Friday, November 9, 2012

Cheap Like Free

Soon after beginning careers in public education and social services, my sister and I realized that we were never going to be raking in the dough. Several years ago she came to visit me in California, and in choosing our activities for the week, our primary criterion was:  "Cheap.  Like free." Since then, Cheap Like Free! has been one of my battle cries.

I think about "cheap like free" a great deal here on Orcas. Since I presently have no income and want to hold onto my meager savings for as long as possible so I can continue this full-time writing gig, I engage in many cheap like free activities. Here are some examples:

#1 - Stare out the window

But don't think for one moment you'll look this cute while you're doing it
Staring out the window is totally free. It is especially enjoyable these days because my neighbor has adorable dogs who run around and play all the time, my lawn is visited by deer each morning, and a resident bald eagle flies past at least once a day. It might not be as fun if your window faces a brick wall, but I guess that's where your imagination would need to kick in. And conveniently enough, imagining stuff is also cheap like free.

#2 - Hike. A lot. In general, walk everywhere. Until you wear out all of your shoes, walking is completely free. While you're walking, if you encounter little pretty things, consider picking them up and putting them somewhere other people will be likely to see them. This is part of the culture on Orcas, and it is precious. If you already have a camera, take pictures.  This is also cheap like free, and really fun.

#3 - Clean
Y not, indeed?  It's free!
These days, I clean my home like a mad fiend. However, this particular cheap like free activity has motivated me to think really hard about alternatives, since cleaning pretty much sucks and is super boring. And that brings us to our next cheap like free activity, namely...

#4 - Think about stuff

There are so many things to think about that this activity can take up lots of time.  Since smiling (which is also free) has several health benefits (e.g., reducing stress; lowering blood pressure; boosting your immune system), try thinking happy thoughts.  Recall funny occurrences from the past or other fond memories. For example, you could think about the looks on the faces of Mitt Romney's supporters when it finally dawned on them that he'd lost the election. Ha!

#5 - Write. There is an infinite amount of writing to do. Write emails to your loved ones. Write blog posts. Write two novels at the same time. Write to your pen pal. If you don't have a pen pal, get one. If you hate writing, then read. There is also an absurd amount of reading to do. If you don't like writing OR reading...well, then you're probably not reading this. But if, for some weird reason, someone who doesn't like reading is reading this:  what the hell is wrong with you? Learn to like reading! You are depriving yourself of some ideal cheap like freeness!

#6 - Talk to people. This, of course, is not my preferred activity, but I sometimes do it anyway, simply by virtue of the fact that it is free. 

Yeah, cheap like free!
#7 - Talk to yourself. I do this a whole lot more than #6.

#8 - Attend free community events - all of them, even if it means you're a regular at children's story time at the public library. (Don't knock it till ya try it! Sometimes the readers use funny voices to represent the different characters, and it's fabulous.)  And speaking of the library...

#9 - Go to the library

My home away from home these days
I've got big heart love for the library. I can hang out for hours without spending any money, and no one questions my right to be there. That is very unusual for your typical indoor venue. In the San Juan Islands, walk-on passengers can ferry between the islands for free, so sometimes I take the hour-long journey over to Friday Harbor just to hang out in their library.

#10 - Volunteer. And if the place where you're volunteering happens to be within walking distance (like the animal shelter located 2 miles from my house), by the time you walk there, volunteer for a few hours, and walk home, you've taken a big ole chunk of free out of your day.

People will also thank you profusely and tell you how awesome you are, which is always nice

#11 - Drink water. Water is totally free. I drink so much water that my pee is basically clear. If your budget allows for cheap-but-not-completely-free, try drinking coffee, tea, lemonade, cocoa, or pretty much any other beverage that is NOT ALCOHOL. To explain the intensity behind my all-caps declaration, I offer this poignant tale.

I have a dear friend who is a single mom. Despite the fact that she lives in one of the most expensive cities in this country, she manages to make a very nice life for herself and her daughter.  Recently she told me that she was buying a condo in Colombia.  When I asked her how in the world she had the money to do such a thing, her response was:  "Pues, Mija - I don't drink."

If you are a regular drinker and would like to engage in a truly depressing activity, get out a calculator and figure out how much money you spend on alcoholic beverages annually. Include drinks you purchase at the store, happy hours, bar hopping evenings, drinks you order when you go out to eat, etc. Then multiply that number by the number of years you have been a regular drinker. Finally, stare at your final number for ten seconds, and then take a look around to see what you've got to show for it.

Yup, there it goes
I can pretty much guarantee you will not find a condo in Colombia.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying don't drink. I'm just saying that drinking is not cheap like free. However, if you follow drinkers around and collect their empties, you can make a pretty penny at the bottle return center.


  1. Ohhh my god!! You are sooo funny!! Among cheap like free, there is also Pinterest, which at first didn't seem that interesting, but once you get it, it's pretty cool, it' like your own digital version of your dreams and wishes map, which I still have pinned on a cork using cut outs from magazines, but Pinterest really lets you go off! The other thing that is wonderful about Libraries is their free movies, they have tons and maybe they are not the new releases, but there are tons! Internet, although not completely free has a ton of resources that are cheap like free, Hulu and ABC let me watch the 2 shos I care about... Anyhow,cheap like free is a beautiful thing, but we must know when to pay a pretty penny for things that are definitely worth it!
    Miss you!!!! XOXO

  2. Hilarious! You just made my day! Another cheap like free but slightly dangerous activity is cutting your own hair. I chopped my bangs off last night after realizing that a)Polish lowland sheep dog look is not cool at all, and b) if I'm going to be unhappy about a haircut (which I always am) it might as well be free.