Updated Post: Spring has almost sprung! It might not feel like it depending on where you live in the country, but spring has definitely arrived in the Northeast. Powerful storms might have left your yards in disarray and you with a lot of work to do before green grass is growing and your flower beds are blossoming. 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 former teacher, not a Certified Financial Planner, therefore I won’t be offering real technical financial advice, but I will put forth some practical ideas that could save you money, improve your health, and maybe even increase the enjoyment factor in your life. Sound good? Then please, read on.
1. Grow A Garden If You Can and Join One If You Can’t: There are many reasons for growing a garden. For one, you will know exactly where your food comes from. This alone should help to mitigate fears of food recalls due to contamination, pesticide use and GMO’s. You can also save money by not having to visit the grocery store as often. You might even shed some weight and gain a little more peace of mind. Getting outside, digging, planting, watering, pruning, harvesting, are all healthy physical and psychological activities. Check out this great link to view some of the many health benefits of working with the earth. Spending less time on the couch growing potatoes instead of becoming one will have you looking and feeling pretty good. If you are coming up with an excuse to get started because you have a small yard I am about to disappoint you. 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 great 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. But what if you were able to see the impact of healthy living on your actual savings? Companies like HealthyWage are doing just that. Check out their platform here. Health Care Providers like Horizon, are rewarding you for your trips to the gym. Click here to learn more. Make sure you check to see what incentives your provider offers. If you find it hard to begin your fitness journey on your own try looking into joining a fitness group of some kind to help you 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 be a fantastic way for you to combine healthy pursuits and leisure activities. Ever want to spend a few days in the wilderness camping out and building trails and bridges? 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, get fit working 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 nothing like paying for a “real” vacation. Chances are there is an outdoor club near you.
4. Cultivate a Hobby; It Might Even Make You Money: There is a hobby out there for everyone. There are hobbies for the adventures and for the reserved; think sky diving and stamp collecting. Hobbies are any activity you do consciously and consistently over time. 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. 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 a very crafty individual? Why not profit from your skill? Check out sites like Etsy and learn how to sell you original works. If you’re an artist maybe 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 very heavy stack of books in my arms and was forced to sit down. I looked at each book and read the opening paragraphs and wanted to buy them all! 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 so badly 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 used). The process of becoming aware of your thoughts and state of mind can help you make better decisions, which can save you money. Check out this article from Time.com.
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 your special account.
Of course, you could go the standard route and deposit your savings with your bank or contribute to your 401 K, but you could also go old school and start a savings jar and watch it fill up. Make sure the jar is easy to get the money into, but hard to get out. I remember one of my brothers doing this and his full jar weighed at least 80 pounds and yielded a healthy payday! 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 comments on what you read or have any ideas of your own on saving or making extra money please share them below. Best of luck with all your goals and we wish you a Happy, Healthy, Ans Prosperous Spring!