When I take the time to acknowledge the present moment and think of all the things I’m grateful for, I realize I’ve never been as happy and as healthy as I am now. Between freeing myself from a heavy past, and making more room for the things that light my soul on fire, I’ve spent the last year getting more familiar with the things that help me be a better me. But I also made it a goal to do all this while spending less money and maintaining a budget. As a result, I’ve both simplified and diversified my life, leading me to feeling truly whole.
Here are some of the key things that have helped me maintain a positive lifestyle, without breaking the bank:
1. Meditation and sleep (with the help of the Calm app)
When it comes to maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health, mindfulness and sleep are two crucial players.
Meditating helps me stay focused on the present, which is something I’ve always struggled with. The common misconception about meditation is that the goal is to turn your mind off. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s supposed to wake you up and snap you out of autopilot — because that’s where negative thought cycles perpetuate themselves. When I meditate daily (I aim for three, 10-minute practices a day), my goal is to become aware of my thoughts, feelings, and sensations without assigning positive or negative judgements to them. This helps me to not worry about the past or the future, and instead helps me enjoy the present, filled with positivity and gratitude.
Getting a full night’s sleep makes all the difference. Falling asleep also used to be a challenge for me. As a proud night owl, I used to love staying up late to test and stretch my limits. But I’ve noticed my general energy level and mood increase dramatically after consistently getting seven to eight hours sleep a night.
Calm is an app that helps with both meditation and sleep, and it’s been a total game changer for me. There are a ton of meditation apps out there, but Calm is hands down the best one in terms of audio quality, range of themed meditations, and effectiveness. Let me just say that their sleep stories are so effective, I’ve never been able to finish one. They put me into a deep sleep in five minutes or under.
2. Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!
They say when you have to reevaluate your budget, the first to get cut are often the things that bring you joy. In 2017, that likely means memberships and subscriptions to streaming services and fitness classes. For me, that meant cancelling my Audible subscription (~$19 CAD per month), which was a tough decision because, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I love audiobooks.
So I went to my local library and inquired about borrowing audiobooks. Turns out, borrowing audiobooks from the Toronto Public Library is da bomb. I love that I can browse, place holds, add them to my wishlist, and download them right on my iPod — all for free! And if they don’t have a title I’m interested in? I can easily recommend titles through the website and it’s quite rewarding when they fulfill your request. I had recommended Battlefront II: Inferno Squad to the TPL, then a couple months later I got an email saying they had purchased the title and that I was now on the waiting list to download the book. Awesome!
In short, when you’re on a budget and have to sacrifice the things you enjoy most, don’t worry! See what free options or alternatives are available.
3. Food dayparting
If you follow me on Twitter, it’s possible you might’ve contemplated unfollowing me for my obsessive tweets about salami.
happy salami day to all my loved ones, especially salami ❤️ pic.twitter.com/RqcUKP0acL
— jes tongio (@exitghost) September 7, 2017
Salami was such a vital component of my diet (and happiness) that I recognized it was time to see if I could survive without it. So I went two whole months without eating salami and lost 10 pounds. Was that really indicative of how much salami I was actually eating? It could’ve been. But it also could’ve been that shedding one guilty pleasure did have a ripple effect on the rest of my diet.
Here are the key points of how I maintain healthy eating habits without depriving myself of joy:
- No heavy/starchy carbs after 6 p.m. (pasta, bread, rice, etc…) (I’m not a big bread person, anyway, so this is easy for me).
- If I am going to have meat or dairy, I like to have it early in the day (breakfast or lunch).
- Generally, I’ve been phasing out dairy. Cheese is now a once-a-week treat.
- I like to have meat in only one meal a day.
- For dinner, I like my plate to be vegetable-heavy. My go-to is browning a half-plate of broccoli and corn in a pan, and turbo-broiling some salmon or halibut. I also love to make big salads, toss in some lean chicken breast deli meat, and dress with olive oil and a splash of white balsamic vinegar.
- Sometimes I can get away with eating just a full plate of broccoli for dinner and feel full and satisfied.
- I allow myself two to three cheat days every couple weeks (pizza, burgers, sushi dinners, etc…)
Obviously this diet isn’t ideal for everyone, but it works really well for me and it’s also easy on the wallet. I’ve also felt a big boost in my energy and now fit into old clothes that haven’t fit me for three years.
Just like with meditating, journalling is a good way to stay in touch with your sense of gratitude. When you document key moments and thoughts, it’s helpful to see how much you grow, moment to moment. This helps you to see your life as a series of events and learnings, not as misfortunes and failures. Again, just like with meditation, it’s about not assigning positive or negative judgement.
As someone who always prefers to to read and write digitally (I like to take up as minimal physical space as possible), an app I’d recommend is Day One. This handy, fully-featured, password-protected digital diary has turned me into an avid diarist. It gives me a sense of security knowing as soon as I have a noteworthy thought, feeling, or experience, there’s a safe place I can put it, lock it up, and move on from or learn from. As a result, I find myself writing short entries almost daily. Even if it’s just screenshots of meaningful conversations, or a list of reasons why I don’t need to jump to conclusions about certain situations.
And that’s it! What are some ways you stay happy and healthy on a budget? Do any of the ones I’ve listed resonate with you? Let’s chat in the comments section below!
Have a fun weekend, my friends! 😘
Photos by: Yoni M2K Visuals