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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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?
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