I talk to people all the time and get into little conversations and am surprised how many “little” things that I have done to make my life easier, more manageable and in some cases — doable at all — for many years they have never even heard of. I get into trying to explain this-or-that, and frankly, I’ve always been better writing than verbal expression. Maybe it’s the accent.
To give a bit of credibility to this, I currently am a mom of three biological kids, ages 21-15, all living at home. Two are in college with jobs. I also have two stepsons, ages 11 and 13 who live with us half-time. I have a wife, who is fantastic. I haven’t always been in such a great position. In my past, I have lived alone with my kids, struggling for a while on only a massage therapist’s pay, owning my own business with four contractors and working for someone else at the same time. I did literally thousands of massages, working on professional athletes and professional dancers and other performers including opponents of the Orlando Magic, PGA, NFL and the Nike Track Team, among others. But it’s still hard to support a family alone and do 30 massages a week.
I had a family home of 13-14 years that wound up in a short sale, in a state with many needed repairs. I had no health insurance, but thankfully, was healthy.
Prior to that, I was a professional newspaper journalist and very passionate about my work. I have written thousands of stories on hundreds of topics and thousands of people. In so doing, I learned a lot of things about a lot of things, including seeing some really cool ways people live their lives. Cool things people do. I’ve seen some not-so-cool things people do.
All that said, I tried to glean “what works and leave the rest” and there are a couple of super duper basic things a person can do TODAY to save money, time, and their sanity if they will do these. They are so basic, so simple and they work.
1.) Kill your cable and buy a Roku. You will likely want to subscribe to Netflix if you don’t already, but you will be able to access hundreds of specialty channels FREE after your initial $35 purchase of the Roku and then stream these channels on your internet connection. You WILL need a decent internet connection. Cost savings: Whatever you now pay for cable. What you lose: nothing.
2.) Shop at Aldi for groceries and only go to other stores for something specific that Aldi doesn’t have. Also, utilize the ethnic markets such as the Indian markets, Caribbean markets and Asian markets for interesting and inexpensive huge bags of rice, spices and fresh veggies. If you eat fish, you can also find fresh fish in these markets cut to order.
3.) Go to Goodwill. I have found — on two occasions — $100 hiking shoes that were barely worn for less than $6 a pair. Sometimes the bargains in there are remarkable.
4.) Plan your vacations months in advance and research ALL the small activities you think your family might want to do in those towns. If going to Gatlinburg, research how much the skyway tram is; find out how much the alpine slide is. Know all those “little” costs before you go, because a bunch of $15.95 per persons adds up quick on a vacation.
5.) Divert a portion of your paycheck to a “mid-term” savings account for kid birthdays, vacations, back-to-school. This is money you know you are going to spend, so you don’t feel guilty when you do it, but its there when you need it. It’s a simple as setting up a new account and just changing your direct deposit to send a bit each check over there and forgetting about it. Next month, when the kid tells you about that $100 uniform for the Tittlywink Club, you’re ready.
6.) Do and learn very basic yoga breathing. This is an art. This is not even necessarily easy to force yourself to do, but when you learn how, this will become your new best friend. There are several breathwork exercises in yoga that are fantastic and they are all great to know. My highest recommendation would be to do them all; learn them all, but in reality, that’s not going to happen. So, my recommendation is to learn the “full yogic breath,” and how to get it in, how to get it out and how to sit with that. This is a matter of filling the lungs, and feeling yourself with your belly moving out, your chest finally moving out and finally, your shoulders slightly rising and then pausing there. And then releasing in the opposite way, shoulder slightly release, chest releases, and then belly flattens and sinks in to push all the air out. This is allowing the diaphragm to really work and allow the lungs to completely fill. When you learn to do this, you can do it ANYWHERE and it will become a method of stress management that is among the best things you will ever do for yourself.
7.) Listen to more music. Are you listening to talk radio? Turn it off. Are you listening to nothing? Start. And WHAT are you listening to? Pay attention. If you are allowing the radio guy to pick for you and it’s just a bunch of crap, then do something else. Get spotify on your phone, get pandora on your phone and start listening to music that you enjoy. It will reset your whole being. Create multiple channels for whatever mood you are in. I have everything from chanting to hip-hop.
8.) Get away from people who hurt you. Don’t wallow around with people who make you feel bad. If you have ex’s or people who bother you, just get away from them. As someone once told me, life is too short and too long for that sort of thing. There is a time where a person is forced into court and certain situations like that, and I understand that, but far too often people voluntarily keep themselves in constant bickering contact with people who do nothing but make angst and drama for them, I have to wonder what is their gain from that and surely there must be some or they would, in fact, be more willing to actually end it. So, if you really want to have peace, just get away from drama. If people want you in their life in a loving way, they will be there in a loving way; if not, they won’t. And you just don’t have to tolerate anything less. Simple.
9.) Be authentic. This is a big one. As someone who came out gay after living in a married life (married at the young age of 18 having been in a Conservative Christian church at that age) , I can say that being who you are and taking whatever comes with it is far more fulfuling, enriching and stress-less than trying to be something you aren’t. It means not worrying so much what people think. It means being true to the person in the mirror no matter what. Just be yourself. I was a nurse in a middle school for a year and I would watch the puny-est little boys trying to sag their pants and act all tough and I would think, “oh for gosh sakes, pull up your pants and get in math class.:”
One little pants-sagging boy would come in the nurse’s office and learn a new chess move each visit. On the last day of school, he made a special trip to my office (faking sick) to learn the last piece he hadn’t learned yet — the rook. He wanted to be able to play his cousin at chess over the summer. He wasn’t a bad boy, he just wanted other kids to think so. I told him as he went, “Go be a Chess King. You’re smart. And pull your pants up.”
10.) Tell your spouse/significant other/kids/parents you love them. When I worked in news, I wrote a story about a kid who was killed when he swam in an area lake and he got amoebas into his body and ended up dying. I wrote about a father in Lakeland who didn’t come home from Iraq and I visited his grave with his little girl, and she layed on top of the fresh dirt and tried to “hug” him on the ground. I saw a motorcyclist’s brains on the hot pavement with flies swarming on top of the tissue, his body under a tarp. I was on the side of a lake at Disney where a van plunged in with little kids still strapped in their carseats, at least one died at Arnold Palmer Hospital. The van was so submerged you could only see the white, under the murky water.
I wrote about a special group of kids with progeria, the aging disease. Little kids 5 and 6 years old, who look like they are 60. They will die very young.
There was the 12 year old boy who accidentally shot and killed himself with his uncle’s pistol in Shreveport, La. His mother took me to his room and showed me all his sports trophies (football) and flipped the pages of the family photo album. She thanked me for writing about him because “someone cared and would remember him.”
This list goes on and on and on.
I could never have written all those stories without appreciating every single day I have today. I am honestly appreciative that I have my family — those that I have. I appreciate my health. I appreciate my job. And anyone who calls me friend.
Tell people you love them. You really don’t know whatever is going to happen.
These are all easy things. Do them and I promise, you will save a few bucks, you will save some sanity and you will be glad for all of it. This is easy stuff.