While reading through the plethora of comments on my recent post on giving television the boot, I realized that there are many things that I view as inexpensive that others view as being very expensive. Here’s a list of five of these items, along with ways to make this “expensive” thing not expensive at all (or at least significantly less expensive).
Conducting an exercise program Gym membership fees, a trainer, lots of equipment – you’re going to be shelling out the cash for an exercise program, right? The truth is that all of those are just motivators – if you can find your own motivator, you don’t need any of it. Instead, try:
Doing your own research. Go to the library or use the internet to look up information on exercise and dieting. You can easily find all kinds of information about anything that’s on your mind.
Finding something that works for you that doesn’t require expensive stuff. It was thanks to the internet that I discovered the exercise portion of the so-called geek diet, which is a wonderful self-motivating exercise routine with goals and milestones. I often do this after work but before the rest of the family gets home to get my endorphins going. I turn on some music and just do the exercises and before long I’m in a groove, sweating a bit, and breathing heavy. When I’m done, suddenly I feel great – and it cost about a cent (the electricity for the music).
Starting your own business Location, materials, paperwork – it’s such a huge investment of time and money, how can I possibly get started? The truth is that these are all just obstacles. I started my computer consulting business with a flyer printed on my home computer and hung up on the bulletin board in the post office. I started this blog on a free blog hosting service. Instead of burning money, try:
Looking for inexpensive opportunities. The only person doing regular consulting in my local area moved away, so I took that opportunity to build some business with just a handful of printouts from my local computer. Easy as pie.
Doing something you enjoy already. Can you turn any of your already existing hobbies into something that makes money? My aunt used to love spending afternoons hunting for geodes in the woods, so she just started selling them by putting them on a table in front of her house with a sign made out of an old barn plank and putting a jar out there that accepted payment on the honor system. She’d do what she always did, but about once a day she’d go out there and pull tons of cash out of the jar.
Taking a class / getting a degree This is expensive, but it’s literally an investment in your future. By using your spare time to get educated, you’re improving your job opportunities. Even moving up 20% in salary can pay for the education in a handful of years and then you’re better off for the rest of your life. Instead of sweating it, try:
Investigating the courses (or similar ones) online. Look up the topic on Wikipedia, or better yet, see if there are any appropriate classes on MIT’s Open CourseWare. You can find out a ton of information from these resources and begin to educate yourself for free.
Taking some classes at the local community college. Take some basic classes in your area at the local community college on the cheap to see if it clicks. If it does, then you can move on to finish your degree at a university; if not, you’re not out much money.
Prepare meals Many people my age say that they don’t want to do this because it’s so expensive and that it’s cheaper to get take out than it is to make your own food. This is truly nonsensical – the only way this can be true is if you buy every single ingredient fresh and in larger quantities than you need, then discard the rest. Instead, try:
Making food out of what you have. If you have enough ingredients to make a double batch of something and fresh ingredients will go to waste if you don’t, make the double batch and put the rest in the freezer to re-heat another time. Don’t be afraid of leftovers, ever; the only reason some people see them as “bad” is because they haven’t discovered some of the secrets of leftovers.
Starting from the beginning. Others buy $40 worth of ingredients to make something stunning, then completely mess it up because they’re not familiar with the kitchen. Work up to pheasant under glass; don’t try it right off the bat. Start off by teaching yourself how to cook the right way and make simple dishes before moving onto challenging things that you can really goof up.
Read a great book This one perhaps surprised me the most, but several people seemed to believe that reading was expensive. They could read a book a day, but that means $10 a day and $300 drowns their monthly budget. There are some obvious solutions to this; how about instead of dropping cash like that, try:
Going to the library. Thousands and thousands of books for free. The only possible drawback is that you can’t write on the pages or something if you want to make notes.
Using PaperBackSwap (or a similar service). Get books in the mail for free, basically. You just sign up, list nine books that you own that you’d be willing to send to others (via media mail for about a dollar and a half), and you can request three books out of their million-plus inventory to be sent to you for free. Whenever a book is requested of you, send it out, and when it’s received, you can request a book for yourself.