The Recession Slim-Down to Bulk-Up Plan

dollar_sami-keinanenRecession this, recession that. Everything is about this darned recession lately! Frankly, I try not to dwell on it, but I have to admit that sometimes – just sometimes – I catch myself thinking twice before purchasing something because I should be saving money during “these hard times.”

Today, for instance, I was standing in line at the Starbucks stand in my building, eyeing the pumpkin loaf. Mmmm, pumpkin loaf… As I unzipped my wallet and reached for the dollar bills, my hand stopped, and the thought flashed through my head, I really should save my money.

Like the $1.45 was that significant, since I can honestly say I never purchase the pastries out of the Starbucks case (when I’m at work, at least. *wink*) But then it occurred to me: Hm, this recession thing just might work to my advantage in some ways.

As Leo Babauta would say in his ever-popular uber-blog, Zenhabits.net, “Less is more.” Here are ten ways you can save money during these “tough economic times” while improving and simplifying your life for the better, and maybe even while getting healthier and happier.

1. Cancel your cable. If you’re anything like I was, you’re wasting too much precious time watching celebrity reality shows on VH1 or reruns of Sex and the City. Save yourself 50 to 100 bucks a month, and save your brain from turning to mush. Aren’t there better things you could be doing with your time?

2. Eat more veggies. Eat less meat (the average person usually needs no more than 4-6oz. per meal) and replace it with tons and tons of vegetables! I got a bunch of organic kale for less than $1 the other day, and splurged on exotic veggies like baby bok choy and chayote squash for mere pennies too! Experiment with different kinds, and you won’t get bored. Head down to your local farmers’ market or Asian market and be adventurous!

3. Walk, take the bus, or bike. Save cash on gas, save the earth from your car’s emissions, and save yourself the stress. Instead, get some exercise or read a good book on the bus.

4. Cancel your newspaper subscription. What are you absorbing into your brain on a daily basis? The news is full of cynical, pointless, and depressing stories that only make you believe the world is a horrible place, and we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, so why even try. Try going on a media fast, and you’ll find that you just might be more energized. If you’re the type who absolutely has to know everything that’s going on, try a modified version: Allow yourself to skim the homepage of a news website, but allow yourself to only click on links to positive stories.

5. Learn to cook. The other day I made a healthy, fulfilling meal for about $5 per person: grilled organic free-range chicken in a homemade Asian-inspired sauce, steamed chayote squash, and brown rice. Cooking is so much cheaper than eating out, and you’ll save yourself the artificial ingredients, saturated fat, and sodium you’d get at a restaurant.

6. Just be. What is the cheapest possible form of entertainment? Doing nothing. What do you mean, Julie? How can I do nothing? Sit in a quiet place – somewhere in nature or even your favorite arm chair will do nicely – close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Pay attention to your breathing, quiet your mind, and just be. That’s right – for literally $0 you can reduce stress in your life, get some good oxygen circulating through your body, and get to know yourself!

7. Cut the venti caramel macchiato. Drink tea. Venti caramel macchiato: $4.00, 300 calories, 39 grams of sugar, caffeine jitters. Tall unsweetened green tea: $0.45, 0 calories, antioxidants, minimal caffeine. ‘Nuff said.

8. Play. Instead of paying an arm and a leg at the movie theater to sit in a dark room and not talk to your family or significant other, why not spend some quality time with them by playing in the park, playing a board game, or going for a walk?

9. Get a library card. It’s an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord for your mind – and it’s all FREE FREE FREE! Take advantage of your local library and all the free knowledge, adventures, romance, and laughs that live in its books.

10. Volunteer. Head down to your local homeless shelter, elementary school, or check out United Way for a volunteer opportunity that excites you. In “this economy”, rather than focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have, give thanks for it, and give it freely – whether it’s your time or your money. It’ll come back to you tenfold in ways that you don’t expect.

There you have it – my “Recession Slim-Down to Bulk-Up Plan.” The recession is a great excuse to slim down on things that waste your time or aren’t good for you or the environment, and bulk up on things that feed your mind, body, and spirit.

How are you slimming down to bulk up?

Photo credit: Sami Keinanen

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