Thursday, January 29, 2009

Making Budget-Friendly Friends

In this day of internet meet-ups and support groups for every interest and issue on the planet, we all have access to like-minded people, if we bother to look them up. If you like to crochet, you can find a local group to do it with. If you like to play basketball, you can find adults in your area who play. If you're a computer geek, you can find people who will talk tech with you. Why do we join these groups? Well, partly for the whole kindred spirit thing, and partly for a social outlet, but also because we have a genuine interest in these topics. We are better hobbyists and enthusiasts when we have others to advise us, guide us, and even commiserate with us.

I'll add one more ulterior motive to this list (and hopefully, I'm not alone in this): to save a few bucks. Organizations that support a common interest or cause often have access to great group rate deals, co-ops, buying clubs, etc. At the most public level, there are organizations, like AAA or labor unions, that strike bargains with a large variety of service and consumer goods suppliers and retailers. Just for being a member, you get to save some money when you buy your car insurance or stay in a hotel or take out a loan. As long as the price of membership doesn't exceed the savings (or other non-monetary benefits), then why not join?

The same can be said about smaller, more local organizations. Assuming that you're reading this blog because healthy living, green living, cheap living, etc. are interests of yours, there are groups that can help you accomplish those goals. Nearly every locale has an environmental action group. There are groups for people with an interest in cooking, gardening, alternative medicines, organics, etc. In these groups, you will undoubtedly find local information and resources that will help you buy smarter, cheaper, and better quality. These are the folks who know where the good farmers' markets are, or what CSA you should subscribe to, or what farms sell free range eggs direct to customers, where to find local honey, who has bulk discounts, what health food stores have the best buys and the best quality produce, what supermarkets support local farming, etc. These folks are also likely to have buying clubs and co-ops set up for their interests. An environmental group might be able to get you a good discount on organic landscaping, or an energy-efficient furnace. A foodie group might be able to organize a scavenging tour with an expert in local mushrooms. The members of a holistic society might qualify for group discounts with certain alternative health practitioners.

For myself, I've been able to find all of the resources that I'm looking for through my local Holistic Moms Network chapter. We have two buying clubs for both food and other products (toiletries, holistic medicines and supplements, etc.). One of our members recently organized a bulk organic ground beef order, which saved us a ton! I get tips from other members about where they've found things at good prices, or of good quality. My annual membership fee ($45) is easily paid for by all this savings. Of course, I've also found wonderful friendships, great educational resources, and parenting support, which are invaluable to me.

Just to be clear, I'm not recommending that you join an organization just for the perks, especially small, local organizations (you can go ahead and join AAA just for the perks). Have a genuine interest in what goes on in the group. But it doesn't hurt to make budget-friendly friends.

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