One of my dreams as a child was to be able to spend without worrying. My parents grew up during the Great Depression, never went to college, and worked hard all their lives to support us kids and give us a better chance. A big part of this was scrimping, saving and stretching as a way of life. Another factor was debt, mortgaging the farm to pay for the current year’s crop.
I paid my own way through college and graduate school, and worked my way up to a comfortable life. I’ve never been extravagant (although there are those who would argue with that statement), but I’ve enjoyed being able to eat out at will, buy what I wanted within reason, and pay off the bills every month.
Well, the Great Recession has put an end to all that. I don’t mean to say this is as bad as Great Depression–there is no comparison. But current days are a sad change from the good times we have all enjoyed in the past. I have found a number of ways to keep some of the pleasures of affluence without spending much (or, in some cases, any) money. Please share your recommendations!
- The public library. My county has a wonderful library system, with books, DVDs, and music CDs, all for free. My local library also has free lectures, musical performances of surprising quality, and other events.
- Through my library, access to Freegal, which lets you download music for free http://www.freegalmusic.com/homes/aboutus Your library pays for a certain amount of downloads up front for their cardholders, and they are available on a first-come-first-serve basis until the library quota is used up.
- www.paperbackswap.com This is a great way to get rid of books you don’t want any more and get books you do want to read. All it costs you is the postage to send a book to the requestor. Somehow I ended up with more books than I had originally (hmmm), but as a reading junkie, it helps feed my need. And you can set up a wish list with automatic ordering!
- www.restaurant.com Eat. Drink. Save money (their tagline). Users can buy coupons good for $25 or $50 at a subscribing restaurant for as little as $2. Restrictions do apply.
- Tracking down free concerts and performances of other kinds through my local patch.com and organizations like the public library, Jazz Forum Arts (metro New York area), and the local newspapers.
I long to go back to my old, somewhat profligate ways. Maybe that will happen soon. But I intend to keep some of my newer, more frugal habits!