Swap Buddies Make Projects Affordable

By Kevin Gibbons

If you’ve ever tried to remove a gear with a hammer and screwdriver instead of a gearpuller, or hand-sewn a tablecloth hem instead of using a sewing machine, you know how important having the right tool for the job can be.

I’ve written before how resourceful my father and his friends were at building and fixing things when I was growing up. One of the things I noticed was how they always had the right tool for whatever job came up. In fact, my friends will tell you that my favorite expression is “There’s a tool for that!”. Now, my Dad didn’t always have the right tool in the garage; but he could get one at a moment’s notice. Between all of them, his group of friends had just about every tool you could think of to rebuild an engine, replace a furnace or toilet, or build a roof. This was primarily because my father and his friends were all tradesmen of one sort or another. Aoki was a shade tree mechanic, Frank was a roofer, Merle was a plumber, my dad was a telephone and electrician man. If any one of them needed an exotic tool for a job, another one would probably have it. They would not have to buy something that, while it would make their lives much easier, would end up sitting unused in their toolbox for five years.

You can put this same practice to use today. How often do you mow your lawn, clean your carpets, need a sewing machine or a table saw? Even the lawn mower and carpet cleaner, while used on a regular basis, spend most of their lives sitting in the shed or cleaning closet. Instead of buying or renting those infrequently used, but necessary tools, find one or two “swap buddies,” that you partner with to share the cost and care. Three households can easily share a lawnmower or carpet cleaner without schedule conflicts. You can each split the cost of the tool, or if that gets complicated or makes you feel awkward, then simply split the tools up like my Dad’s friends. One family has the mower, one has the sewing machine, one has the carpet cleaner, and all three families get to use them as needed.

This approach is incredibly valuable, especially for new home buyers. It helps to lower the immediate cash outlay right after you have purchased your home. And it is a great way to meet and form relationships with your neighbors! Melissa and her husband did this very thing with our friend Janna when they both bought new homes near each other. For the first three years of ownership, the two households actually shared a lawnmower. Even between the two of them, it still spent most of its time in the garage.

So, when thinking about your next project, or even your next routine chore, find the right tool for the job, and then find a swap buddy to share with.