A friend told me the other day that whilst he hadn't been so broke since he was a student, he'd not been this happy in years. I think the two things are connected. I used to spend a lot of time spending a lot of money. I just don’t do that any more. Do I miss shopping? Do I hell! So it made me think, living on a tight budget isn’t so bad. Think of all the time you’ll save from no longer traipsing round the shops flashing that credit card - you can use it for doing much more interesting or rewarding things. Here are my ten reasons to be cheerful when you're broke. What are yours?
1. You can rediscover the joys of cooking – making real food is much cheaper and tastes loads better than ready-meals or most restaurant fare and takeaways.
2. You can discover the joys of gardening. There is nothing more exciting than seeing things growing where there was nothing before. Seeds cost next to nothing and are little miracles.
3. You can watch the birds – hours of entertainment and all absolutely free
4. You can set up a book club or join an existing one. If you join a library the books are free. Otherwise there are loads of great charity bookshops or you can pick second hand books up for pennies online.
5. Instead of eating in a restaurant, you can take turns to host home dinners with a group of friends. Rather than the usual type of dinner party, set a per head cost limit and pick a theme e.g. a country, a particular chef, an era e.g. the 70s.
6. You can learn a new skill. Set up a skill-sharing club with friends, join an evening class (you have to pay but they are very good value), learn online or get a book out of the library and teach yourself. As well as being a low cost way to pass the time, you can save money by making things for yourself, and if you get really good at it, you can sell stuff online.
7. You can help others. A sure fire way to feel more cheerful about your own lot is to help someone who is worse off than you. There are loads of organizations crying out for volunteers.
8. Do some exercise (without paying for an expensive gym). Get out and walk, bike or jog. Go dancing. Go to the local pool. Hunt round the charity shops for some fitness DVDs and do it at home. Exercise releases endorphins and makes you feel great.
9.Take up singing! You can do it in the car or the bath if you’re shy. Or if you want to meet more people, join a choir. It’s free, and like exercise, it releases those feel-good endorphins.
10. Try your hand at something creative. I had more fun in an afternoon this week watching my little nephews make plasticene models which I photographed and made into animations set to music. Pleasure and pride enormous. Cost nothing!