Because of the poor economy of recent years, it seems more people than ever are living from paycheck to paycheck.
Not having the savings we might have been lucky enough to once have, not having the work we once had, needing to help out family members even less fortunate than we are – any number of reasons can cause an otherwise semi-comfortable person to experience the shock of being, if not totally broke, then nearly there. I’m included in that category.
I’ve learned a few things along the way, though. It’s been an eye-opening experience and surprisingly, more enjoyable than unpleasant.
I’m an avid reader. I used to buy every book I wanted when I wanted it – in bookstores or online. These days, I’m more conservative. I treat myself to one book (paperback preferably) per paycheck if I feel I can afford it. The book is all the more precious because of it.
Better yet, I’ve re-discovered my local library. I’d last been in the library about 15 years ago, when I needed to do research and had not yet been exposed to the Internet.
The library card was free, of course. I’ve read some quite recently-released books, also free. It’s exciting to “score” a book I’d originally planned to buy. And in some cases I’ve been glad they were free because the book’s reputation was greatly exaggerated and I’d have been upset if I’d spent good money for it.
At the library, I see nicely-dressed, very intelligent adults mixed in with young people and sadly an occasional homeless person, too. But I look forward to my trip each time.
Not having money to burn has forced me to make other choices. On impulse, while errand-running in the “old days”, I’d pop into a coffee house and think nothing of shelling out $3-4 for a specialty coffee drink, hot or cold.
Now I turn away. I go home and brew a small pot of coffee. I add some hot cocoa mix, a little cinnamon and some whipped topping and have a delicious drink in the comfort of my home. The best comfort? It costs way less than $1 for my drink considering the small amount of ingredients used.
I used to think nothing of spending $30 or more for each face cream I used. I used one for the morning and one for the evening. It was nice to have the luxury of doing this, and I still treat myself to a less-expensive lotion from my favorite manufacturer, to feel really decadent in the daytime. But at bedtime I use something I’d once read about and had heard a couple of women talking about: Vaseline! It absorbs into the skin beautifully, leaves it dewy soft in the morning and takes very little to coat my skin. For about $2 I have about a month’s worth of skin care!
Sales mean so much more to me now. I get a weird thrill when strawberries are 99 cents a container. I check for low prices on all fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry and fish, as well as paper goods, instead of just throwing them into the cart. Has the quality been less? Not at all.
I’m like a child with the discovery of a place I never thought I’d frequent – the 99 Cents Only store. Most cities and states have similar stores. I’ll admit that I was a snob. “Pure junk!” I thought of their contents before (not having stepped inside).
Imagine my surprise when I filled a cart with brand names that I loved, new finds that turned out to be wonderful…and spent about $25 for all of it. I used to spend $5-7 for designer fragrance soaps I ordered online. But my favorite soap now is a honey-scented, decadently-lathering bar I bought for 99 cents. It’s better than any of the ones I used to buy, by far.
I feel like a child again rounding up my loose change these days, too. I save it in rollers and turn it in at the bank. What used to lie around gathering dust on a dresser, in my purse, or in a drawer now adds up to a dollar, five dollars or more.
Some people will read this and think “Where have you been? Welcome to my world!” Sorry – while you were out discovering these great bargains and appreciating the true value of a dollar, I’m only now finding out the secret. But i’m on to it now and I’ll never go back.
I have a new appreciation for money due to a lack of it. It’s shed a light on a whole new way of life and believe it or not, while it’s a challenge it’s also fun.
If we meet at the supermarket, though – back away from the day-old, perfectly great-looking cake for half price. It’s mine!