We live on a cul-de-sac with a shared picnic/BBQ area. In the summertime, my kids are constantly riding bikes and playing in the cul-de-sac. There are currently no other kids, but we know most of our neighbors and they are great about letting the kids play. (One neighbor even bought them tiny rakes because she thought they’d like them. They do!) Our neighbors have been awesome. One helped with our windows, two of them insulated their attics the same day we did so we could all help each other out, and we used the tools of one of our neighbors to do all the window and door trim work. Two of our neighbors came over for Christmas Eve two years ago. We really like the dynamic of our cul-de-sac. We often end up having communal dinners in the picnic area during the summer and stay up late chatting with the neighbors when the sun is out until midnight.
One of the houses on the cul-de-sac is currently for sale. Interestingly, three of the families interested in purchasing the home we know from various places. Here are the options:
- A Complete Stranger – I haven’t decided if it’s better to know a neighbor if you’re not necessarily friends with them or if it’s better to have a total wild card. Other people we do not know have also looked at the house, so this is a real possibility.
- Really Good Friends – Obviously, these guys would be my first choice. They have been married five years, have a one-year-old, and are looking to expand their family. While their ideal property is something bigger, they could actually buy our neighbor’s house with cash which is a draw for them. They’re great savers, obviously. The girl and I go mall walking together most mornings with our little kids (yes, I’m a mall walker now…) and we talk quite a bit about personal finance. We already hang out a lot, I know them really well, and having someone in the cul-de-sac I trust with my kids would be awesome.
- The Mall Rat and Her Husband – This is a family with three kids. She’s told me on several occasions that she is a “Mall Rat” (which sounds like an insult!) and loves to shop. She also frequently complains about how there’s never enough money. The house is too small for her family she says, but they’re seriously considering it because they can actually get approved for the loan. They are nice, but being around them is draining. She loves talking about money, but only in arbitrary terms of how it works against her. It frustrates me to hear her talk about all her “great mall deals” and then continue her “woe is me” money talk.
- Family of Six – These guys currently live in a nicer place, but the rent is expensive. They are considering downsizing into a smaller house with their four kids to save money though it is unclear if that’s all talk or if they would actually do it. Two of their kids are friends with our girls, which would be fun for them to have. She has also complained to me about the prices in Alaska and how they need two cars, but struggled to think of any out-of-the box options. “What about your husband bike commuting? Or taking the city bus to work?” These were shocking suggestions. She also had a very successful Etsy business before moving to Alaska, but she and her husband decided to sell all their tools before moving, declaring that instead of making things, they would just buy them instead. She now says her husband regrets that decision now that he realizes how much money they were saving making crafts instead of buying them (not to mention her loss in revenue). The small, 3-bedroom neighbor house would be a tight fit for them, but if they’re actually willing to do it, good for them! These guys would be an okay choice as well, but I return to the original question: Is it better to have complete strangers as neighbors, or acquaintances?
I grew up in an absolutely magical neighborhood. There were about 9 girls my age on my street and we did everything together. Our families would have outdoor potlucks, we played night games every single night, and on May Day, we all gathered flowers, wove tiny baskets, and delivered them to all the other neighbors. The lady who lived behind my house had a big lavender patch and I would go hang out in her garden frequently. She taught me how to make lavender wands and I made hundreds. My next door neighbor had an amazing garden you could get lost in with a pet chicken running through it. My neighborhood was a big part of my amazing childhood. Though I realize I can’t replicate that for my own children, I wonder how much neighbors matter in the long term?
How much do you think your neighbors matter? Have you had excellent neighbors? Terrible ones? How does that environment impact yours?