by Leo Horrigan

A concept called cohousing is a frugal person's paradise. Cohousing is a communal way of living that also respects people's need for privacy. In other words, you have caring, sharing and nearby neighbors but can retreat into private spaces when you need to.

Cohousing can happen in an urban or a rural environment, but either way cohousing projects have some distinct features in common:

  • Each family owns its own home but shares ownership of some common land and a common house.
  • Houses are "clustered" to save on land use and open up land for other uses such as recreation or, in the case of rural projects, to preserve more space as farmland or forest.
  • The common house typically includes a large kitchen and dining area, so that people can enjoy communal meals on the nights they choose to do so. Families take turns with the cooking and cleaning tasks, so everyone is less burdened with these day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Rural cohousing developments often include a farm or large gardens to grow food for the community, and possibly for sale to the public.
  • Many cohousing projects stress ecological principles such as more eco-friendly building materials, alternative energy systems and alternative septic systems. These considerations are balanced against the need for affordability, and often enhance affordability.

In terms of frugality, the cost-saving possibilities are myriad:

  • If members do some of the grunt labor during the building process ("sweat equity"), they can greatly reduce the cost of their home.
  • The close proximity of residents makes it easier to organize for things like buying cooperatives -- principally, food buying. Residents have more purchasing power because they can purchase in bulk from wholesale distributors.
  • Residents don't have to spend as much on things like garden tools or lawn mowers. Just think: Instead of having 20 homes on a street that purchase 20 lawn mowers, you could purchase just one or two to take care of a community of 20 households.
  • If the community needs a pickup truck to do heavy-duty chores, it can pool the resources of many families to buy it.

I'm sure your readers can come up with lots of other ways that this way of life can save money.

There are about 50 cohousing communities already occupied in the U.S. (all of them completed within the past decade), and about another 80 in various stages of planning. My wife and I are involved in a project called Hundredfold Farm that is searching for land in the Gettysburg, Pa., area, with the intention of forming a cohousing community there with about 15 households.

If you want to find out more about cohousing, here is a web site you could check out:

Hope you find this concept as exciting as we do.

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