws live in the guest house. They’ll be thrilled to come over and spend more time with the lil ‘un.

    Time will tell.

  6. Kate says :

    I have a friend and also our newly neighbor. We always give each other, like exchanging foods.

  7. Mrs. Frugalwoods says :

    These are such great points. I totally agree with the whole concept of the sharing economy and am always happier to “pay” a friend in some way, rather than a corporation. We’ve been really fortunate to receive tons of baby and maternity hand-me-downs, which we’re incredibly grateful for and are such a good example of passing things around as we need them. Lending and sharing tools is another awesome one!

    • Kalie says :

      We definitely like the idea of forking over less money to corporations! Friends helping each other out is so much more enjoyable, as well as thriftier, than taking the standard consumer approach. Baby hand-me-downs are the best! There are more than enough baby products to go around with investing in lots of new things.

  8. Linda Sand says :

    When I was living in a conversion van cooking was a big challenge. My friend and I made a deal where I bought groceries, she cooked, we and her husband all ate, then I got to keep the leftovers. We did that three days in a row so when I moved on I had my fridge and freezer stocked with delicious food.

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