Monday, August 17, 2009

Cheap Luxuries

Do you ever discover something that you greatly enjoy, and yet it’s cheap, or free?


One of my great luxuries is to listen to audiobooks – a great many of them – as I drive to and from work, or as I do chores or exercise.  I download the files as .mp3 files from  Of course, I could join Audible and purchase audiobooks inexpensively, if I wanted the newest releases.  I have also checked them out from the library.


It wasn’t entirely free, because I did have to have an MP3 player, but most people have those now.  I purchased mine, an off brand, on sale for $15 and it holds a long book.  The one necessity, other than enough space, was the ability to begin a chapter where I left off.


Another great luxury, for me, is to read lots of books.  Unfortunately, I need to improve my focus, because I am reading quite a few at once right now, instead of my usual one book at a time routine.  Not counting audiobooks (which, at least, I only do one at a time), I am reading one about a healthy lifestyle, one about human relations, a book of short stories, an autobiography, and a mystery.  I read some of them on a Kindle, for which there are a great many free books available if you do a little research.  I get most of my free Kindle books from Amazon.  I also have a library card and friends who trade paperbacks with me.


Here’s one you won’t expect:  I consider my packed lunch a luxury!  When people are trying to save money, packing lunches always seems to get discussed.  I used to eat out five lunches a week with friends, which was very nice, but expensive, and I hated to eat packed lunches, which reminded me of grade school.  I’ve somehow transitioned into the habit of only eating lunch out about once a week (and that’s to maintain professional relationships and contacts).   When I eat my own packed lunch in my office, I have all the following luxuries:

·         A chance to be alone (my job is often quite hectic)

·         Food that fits my diet, or perhaps my whim

·         Extra minutes that would have been spent driving to a restaurant and waiting for a table – and that’s the real luxury.  I can read, or work a little if I’m behind, or listen to music, or phone a friend. 

·         I eat whenever I please, and often bring something for an afternoon snack.  It’s not the best driving strategy, but sometimes I’m crunching an apple as I sit in slow traffic on the way home.

Packing the lunch is really no trouble – I buy fruit, organic carrots, yogurt and the like, and put it all in an insulated bag.   We have a fridge in the office.


Efforts to cook more and eat out less have gone from being a chore for me to being quite enjoyable.  First of all, there’s the coffee-and-muffin thing so many people do on the way to work.  We don’t go to Starbucks.  When my husband gets up, he starts coffee and then walks the dog, and when I finish getting showered and dressed, I go downstairs and cook breakfast.  Then we relax together and eat breakfast for maybe 20-30 minutes.  We read the paper.  Nobody else is up yet, except the dog, who’s hoping we’ll scramble an egg for him – that hasn’t happened yet!  It’s actually a very nice time together. 


Somewhere along the way I started being more diligent about cooking a meal after work.  Yes, I’ve worked all day, but John appreciates my fixing dinner, he’ll wash dishes more often than not, and I like to eat homemade things instead of fast food or heavy restaurant food.  I have gradually developed a stable of 30-minute-or-less meals that we enjoy.  30 minutes is not much more time than it takes to go buy something and bring it home.  It’s cheap, good, and again, we don’t have to go anywhere or wonder what the ingredients are in our food (okay, John has to wonder, but I know what’s in it).


You know how it’s cheaper to only shop for groceries once a week?  My husband has organized us in that area.  He keeps a list and we all add things to it as we run out, and he likes to stock more than one of the things we use habitually, especially if they’re on sale.  I enjoy not having to stop and deal with the grocery store several evenings on my way home, hungry and wanting to be home but not having the items we need for a meal. 


Another thing we’re experimenting with is making our own convenience foods.  For instance, the grocery where I shop has frozen, already-browned ground beef crumbles.  I buy a giant package of ground beef occasionally and make my own, drain it very thoroughly, bag it and freeze it.  One day recently, a bunch of Steve’s friends were over, and I made tacos – thaw out enough little bags of ground beef, add seasoning to it, put a bunch of other ingredients in bowls, and they were quite happy.  A five minute meal.


My greatest, most unbelievable luxury (that costs nothing) is having a happy spouse.  My husband is a genuinely nice guy, and always doing something for someone.  For some time, I’ve been trying to be a much better wife, and instead of it working out that I’m resenting doing “more than my share” or being oppressed or something, he’s returning every small act of kindness and then some!  I don’t understand it – I got nicer and somehow, he got nicer.  Was he this good a guy and I didn’t notice?  Or did he simply not appreciate being ignored by the tired spouse?  Food for thought.  As it got to be habitual, I did a little more for him, and now, we’re ridiculously sweet to each other, and I’m too happy to be embarrassed about it.  Of course there are terrible jerks who will take advantage of you, but most married people have a perfectly normal spouse who wants a little appreciation and mostly reflects what they’re receiving.  


There are so many easy things that couples can do to build each other up, simple things.  I can’t “get him to change,” but I can change me.  My sister used to tell me that the wife/mom sets the mood for the whole family, which goes right along with something I finally realized late in life:  we all have great power and influence in life, we’re all leaders, influencing people around us, and the challenge is to be a positive influence.








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