How to Live Happily in Lean Times

Do money concerns have you and your family living in a state of deprivation and stress? It is possible to feel satisfied when you don't have much money to spend.

When it comes to money, you have to prioritize. An unpaid mortgage will have you waking up at night in a cold sweat. A family Christmas where you give each other coupons for back rubs is not so tragic. Sit down as a family and take an honest look at your bills. Everyone, including kids, will feel a sense of hope knowing that the family is managing it's money wisely.

I love that old saying about the best things in life are free. What is the single most important thing in your life? For most people, it's friends and family. Visiting with friends, having a good time with your kids, trading back rubs with your mate; these activities are what make life worth living. Do it more! When your lives are full of love and fun, the need for things diminishes.

What's the difference between someone who spends little but has everything, and a miserly tightwad who goes around delivering lectures about light switches? It's creativity. Creativity is interesting and fun, and can be applied to saving money as easily as to a painting or a dance. It's makes the difference between trading child care for computer repair, and having to use the library computers because yours is dead and you can't afford to fix it.

One of the most prominent ways people waste money is on buying convenience. When you aren't prepared and you need something fast as a result, expect to pay a premium to get that need met. By learning to be proactive, you can save a lot of money and time. Food is a great example. If you spend one day a month in the kitchen, you can save hundreds of dollars on convenience food and fast food restaurants. It's called once a month cooking, and there is a whole body of information available on the internet dedicated to this practice. Proactivity can be used in many more areas of your life- from buying next fall's coats in spring, to keeping a running list of errands so you can easily combine trips. You get what you want and add breathing room to your budget.

When it comes to all those wants that come up, how can you preserve harmony at home and still keep your financial head above water? Having the latest toy or pair of jeans can be very important to a kid. The key here is to honor the child's feelings. You already know you can't run down to the mall and buy it, but if you say no immediately, the child is guaranteed to argue or sulk. Instead, put yourself on the same side with your child. Treat the question as a puzzle to solve; after all, buying a particular item is not impossible, just difficult. Maybe together you can come up with a way for the child to earn the money. Or perhaps it can top the wish list for Christmas. Maybe you can agree to give up something else and free up the money. You might find it used or buy it on ebay so that it's affordable. There are lots of possibilities if you are open to finding them. This kind of process has an added bonus: kids learn the value of money, and what things actually cost. They also sharpen their creative thinking skills and learn to solve problems.

Don't let an economic downturn take the shine out of your life. There are many ways to live well!


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Mark Cruz
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Charlene Collins
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