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Co-Housing :: Save Money, Share Resources, Have Fun!

Important Note from Crystal: I thought this guest post was a unique and creative idea which might work in some situations — especially in the case of family members and/or a single person living with a family. However, I’d urge people to proceed with great caution, thought and prayer before setting up an arrangement like this. It’s not worth putting the health of your marriage or family at risk for the sake of saving money.

Guest post by Alexis at

My husband, daughter and I share a house with my sister-in-law, her husband, and their son. Each family saves several hundred dollars per month (based on what we would pay to rent an apartment) and we get to live in a house, with a yard, in a great neighborhood. Not only do we save quite a bit of money on rent, we also save money through combining resources and sharing some of the load of general home-keeping.

Co-housing benefits we’ve discovered:

By living in a house rather than an apartment, we enjoy:

  • A big kitchen – wonderful for bulk cooking and group meals
  • A basement – great for storage, extra pantry space, and a chest freezer
  • Room to comfortably host overnight guests
  • More space for dinner guests and other group hospitality opportunities than an apartment would offer

While sharing a house, we also share:

  • Group meals and cooking duties (each family cooks and does dishes three nights per week, which means the other three nights we get home-cooked meals with no cooking and no dishes to do!)
  • Household chores
  • Free babysitting trade-offs
  • Internet service
  • A cell phone plan
  • Utilities
  • Some bulk purchases
  • News and magazine subscriptions
  • Kid gear for our similarly-aged toddlers

Almost every item on this list is a financial benefit!

It’s also fun! We enjoy a lot of built-in socializing and entertainment, while still saving money.

  • We go out to eat much less frequently – with planned at-home meals six nights a week and easy leftovers on our no-cooking night, it’s more convenient to eat at home.
  • We can easily take turns leaving sleeping kids for simple date nights without the hassle or expense of hiring a babysitter.
  • During daily life, we can work more efficiently together to get things done that save us money in the long run, such as freezer cooking, cleaning, and DIY projects (e.g. sewing, making laundry soap, fixing up a guest room in the basement). Having at least one other adult around most of the time makes life easier and more fun!

Co-housing by choice is not for everyone (we definitely face some challenges due to this lifestyle!), but in this season of building up our savings and caring for our young families, it works for us. And even though it isn’t a utopian arrangement, we feel that it has really helped us to learn about community and brotherly love on a much deeper level, and has strengthened our relationships for life.

How to Pursue Co-Housing

Most people consider roommates to be a feature of their college or single years, but it can work to everyone’s benefit to share housing in less traditional scenarios.

Co-housing or multi-family living situations come in all shapes and sizes. If you are interested in attempting something like this, try to think creatively!

You could:

  • Live with parents or other relatives who own a larger house than they use or need
  • Rent a house with another couple
  • Consider combining a family with a single renter or childless couple or single parent or some other configuration of individuals

Interested?

How To Get Started

  • Do some research. Read about or ask people you know who have tried living with relatives or friends about their experiences.
  • Identify people* you would be willing to try co-housing with and talk it over with them.
  • Once you have the willing parties in place, determine which features are necessary (and/or preferred) for your particular situation, including cost, location, size, layout, and time frame.
  • Start looking!

*IMPORTANT: Choosing potentially compatible housemates is something that may take quite a bit of thought, prayer, and wise consideration. Take the time to explore this decision as thoroughly as possible!

Make It A Positive Experience

  • Before you move in, take some time to discuss expectations, hopes and fears, and ground rules.
  • Expect a bumpy transition! This is likely a big change for every individual involved, and there may be an uncomfortable (but perfectly normal) adjustment period. Work to maintain an atmosphere of patience and grace, especially in the first few months.
  • Communicate often, with love, respect, grace and truth. Make an effort to connect frequently and honestly with your housemates – weekly check-ins are a great idea. It is important to place relational health and harmony and the well-being of your marriage and family above financial and convenience factors, and it is not worth ruining relationships just to save a few thousand dollars.
  • Have fun! Most likely, this will be a relatively short season in your lives. Try to enjoy the unique opportunities it presents for friendship, community, and memories.

Alexis loves being a wife and mom, and writes about her life, family, faith, and the ins, outs, ups and downs of co-housing at .

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas December212012® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

photo by ;

Join the 30-Day Giving Challenge

During the month of November, a group of my blogging friends are banding together to host the . This challenge will run for the month of November and you are encouraged to participate by giving in some way every day during the month of November.

The team of ten bloggers who are hosting this challenge will be sharing ideas and inspiration related to giving for the next 30 days. I know you’ll be blessed by following along.

Truly, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”!

Super Savings Saturday: Starting up P90X again

I finished my first round of P90X a few weeks ago and took two weeks almost entirely off from exercising or worrying too much about eating wonderfully. I didn’t subsist on hot dogs and candy bars by any stretch of the imagination, but I did eat more chocolate and even allowed myself to have a few cups of coffee (I went completely off of caffeine while on P90X, I know, can you believe it??).

And it was nice to take a break. But I am so ready to jump back on the P90X bandwagon come Monday morning. I seriously considered doing the P90X Plus program, but I think that I can push myself a little more and benefit a lot from another round of P90X, so that’s what I decided to go for.

We loaded up on good food today in preparation for getting back on the P90X diet. Since life has been full with some extra things recently, I didn’t used coupons the last two weeks. I planned a menu, make a list and looked at the store fliers while doing so, but I didn’t worry about getting the lowest rock-bottom deals. I just gave myself a breather week — and it felt nice!

However, when we came home with these groceries and paid $80 for them I was reminded why we use coupons, stockpile and shop the sales:

Because $80 with coupons, stockpiling and shopping the sales, could net quite a bit more groceries than that. But it’s nice to take a break every now and then!

However, just like I’m jumping back on the P90X bandwagon come Monday, I’m also getting back on the bargain-hunting bandwagon, too. Because I really don’t like paying full price if I can help it. 🙂

Stay tuned on Monday for our P90X Menu Plan for this upcoming week and the first installment of the Time Management 101 series.

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Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

48-Hour Giveaway: $25 credit to Cicale T Jewelry or Adorable Little Me (5 winners)

Looking for original, one of a kind, handmade jewelry? offers just that — at affordable prices. Each piece of jewelry is unique and can transform your an ordinary outfit into something special.

Their sister shop is and it features durable, made-to-last handmade hair adornments and children’s jewelry. These aren’t just for children, though, they might also make great gifts for anyone wishing to add a little flair and color to their day!

and are offering a 15% discount for both Etsy shops to any of my readers right now. Just them and let them know you’re a reader of December212012.info and let them know what piece(s) you’d like to order. They’ll reduce the price by 15% for you!

Enter to win a $25 gift certificate to either or ! Just click on the green button below and type in your name and email address. Five winners will be chosen. This giveaway ends Monday, November 1, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.

Help for an Overwhelmed Newbie (Part 3)

If you missed it, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

5. Make Simple Budget Cuts

Once you have streamlined your life, set goals, gotten your home in order and created a budget, you’re ready to get more intense about looking for ways to cut your budget in order to free up extra money to pay off debt or save money towards your financial goals.

I suggest you start with simple things that will make a significant impact: Do you have memberships or subscriptions you’re currently paying for but not really using? Can you renegotiate some of your bills to get a better monthly rate? Could you cut back on costly regular expenditures or come up with creative alternatives?

After examining your regular expenditures to see if there are things you can cut or renegotiate, if you’re still struggling financially and need to come up with more breathing room, I’d suggest that you consider doing things which might be more extreme (click on that link for a list of 28 things we’ve done to stay out of debt).

I also encourage you to start slowly adopting a “Never Pay Retail” philosophy. Living frugally or on a budget doesn’t mean you never buy nice things or never pay for anything new again (though buying used is definitely a smart choice in many instances), but you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year just by committing to use some coupons for items you’ll already be purchasing, planning ahead and buying items you will need soon when they are at their lowest prices and looking for creative ways to get discounts on items you plan to buy.

For instance, if you have room to include a “Dates and Eating Out” category in your budget, you can stretch your budgeted money farther by watching for restaurant coupons and deals and purchasing restaurant vouchers through or to local restaurants you like.

A Word of Caution

Don’t feel like you need to cut your budget down to such a barebones level that you don’t have any wiggle room or that you can never splurge on anything. If you’re planning to live a frugal and simple life for the longhaul, you must give yourself some grace. In fact, I say that you should budget for splurges. It doesn’t have to be anything costly, but choose a few things which you really enjoy and budget for them so that you can enjoy them without guilt.

For instance, we budget for eating out once a week, we budget for vacations and special family outings and we budget for me to get my hair done. Some people might argue that these things are incredibly extravagant of us, but these are things are family has decided we enjoy and choose to spend our money on. So we budget for these expenses and then we splurging guiltlessly!

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat beans and rice for the rest of your life or be misers. It just means that you are telling your money where to go ahead of time so that it’s not just passing through your fingers like sand!

6. Remember to Take Babysteps

As you start looking for ways to reduce your outgo and cut costs, it’s easy to get carried away and try learn and do everything at once. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself completely overwhelmed trying to menu-plan, stockpile, print coupons, clip coupons, organize coupons, shop at multiple stores, play the Drugstore Game, sign up for freebies, read great blogs…  and on and on it goes.

My advice: take babysteps! Pick one new skill to learn per month and don’t feel guilty over what you haven’t learned or aren’t doing yet.

7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People

Sadly, sometimes we can spend a lot of time worrying about what other people are doing or not doing and base what we do or don’t do upon that. If there’s one thing I can not re-iterate enough, it’s this: don’t compare yourself to other people.

We’re all in different families and situations and locations. We all have different goals, different needs and different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, what works for one family isn’t necessarily going to work for another family.

Maybe your family has food allergies which mean you can’t eat certain things and you need to have twice the grocery budget that your frugal friend without food allergies has. Or maybe you enjoy going out to eat more often so you have a higher “Dates and Eating Out” budget, but you buy your clothes at the thrift store.

Perhaps you like to travel so you budget more for that, but you don’t spend much on food because you grow a lot of it yourself. You might have a really busy schedule due to caring for a disabled family member and working two jobs, so you don’t even bother with using coupons and you hire someone to clean your home but you save money by biking to work and re-purposing everything you can.

Whatever the case, determine what works for your family and what goals and priorities your own family has and then create your financial goals and plan based upon this. If other people don’t understand or possibly even criticize the decisions you’ve made, it’s okay.

Do what works for you and don’t worry about what other people think!

photos from

48-Hour Giveaway: Pyrex Supper Saver Package (2 Winners)

is dedicated to helping moms have the right tools to plan, prep and present meals in a quick and easy manner. So they are giving away two Supper Saver Packages to my readers here this week.

The Pyrex Supper Saver Package includes:

sent me a Supper Saver Package to try out and I have to say that my favorite was the Pyrex No Leak Lids Glass Storage products. I loved that you can use them in the oven, refrigerator and microwave. Plus, they are dishwasher safe!

They work well for sticking leftovers in to be heated up the next day. And they are even versatile enough that my girls are using one of them to house a snail in right now that they are studying in our homeschooling. (We just popped the little tab off the top so there are air holes. I promise we’ll sanitize it well once our snail study is over with! :))

To enter to win a Supper Saver Package from Pyrex, just click on the button below and type in your name and email address. Two winners will be chosen and posted on Monday. This giveaway ends October 30, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. CST.