On the cheap
Posted by Ben on Thursday, November 13, 2008
Generally speaking, I can’t say the whole economic mess has affected me much. Even the once sky-high fuel prices weren’t an issue since I work from home or only a mile down the street at the radio station. However, I’m also unmarried, childless, and pretty happy being a homebody for the most part. Most people are not in my position and so have to endure much greater financial expenditures, whether it’s for regular food (let alone GOOD food), fuel to get to and from places, doctor visits, or the cost of a family YMCA membership, and that’s just most middle-aged people—more elderly folks (and those who care for them) are facing their own sets of problems, too. It piles up quickly, especially if jobs and their benefits are in doubt, and when it comes to making budgetary decisions, individuals and families might mimic public schools in foregoing the basics of physical activity and healthful foods. While I can understand that decision, I also think spending priorities are WAY out of line (see: television—why deal with this in the first place, anyway?).
Whether it’s a knee-jerk reaction or a larger social phenomenon, people consistently fail to take their physical well-being into account when making monetary decisions—why is it that someone will drop hundreds of dollars on a “personal trainer” or the latest as-seen-on-TV fad gadget, both equally worthless, but won’t make the relatively minor investment in a jump rope, maybe some stretch bands, and a buggy full of veggies (I won’t get into the farce of “organic,” “free-range,” “farm raised,” etc labels right now)? Or, if you’re going to keep your broadband Internet service anyway (along with your TV), why not take some time to do at least a little research for product reviews and interactive places to ask questions and get (hopefully) informed answers? (Hint: look at the column to the right.)
A primary consequence of cost-cutting measures is a shift toward simplicity and moderation. Fewer resources means fewer options, and as I recently vented, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it should be embraced—humans seemed to do just fine (perhaps better) before Bowflex or Bally’s or Tae-Bo or any number of “Hollywood diets.” You don’t have the option to just tone up *face palm*—you either exercise or you don’t. To that end, I’ve gone back through the archives and picked from some previously unlinked articles to present you with some links with common themes: simplicity, frugality, and efficiency. Please feel free to add anything I missed to the comments section as well as (dis)agree with anything I’ve linked up here. The nice thing about all this stuff is that if/when the economy picks back up, you can continue doing these things and pocket the extra coin.
Note: I know some of the following may seem more expensive than necessary, which is halfway correct. The upfront costs may be slightly more than the most economical choices in the near-term, but the long-term benefits of these practices will more than pay for the initial investments (think: fewer doctor visits, fewer medications, fewer illnesses, etc), an encouraging thought considering the direction some things are going. You may also notice the bulk of the links focus on food or simply doing less. This is because budget-conscious exercise options are easy, but it’s considerably more difficult to abandon our grocery-buying habits or even just slow down. Massive thanks particularly to Mark Sisson’s blog for a wealth of information.
—Train like a prisoner or MacGuyver. Either way, master your body first, then look for free/cheap/homemade equipment.
—Video proof that you can exercise outdoors.
—Running seems like a no-brainer, but be smart about it (find a hill). Walking doesn’t count—you should do more of that anyway.
—Foam rollers = cheap self-therapy (you can also use basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls, and even rolling pins).
—Mark offers some general guidelines and recipes (quickies and snacks, too) to keep in mind.
—Eat seasonally, which in turn means eating more locally (which doesn’t mean boring). Here’s a start to winter, spring, summer, and fall veggies. If you’re in the Charlotte area, I can point you to some local meat farms as well (just drop me a comment or email).
—Ten-dollar meals are the latest rage (thanks, KFC) and promote quick eating. Don’t. You can do better, even by simply eating together.
—Junk food is cheap for a reason: it’s not good for you, but make sure your regular store is keeping up. Or you could cowpool :)
—Resist the cheap carbs, especially the single-serve variety (you can better spend your money elsewhere).
—Reconsider buying in bulk (unless it’s some of the less-desirable cuts of beef that make good jerky).
—Watch out for those liquid calorie bombs (including Jagerbombs).
—Guides to square-foot gardening and composting.
—This one’s easy. Just kick them outside, and they’ll figure it out for themselves. In fact, play whatever games they make up. You’ll be gassed by the time they’ve halfway woken up.
—Use some parenting sense, but let the kids be kids, including dirt.
—Barefoot—and other primal considerations—is better (and ultimately cheaper).
—Keep journals for both training and diet. Numbers give you immediate feedback.
—Visit the library or the park (read: free stuff), not a psychic, and remember that it could always be worse.
—Consider the benefits of taking a break (just don’t go overboard). It’s quick, cheap, and easy, though while you’re at it, consider active meditation as well, but don’t think that relaxation doesn’t take work.
—Vote every single chance you get (even early, just not often).
—Sleep as well as you can, which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re no longer buying that daily four-dollar latte (since sleep is free, that immediately negates an expense).
—Having a kid? Have it a home.
—No matter how bad things may seem, hang in there.