Friday, October 9, 2009
Don't Underestimate The Power of Networking
Saving Money Tip #196 - Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Networking. We all know the saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Part of that is due to networking. The more you know, the more doors open up for you and the more money you make or save. A prominent lawyer may give some legal advice to a family friend who happens to be an orthodontist. The orthodontist in turn may do some orthodontia work for the lawyer’s daughter for free or at a discount. Or maybe, there isn’t a formal exchange of services. A stay at home mother may be on the steering committee for a community project and works with some movers and shakers in town. The movers and shakers let her know about a job opportunity that has opened up that she'd be interested in. While the sole purpose of having friends, networking, and having a social circle isn’t so you can get things for free or make money, it is a side benefit that should not be underestimated.
This networking happens on all levels of society, but the rich seem to benefit the most since they receive the most costly benefits. In the upper middle class a doctor might be hobnobbing with a building contractor, giving him some medical advice while the builder puts an addition on his home for a discount. While in the working class, a nurse who is friends with a construction worker might “open up a door” to get the construction worker a doctor's appointment that has the longest waiting list in town.
No matter the socioeconomic levels, however, we can gain knowledge, save money, or earn money by opening ourselves up to networking opportunities. Volunteering at your child’s school may give you the chance to meet another parent who paints murals for a living. As an acquaintance of hers, you may get a discount. Being in a mom’s club may allow you to be friends with women in your town you wouldn’t have otherwise met. Through them you may learn the best plumber, the cheapest tailor, and the most reasonable lawn service in town. Offering to work in a community garden may allow you to meet other gardeners who share their produce with you. Making dinner for a sick neighbor may turn around and benefit you when her daughter becomes your babysitter.
Again, the purpose of this networking shouldn’t be just to receive things. You must give as well – your time, your friendship, or your knowledge. And in return you may get a job, get a discount on goods or services, or receive some free advice. Don’t discount networking.
In Real Life (IRL) – In my former, single life in another state, I was a pretty social person. I had a large circle of friends, and they were all professionals. At the time I didn’t think much about it. But looking back, it came in quite handy. A good friend of mine was a computer programmer, and a darn good one. He came over many times to fix my computer and give me advice on some programming classes I was taking in graduate school. The cost of that help would have been pretty hefty if I brought my computer in for repair and hired a tutor. I also had a friend who was a dentist who once was able to give me some dental advice, saving me the expense and inconvenience of a dental appointment. I had another friend who was a doctor who wrote me a prescription once when I was feeling way too ill to go to the doctor’s office. He later gave me two epidurals (for free!) when I delivered my children in his hospital. He’s a handy friend to have! We didn’t necessarily do an even exchange of services. In some cases, I have only offered my friendship in return. Other times I have given financial advice and relationship advice or at least a listening ear. In fact, I never really thought about it as networking as these folks were my friends. But, they actually became my friends through some social networks.
In my current married life, I am not as social, as I am mostly busy with my children. But I do have mom friends who I see on a fairly regular basis. Most of us are out of the working world so we don’t necessarily “talk shop” so much or exchange professional services. But I have helped list items on eBay or Craigslist for several moms and have notarized documents (I am a notary) for free for members of my Mom’s Club. Doing these kinds of favors makes me feel more comfortable asking for help when I need it. And I’ve gotten some baked goods or small tokens of appreciation for the help I’ve given. As I try to analyze how some people are able to keep expenses low and save money, I realize more and more how networking and socializing benefit people. For other tips on saving money, check out Frugal Fridays.