While not common in cohousing, there are communities that purchase the majority of their food collectively. These communities make large monthly bulk purchases and maintain a community pantry. Some collect a flat monthly fee per person (with reduced rates for children) and everyone takes what they need. Others ask each person to pay for what they use. One way is to keep a notebook in the pantry in which each person records what they take and is billed periodically. Others do a collective order from a wholesale company, and each person chooses and pays for their own items.
Neighbors find they enjoy the savings of big-box warehouse stores but not the large quantities. It’s easy to share with cohousing neighbors and split items between households.
Communities can qualify for a business cell phone plan that is much less expensive than individual plans. Generally one person organizes the effort, and those who want to participate sign up and pay monthly.
Sometimes several members of a community want something that the whole community doesn’t want to pay for. In these cases, interested people contribute to the cost for an item that may then be owned by the full community. Hot tubs are a common example, and this plan can also work for exercise equipment, planting fruit trees, kids’ room furniture or almost anything your community may be missing.
Particularly for communities where home maintenance is largely the responsibility of each homeowner, savings can be had by grouping together for routine maintenance. One neighbor may send out an email saying they are getting their gutters cleaned next Tuesday by ABC Gutter Company. If five neighbors sign on, all will get a 20% discount. The same could apply to seasonal furnace servicing, pest control and even less frequent jobs like paint or roof replacement.
Small groups of neighbors may also band together to make a joint purchase. Perhaps the most joyful example to come our way was a group of four neighbors who chipped in to purchase a used Porsche. One of them had experience as a race car driver, so the shared experience included driving lessons to make the most of their speedy car.
A similar approach can be applied to a picnic table on a shared patio, a kayak, or a sewing machine. It may not make sense to share it with the entire community, but there is no need for an individual to have their very own.