When you cut out the things you don't really depend on anyway, you have more money to do the things you really do want to do. No one's saying you have to follow all these tips, but thinking about them can get you started on coming up with ideas that DO fit your lifestyle and location. After our first daughter was born my boyfriend and I honed our spending to the things we really want, and now we have extra savings for when we feel like treating ourselves... and we are in no way upper class or even middle class, really. We also live in a rural area, so traveling is an issue for us, too.
We enjoy food and cooking a lot, so we cut down our grocery bills by buying in bulk whenever possible, clipping coupons, eliminating brand loyalty (we just buy what's cheapest, unless it's something where it really makes a difference), not buying any junk food, and only buying snack food we can get in bulk (raisins, nuts, produce). Not only are we eating healthier, but we're saving enough money that we can afford to go out to eat once in a while when we want to. Or, instead of going out to eat, we get little containers of things from a deli, make sandwiches and cut up some veggies, or even get some cheap takeout, and have a picnic. If we really want to save some cash, we volunteer at local farms on the weekend in exchange for free produce. I haven't bought onions, garlic, or potatoes in almost three years because of that.
We have also minimized our entertainment expenses. We do thing outdoors for fun, most of which are free or really cheap, like hiking, walking, going to the beach. We visit free places (art museums, history museum, science museum, sculpture garden all have free days or discount days) and go to the discount theater if we really want to see a movie. We also volunteer and join local groups related to our interests--it gets us outside, helps us meet other people, and is fun, too. The Running Room has free running clubs, we joined a local vegan group, we use meetup.com to find outings. We also visit free programs at the library, nature center, and parks and have done everything from catching birds with the Audobon Society to listening to free concerts at the bandshell.
I don't know all about the latest movie and I can't give you details on the newest episode of Gray's Anatomy, but I can tell you all about the state parks nearby, all the things I learned about farming while volunteering, and I have stories about building a house for Habitat. I've caught birds, I've had picnics and bonfires with my neighbors, and I've learned to love a lot of activities I never thought I would. I don't worry about gas prices because I drive a fuel-efficient car, I don't drive unless I need to, and I don't spend money on anything unnecessary, so I have plenty left over for the things I want.
Instead of relying on television, movies, and MP3's to placate ourselves, we should be enjoying the simple things that life has to offer, the myriad of inexpensive or free activities that await most all of us if only we took advantage of them. We don't need all of these gadgets and technology to fill our lives--we need only look to our own hands and feet.
- 7/18/2008 2:19:29 PM