Fill Up Your Life!
Once I started seeing the ways that I spent money foolishly, I felt stronger and stronger about my spending choices. Concurrently, I started looking for new things to do. As you may remember, “Amy’s new thing” is a bit of a joke with my friends and family. My “new thing,” be it yoga, backpacking, or scrapbooking, used to eat up lots of my money. This time, my “new thing” was personal finance. I threw the same energy that I used to throw into hobbies into debt reduction. I read; I talked to people; I obsessed over financial improvement. The one thing that was different was the shopping! Since I couldn’t go out and buy new things to help me reduce my debt, I started finding alternate ways to fill my time.
Here were some of the best:
- Snowflakes!! Of course, I can’t sing the praises of PaidTwice‘s method enough. Briefly, the idea is that you start looking for ways to earn little bits of money. All those bits add up to new money that can go toward your debt. A simple example is to cash out all your spare change and send it off to your debt.
- Sell stuff: organizing your house, running garage sales, selling things online, all of this takes time and effort. Dedicate a few Saturdays to putting unwanted items on eBay, Amazon, or craigslist. Plan ahead for a yard sale. Instead of running to the mall, you’ll be too busy making money.
- Fill out online surveys. Rather than surfing the ‘net for shopping, use the time to fill out surveys. After you sign up for a few sites, you’ll start getting one or two surveys a day. PaidTwice has a great overview here. I even did a little bit on mTurk, even though the money is pretty miniscule.
- Shop your house. It’s old advice, but it really works. If you get the urge to buy new clothes, organize what you’ve got and vow to try a new combination every day for a week. If you think you need something for the garden or the kitchen, look around and try to find a substitute. All those unused scrapbooking supplies are great for crafts with the kids or making your own cards. Soon it becomes almost as much fun to find a frugal substitute as it is to wander the aisles of your nearest big-box store.
- Read, read, read. Check out personal finance books from your library. Surf CNNMoney or the world of personal finance blogs every day. The more you surround yourself with good financial advice, the more foolish some of your earlier habits will seem.
- Cook or garden. If you’ve always wanted to become a better cook, now’s the time. Rather than lounging on the couch or going out to eat, try a few new, simple recipes. You may quickly find that you’d much rather eat your good food than sit at another stuff-on-the-wall chain. Grow a few herbs and tomato plants, and you’ll have great resources right outside your back door.
- Get outside. This is timeless advice, but it really helped me. On weekends, the husband and I would try to hike or rollerblade or bike rather than shop. I love being outdoors, and every time I get in the woods, I remember what my real priorities are in life.
There you have it! Those were my favorite ways to stay busy during the last six months. Once I had some healthier habits established, I hardly had time for an afternoon at the mall. By filling up your life with good things and new ideas, you’ll soon find you don’t have time for the old habits. For example, I now have so many books from my library that a trip to Barnes and Noble seems really foolish. Tommorow, I’ll look at the last “R” of debt reduction: renew. Until then, share your tips for positive habits below. I’d love to hear them!