5 Ways Living Near Family Saves You Money

Family

Yesterday started out as a typical Saturday morning in our house.  The kids woke up early, went downstairs, and watched cartoons like zombies.  The parents stayed upstairs and slept in.  Eventually I crawled out of bed and went downstairs to have my coffee and a bagel.  Then came a sudden persistent knocking at our side door.

It was around nine a.m. by this point.  Who is at the door?  It isn’t the postal service.  UPS and Fedex never come that early.  Those inviting me to convert to their particular blend of beliefs usually anoint my front door with their touch, not the side door.  As I rounded the corner to the kitchen, I saw the smiling face of my sister in law outside the glass door.

She came bearing gifts.  Delicious, fried egg rolls.  Why would my sister in law drop by at 9 a.m. with a plate full of egg rolls?  She makes large batches at one time because a large batch isn’t much more work than a small batch.  Then she shares the treats with family and friends.  The end result is the Root of Good family having an awesome mid-morning snack without running down the street for Chinese take out.

This is one small (but delicious!) advantage of living near family.  Egg Rolls

The egg rolls were of course yummy, but over the years we have received so much more from our families that led to ridiculously huge financial savings.

1. Equipment and Vehicles

With family nearby, we can borrow a pickup truck whenever needed.  And if necessary, the truck can be staffed with a couple of strong guys to help with tasks at our house.  We have also borrowed expensive tools that we don’t need very often such as a power washer, power tools, and long ladders.

2. Construction Work

As a homeowner, there are some do-it-yourself tasks that are easy to tackle.  For bigger jobs, having family that works in construction is a huge help.  We graciously accepted help with all sorts of repairs and remodels when we bought our 30 year old fixer upper house.

This list of work over the last ten years would have been very expensive if we paid contractors:renovation

  • tile flooring
  • drywall replacement
  • interior and exterior painting
  • custom fireplace and built-in shelving
  • carpet installation
  • roof repairs
  • gutter replacement
  • storage shed
  • roof for deck
  • plumbing
  • cabinetry
  • hot water heater installation

We didn’t get all this work done for free, but what we paid family was much less than the going rate for contractors.  We also paid actual costs for construction materials instead of markups contractors often charge.  As an added bonus, we can trust our family to do good work and not rip us off, unlike some unscrupulous contractors.

3. Free Furniture

Our house is decorated with furniture that our family didn’t want any more or acquired for free from their jobs.  We haven’t purchased a piece of furniture in ten years.  Our home will never be featured in Architectural Digest, but it is cozy and functional and works for us.

4. Childcare

With three young children, we have been able to save significant amounts on childcare by having Mrs. Root of Good’s mother watch them while we were at work.  We still paid her, although the rate was hundreds per month less than market rates at preschool or daycare.  This was a win-win-win.  My mother in law made some money, we saved some money, and our kids spent their toddlerhood with family instead of strangers.

We have never paid for babysitting.  Our families are always interested in keeping the kids so we have an endless supply of babysitters whenever we need a break.  In fact, there is an oversupply of babysitters!  We have bidding wars over who gets to keep the kids.  Equitably allocating babysitting time with each of our families is challenging.

5. Saving on Travel

In addition to “trading” services and possessions, we also save on travel expenses and stress.  At Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays where you usually gather as a family, we are always thankful that we don’t have to drive more than 20 minutes to see our loved ones.  We don’t spend anything on plane tickets or hotels since all our close family live near us.

We also enjoy our holidays because they are relaxing.  No sitting in airports or in cramped planes.  No weather delays, and no missed connections.  No marathon car trips with kids screaming in the back seat.  The avoidance of stress is more valuable than the cost savings!

What We Give In Return

It sounds like we are constantly mooching off our families, but generosity is a two way street!  We try to help out family whenever possible, and over the years have provided help by:

  • representing family in court in a construction law dispute
  • securing an immigration visa and green card for our new sister in law
  • advising on financial, business and tax issues
  • navigating the complexities of medicare and social security for parents
  • drafting real estate deeds and contracts
  • repairing broken appliances
  • troubleshooting and repairing computers, VOIP telephones, and home networks

I can’t even begin to tally up the total value of assistance we have given or received, but it has been a huge financial help to our household and our families’ households.  Living near family has literally paid off. 

 

There are downsides to remaining close to family. 

Staying in one place can put a damper on careers.  Many occupations are focused in a few large cities (such as New York and LA for acting) and employment can be limited in other areas.  It can be difficult to pursue better opportunities if you are unwilling to relocate. You may miss out on new experiences by staying in one place.

 

Overall, I think our decision to live near family has proven to be a good one.  We probably sacrificed some income by limiting career options to those available locally.  But the financial and non-monetary benefits have been very significant.

 

Have you made a choice to stay near family for financial or non-financial reasons?  Has it worked as planned?

9 comments

  • My mom is huge help with the kid when she’s here. I really don’t know what we’ll do when she goes home. I guess we’ll get a babysitter…
    It would be nice to have more families close by.

    • Thanks for stopping by again, Joe!

      Make friends with someone else you can trust with kids around the same age. Then you can switch off babysitting. It is amazing some couples with kids even go out – I can’t imagine tacking $40-50 for babysitting on top of even a simple dinner out.

      Not sure about trading off middle of the day babysitting for us stay at home dads, since many parents work. It can be a challenge to run errands, work out, or check tasks off your to do list.

  • I moved about 2 hours from home as soon as I was 18, however over the years and as we got towards thinking about having children, we’ve slowly moved closer and closer. We now live around 20/30 mins away.

    It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, we just found that we hung out with family more and more as we grow older, so it makes sense to be closer – as you say it’s no fun having kids in the car for hours on end!

    Loving the site btw.

    Dom

  • Thanks for stopping by, Dom. That’s smart – saves you time, money, and stress of hauling around the kids all day to visit the family.

  • I live close to the family members I get along with best and as far away as possible from those I find it a challenge to get along with.When families can cooperate,there’s nothing like it.Otherwise,its better to control acrimony with a little distance.

  • My mom in law lives WITH us. She was staying nearby, so we offered to move in into our spare bedroom and rent out her house. It is also a win-win-win: she instantly became financially independent due to her rental income and can spend her days with her grandkids she adores, we save loads on childcare and don’t have to madly rush each morning to send kids to childcare & pick them up in the evening, and the kids are lovingly looked after by their grandma (they also go for several hours of pre-school every morning to socialize). My mom in law also loves to cook and makes meals for the whole family every day. She also cleans the house (the kids help out!) – though we constantly remind her that this is our job and she does not have to do it. But she is one of those very active people who just cannot sit still and would rather do things.
    Often my friends gasp – your MIL lives with you?! You poor thing! I just laugh 🙂 It is the best arrangement for all of us. I have been saying to my husband – should we ever divorce, your mom stays with me 🙂

    • Leave the husband with the kids but take the MIL with you? Ha ha

      When my MIL comes over to our house, she can’t help but pluck weeds in the planting beds around the house, or help out in the kitchen. I joke that we should just invite her over for a couple hours occasionally for no reason, and let her have at the weeds and the dishes.

      It’s definitely nice to have family around.

  • Wow Justin, while this probably seems straight forward to some this is a cool post! Coming from a small nuclear family, I’m an only child I can only hope that I end up with a lovely lady who has a big family 🙂

    Great insights here and I’ll keep on reading through your posts!

    Cheers

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