Too often, saving money feels like work. It's all about giving things up and being more responsible. It doesn't have to be all dull planning and sacrifice. You can be frugal and manage to appreciate the good stuff in life at the same time.
There are plenty of joys in life that don't cost a thing. Just try to brainstorm the things and moments in a typical month that make you smile. To get started, here are 17 ideas the show gratitude, brighten your day, and to make you smile.
1. February paychecks
Something specific to this month: you'll probably be getting your paycheck faster. A shorter month means faster money. That's something worth smiling about!
2. The library
Society has decided that everyone should have access to just about any book they want for free. Pretty great, huh? You can grab yourself a comedy book for bonus free smiles. If you've never listened to an audiobook, check on out - it's like listening to someone read a story to you.
3. Smiling at strangers (and getting a smile back)
Often some simple eye contact and a smile at a stranger brings one in return and allows for a brief but meaningful human moment.
4. Giving back
Giving blood doesn't cost a thing, but literally saves lives. You can also search the Internet for a local donation center or mobile donation drive. Volunteering with a local organization is sure to make someone else's day better, and make you feel good besides. Smiles all around!
5. Saying thank you
It's a simple thing, and usually just happens automatically. Can you believe scientists have found evidence that one of the most important factors to happiness is expressing gratitude? Think of someone who's been good to you and call them up to say thanks — science assures us it'll bring you a smile.
6. Free candy
You've seen it. That bowl of free candy you can find at local banks and credit unions. It's always nice to grab a little, unplanned sweet snack. They never seem to mind if you take a few for later, so you can save some for future smiles. Bonus happiness points abound for a lollipop in your day.
7. The fresh, free air at the local park
Find the closest park and take a walk. Public parks mean we get to take fresh air and natural beauty for granted, and without a thought to the budget since most of them are totally free.
8. Enjoying the first warm day after a cold spell
For those of you up north, we send our wishes that you get to experience this one soon! Everyone just seems to be in a better mood once the weather starts to warm up. Smiles come easier and everyone's just itching to get outside. If there's a single day that is sunny and warm, get outside.
9. A good song in traffic
Traffic is the worst. It's on just about everybody's list of one of the great annoyances in life. That means that when a favorite song pops on the radio, let it help the time pass a little cheerier. A mini concert in your car when you really belt it out while driving can turn a terrible experience into a reason to smile.
10. A long, leisurely bath
Everyone's so busy, all the time. Sometimes you have to plan moments to relax. A long bath can put all the thoughts of work and the hard day to the side and leave you feeling better after. Not a bath person? Toss a handful of epsom salt in a bin of extremely warm water and let your feet relax and soothe.
11. Sleeping in
Weekends give the free gift of waking up knowing you don't have anywhere to go anywhere by a set time, and you can stay in bed as long as you want. You can even push your luck and have breakfast in bed.
12. Free learning
Between iTunes U and Ted Talks, there's tons of great free information at our fingertips. Anything you didn't get enough of in school is there for you to learn plus more. Enjoy a podcast while completing a task and you'll find the time passes delightfully.
13. Free samples
You can't count on them, but when you come across some tasty free samples at the grocery store or mall, they're always a treat.
14. Board game night with the family
Free, fun, and a chance to spend time together. Smiles are pretty much guaranteed, not to mention the benefit of being home and setting aside chores for a couple hours.
15. Meeting someone new
Even if it's just a few friendly words of hello in line at the grocery store, a positive interaction with a stranger is always a pleasant experience. Getting a glimpse of the good in people outside of your usual circle is worth a good smile.
Do you ever start the day thinking it's Thursday and then realize it's Friday? The whole day transforms into something better. That's because Fridays are the best. And Fridays at 5 pm are the best times two.
17. Photo flashback
Whether your family photos are in an album or on your computer hard drive, comb through those past memories from time to time. We take pictures and save them for one day in the future. Make that day today. Take time to remember a warm summer outing, a favorite vacation, or just laugh at the haircut you had in high school.