Have you ever heard the saying, “It takes a village?” More importantly, have you ever wondered where to find yourself a village? We all need help from time to time and this whole life thing can start to feel pretty lonely especially if you’re a parent. Often times everything falls on our shoulders. Money, making dinner, school sports … and what about time for ourselves? What can you do when you feel like people are counting on you to do everything? Well, a new trend suggests, you stop doing it all by creating a co-op. How can a co-op reduce your budget and save you tons of time? Well, let’s talk about that.
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What is a co-op?
Put simply a co-op is just a group of people working together. People supporting one another, helping each other and working hard as a team.
Where did this idea come from?
I still remember watching the documentary, Happy where they interviewed people living in Denmark in a co-housing community.
This is where a group of people are either sharing a plot of land or even a building.
Doing this allows people to easily help one another in day to day life. Children can play together, or help each other with homework. The adults take turns making dinner and some even share community gardens.
The co-housing trend, of course, isn’t limited to Denmark. In fact, it is a popular trend that is gradually spreading throughout Europe.
How do you start a co-op?
So how can you bring this co-housing trend into your life if you’re not sharing a plot of land or a single building structure with other families?
This month’s (February 2019) Real Simple magazine dove into this topic and had a ton of practical tips for how you could start a co-op in your own life.
Finding your village
Maybe you have a close group of neighbor friends that you could chat up about the idea of starting a co-op.
Local mom groups, church organizations, school functions or even a close-knit group of friends would be great places to start. Whatever you do, it’s a good idea to make sure you find a group of people whose beliefs and lifestyle align with your own.
For example, planning a meal swap with a family that eats only vegetarian meals may not work if the rest of your co-op’s families are big meat eaters.
Guidelines for your co-op
No matter what, it is a good idea to lay some “ground rules” for your co-op. Make it clear how many hours you’re expecting each member to contribute to babysitting or carpooling.
What guidelines do you want followed for meals? Do you want to make sure there is always a vegetable provided? Should there be a spending cap on the cost of dinners?
It would seem rather unfair if one family prepares steak for everyone while another family boils up some ramen noodles and calls it a day. Ya feel me?
I know setting guidelines, especially with a group of friends, may not be the most fun thing to do, but it’s absolutely necessary to make sure each family’s concerns are heard.
Other time saving, simplifying ideas:
- How to Stop Running Errands and Get Time Back in Your Day
- Create a Minimalist Wardrobe Year Round
- Downsize Your House and Debt at the Same Time
- 18 Practical Ways to Downsize and Simplify
Reduce your budget with a co-op
It would make sense how families living in the same building would be able to reduce their budget by living in a co-housing community, but what can you do to help reduce your budget through creating a co-op where everyone still lives separately?
For people who have a membership to places like Costco or Sam’s Club, buying in bulk for your co-op in order to split the cost can be a great way to help provide everyone with their living essentials at a fraction of the cost.
Bulk buying budget savers:
- Toilet paper
- Laundry detergent
- Toiletries like shampoo, soaps and hygiene products
Cutting the expense of these every day essentials by buying them in bulk and then dividing the cost is a genius way to cut back on everyone’s necessary spending.
Baby sitting swap
You may have heard by now that one of the best ways to avoid the expense of paying for a baby sitter is by swapping with a friend.
Amongst your co-op, you can figure out a rotating schedule in which you babysit for one another. The same goes for dog sitting or house sitting!
If your co-op happens to be on your same block, a great idea may be to swap carpooling days. Whether it’s taking kids to school, sports or even riding together to work if applicable!
One of the biggest demands of a co-op is swapping dinners. Assign each member a particular day of the week (or month) to make dinner for everyone else in the co-op.
This means, if you have 7 families in your co-op, you could be not only making dinner once a week, but only paying for the cost of one meal as well. —Although it would be a larger meal.
How a co-op saves time
The biggest time saver that comes along with having a co-op goes hand in hand with meal preparations. Imagine the time and effort you would save by only making dinner once a week.
Avoiding the effort of cooking dinner 6 days a week means you spend less time over a hot stove prepping the meal and less time scrubbing dishes and wiping counters afterward.
How to organize your co-op
So how do you keep track of who makes dinner which night?
How do you make sure people aren’t prepping the same meals?
What if you want to make sure each family is doing their fair share of babysitting?
Some basic ideas to organize your co-op:
- Have a shared Facebook page
- Prepare an Excel spread sheet
- Keep a log book
- Use an app!
I read about co-ops in Real Simple, and it blew my mind that an app has been created to help people organize their co-op and keep track of hours.
The Komae App
The Komae App started as a babysitting app to help busy mom’s keep track of babysitting swap nights.
This app allows you to find and connect with friends interested in swapping babysitting, lets you share your availability, and even lets you all see just how much money you’ve saved by swapping!
It takes a village
No matter what method you find or what works for you and your family, there is no denying the massive benefits that can be gained from creating and participating in a co-op.
They say it takes a village, and now, thanks to new age thinking mixed with old traditions, it is easier than ever to create a village all your own.