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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Start a Chore Swap Group - Save Money and Time

Barn raisings. Quilting bees. Community Supported Agriculture .  Babysitting clubs. Pot luck suppers. Block parties. Habitat for Humanity. American traditions all. Most of us have grown up with the idea of shared work for the greater good It's part of our heritage. So many communities - churches, schools, charities, community associations - rely on volunteer labor. And most of us have put in our time helping with fund raising, clean up days, envelope stuffing, any number of chores that are required to keep these organizations going.

In keeping with the tradition of shared work -  as in "many hands makes light work" - I would like to suggest a chore swap group. It's such a simple idea.

Say you have a bathroom sink faucet that needs to be replaced, but you don't have a clue how to do it. Instead of hiring a plumber at a cost of $100 or so, you call your friend Jim who knows how to do basic plumbing. Jim is a bachelor with very limited kitchen skills. So you whip up some casseroles and a couple of pies to fill Jim's freezer in return for his plumbing help.

Laura has a couple of pairs of pants that need to be shortened. She can't sew, but would prefer not to pay $15 per pair for a tailor to do the work.  Paula can shorten pants in her sleep. So she'll do the work on Laura's pants. In return, Laura will do some ironing for Paula. Think about how many little things you pay someone else to do, or that you spend more time than you would care to on, that a friend could do for you:
  • birthday cake baking in return for an oil change
  • window washing gets you wallpaper removal
  • garden rototilling for tomato canning
  • dog walking in the a.m. for dog walking in the p.m.
  • grocery shopping for check book balancing
  • hedge trimming in return for a hair cut
  • closet organizing for a drive to the airport
There really are as many possibilities as there are chores. And your chore swap group doesn't have to be organized exclusively along the lines of "this for that."  You might want to consider the barn raising and quilting bee approach: everyone gets together to accomplish a specific task at one person's home. It might be helping someone move from one house to another. Or a demolition party in advance of someone's renovation. Later the group might get together for a painting party. Lawn seeding or sodding, garden planting and tomato sauce making are some options.

This set up is sometimes called a barter club.  But barter clubs may be more structured than you need. When one professional or vendor swaps a service or product with another professional or vendor, say a dentist replacing a  couple of crowns in return for a new transmission in the BMW, there  may be IRS implications.

What I am suggesting is less formal and more along the lines of neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend. Sharing skills. Swapping expertise. Do you swap chores with friends? I would love to hear about it.

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