The Dollar Stretcher Blog
by Gary Foreman

Last weekend I was reminded of something that we all know, but seem to forget if we're not reminded every so often. A friend of mine had a big oak tree that needed to have a couple of limbs removed. Big limbs. Real big limbs! The cost to call in a tree surgeon would have been significant. Instead he asked for help from a group of his friends.

About a dozen showed up. Between them were 3 chainsaws of various sizes, a couple of pick-up trucks, an expert at tree climbing, a couple of expert cooks and a lot of willing hands. Being among the oldest (and probably weakest!) of the group I was assigned to the kitchen patrol (my wife warned me about not having a heart attack!). After we had the food (pork roast, pulled bbq pork, hot dogs, green bean casserole, potato salad, etc) in process we went out to check on the work crew. (just for the record, I was the 'gofer' for the two main cooks)

They already had the biggest limb (about 20 inch diameter and 50 feet long) down. I have no idea what it weighed, but it was monstrous! Most of it was already gone. They were about to take the smaller branch off. It intersected the tree at about 25' off the ground and was about 15 inch diameter and 75 feet long. The tree climbing expert got to it and a saw was lifted up to him. As sometimes happens, as he cut the branch twisted and the outside of the branch got caught in another tree. The branch twisted and pinched the chainsaw bar. A few minutes of discussion and the guys had a couple of ropes on the limb and pulled it loose from the ground. Disaster avoided in a matter of moments!

As soon as the branch hit the ground the guys swarmed it like ants at a picnic. One guy took his saw and cut off all the smaller branches that came off the main one. I joined three other guys pulling those smaller branches to a heap that would me chipped later. Another guy with a chainsaw was cutting the main branch into sections approximately one and a half feet long. Just about the right size for splitting for firewood. A couple of guys were loading the pieces into a cart attached to the lawn tractor. Right behind was a couple of guys raking up anything left behind. The whole job was done in about three hours!

It reminded me of an old-fashioned barn raising (at least I think that they're old fashioned...please let me know if that type of thing is still going on...I'd love to hear if any still happen). It's truly amazing how much work can be done (not to mention the sense of community) by a group dedicated to a specific task.

How does that relate to your finances? Good question, oh enlightened reader! Some of the best ideas that I know of right now for saving money are group efforts. Take, for instance, meal exchanges. They're most often seen in a workplace. Suppose that there are 4 members of the exchange. Each week each member prepares a meal big enough for all four families. They serve one at home and bring the rest (portioned out) to work to give to the other three members. So cooking one day means that each family has four dinners. Not bad! They save by buying larger sizes, but also because they're much less likely to use the drive-thru on the way home from work. After all, dinner is just a reheat away! For more on meal exchanges here.

Or how about the "Lunch Club"? It's similar to the meal exchange. Again, we'll suppose 4 members. Every fourth day each member is responsible for bringing lunch for the entire group. So instead of going out every day ($5, $6 or $7 a day) or coming up with something different for lunch each day, you only have to do something every fourth day. Another great deal. Check out one lunch club here.

Carpools are another great example. Sure, we all like the independence that having our own car gives us. We can come and go whenever it's convenient. But, $4 a gallon gas does require some adjustments if our budgets aren't going to be trashed. (for the record I do not carpool. But I only live about 3 miles from work, so there isn't much gas to save.)

Or what about having a garage sale? Group sales are much more fun. You can share advertising and enjoy a much bigger crowd of shoppers. I know of some neighborhoods that have an annual sale each summer!

I'm sure that you can come up with many more ideas. Why not talk to some friends/neighbors and see what you can come up with? Not only will you save some money, you might also enjoy a better sense of community!

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar website and newsletters. Not only does the site host thousands of articles on various ways to save money, but you'll also find a vibrant forum where people share their dollar stretching ideas. Comment on this entry here .