Spring has sprung! It might not feel like it if you live where I do, but spring has arrived! With fresh snow on the ground for much of the Northeast, it might still be a while before the grass turns green and flowers start to bloom. However, now is the right time to plant the seeds that will blossom into a healthier and wealthier tomorrow for you and your family. I am a teacher, not a Certified Financial Planner, so I won’t be offering real technical advice, but I will put forth some practical ideas that could save you money, improve your health, and increase the enjoyment factor in your life. Sound good? Read on.
1. Grow a Garden If Possible, If not, Find One To Join: There are many reasons for growing a garden. For one, you can be sure where your food comes from, mitigating fears of recalls, pesticide use and contamination. You can save money by not having to visit the grocery store as often. Getting outside, digging, planting, watering, pruning, harvesting, are healthy physical and psychological activities, which will have you spending less time on the couch. Now you can grow potatoes instead of becoming one. You don’t need a huge plot of land to get stared.
Don’t have acres of land? Don’t worry! A few feet of earth is all you need and if you don’t have that, you can start with window gardens. There are many ways to grow a garden. For instance, if you have the money or want to invest with some friends, this shipping cart garden looks pretty amazing. If you prefer leaving your home and starting a gardening adventure with others, look for CSA’s or local Urban and Community Gardens. I volunteered at one in the Bronx while attending college and loved it. I never knew they existed before that and was amazed at the quality of vegetables produced and how happy the members were to grow their own food. Hey, if you get really good at growing food and have a surplus you can try selling it at Farmers Markets. Learn how here. For more information on how to begin your gardening journey click here.
2. Invest In Your Health Because It Pays To Be Healthy: It is common knowledge that exercise and healthy eating can improve your health. It can lessen your chances of becoming ill, decrease visits to doctors and hospitals and hopefully keep you off costly prescriptions for medical conditions. That said, people still find it difficult to invest in a healthy lifestyle when dealing with possibilities, but what if you saw the impact of healthy living on your actual savings? Many Health Care Providers are incentivizing exercise and healthy eating with monetary rewards, ranging from gift cards to a lower deductible. Not bad! If you find it hard to get started on your own look into joining a fitness group of some kind and get started. Seek out your local running club, or social work out groups, like Crossfit and get moving!
3. Become an Outdoor Volunteer: Volunteering can combine the best of many healthy pursuits and leisure activities. Ever want to spend a few days in the great woods, camping out and building trails? Groups like the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), Adirondack Mountain Club and the American Hiking Society offer weekend and weeklong service programs. You can learn new skills, work hard, meet new friends, and enjoy the outdoors without going broke. You will have to pay a membership fee and there might be some additional costs involved, but they will be noting like paying for a “real” vacation. Chances are there is Mountain Club near you.
4. Cultivate a Hobby, It Might Even Make You Money: Hobbies can run the gamut, from very active to very still, think running and seated meditation. They can be any activity you do consciously and consistently. Some people love to read, write, tie flies for fishing, carve spoons, fly kites, garden, tinker with radios and many other activities. Hobbies are not only good for your health, but can be good for you wallet as well, depending on what your good at. For example, if you are really good a creating lesson plans for your students and like to write about them, there is a way to make extra money. Consider joining sites like TeachersPayTeachers. Maybe you are one crafty individual! Why not profit from your skill? Check out Etsy. If you’re an artist, consider creating an exhibit at your local library or coffee shop. You never know if people will buy your work until you try!
5. Mindful Spending, “Do You Really Need To Buy That Latte?”: Becoming aware of your state of mind and your needs vs. wants, through the practice of mindfulness, might help you reign in impulsive spending habits. Confession: I love books and buy them all the time. I have too many books! The other day, while walking the isles of a bookstore, I became aware of the stack of books in my arms and sat down. I looked at them, read the opening paragraphs and wanted to buy them. I then thought about my local library and how I could find these same books and read them for free. I still had the urge to splurge and had to remind myself of the boxes of books still unread, collecting dust in storage. The impulse still lingered and part of my mind said, “You will forget the titles and why you wanted to read these books if you don’t buy them now!”
Conscious breathing, awareness of my surroundings, and acceptance of what I was feeling, allowed an idea to come to me. I would take a picture of the book covers with my phone and find them in the library or at a used bookstore (still can’t fully kick the habit, but at least there cheaper). The process of becoming aware of you thoughts and state of mind can help you make better decisions, which can save you money.
Here’s an idea: Whenever you can save money by not purchasing that book or latte, or by not buying lettuce or tomatoes because you grew them, or you opted for a “volunteer” vacation over Club Med, or your insurance company rewards you because your fit, put that money into a special savings account. The money you make from your crafts or lesson plans can also go into a special account.
Of course, you could go the standard route and use your bank or 401 K, but you could also start a savings jar and watch it fill up. Make sure the jar is easy to get the money into, but hard to get it out. I remember one of my brothers doing this and his full jar weighed at least 80 pounds and yielded a pretty penny! It was more like a large glass jug, but you get the picture. The point is to find a way to see your efforts at saving and making extra money add up.
If you have any comments on what you read or ideas on how to save or make extra money please share below. Best of luck with your goals and Happy Spring!