9 Free or Inexpensive Things That I Love and Recommend
I talked about minimalism and its advantages not too long ago. In this post, I would like to tell you about 9 things I acquired in the last few years that were either free or relatively inexpensive but have improved my life significantly.
Many years ago, I was guilty of being overly materialistic and spending money on trivial things that I did not really need. In fact, many of these items currently sit idly in the garage because I have downsized and now live in a smaller house than I did before. These items now serve as vivid reminders to me that most material things rarely live up to their hype and only bring temporary gratification, if at all.
There are, however, a few inexpensive or free items and services I have amassed and subscribed to that have afforded me tremendous value and usage. They have provided me with long-term satisfaction and have proven to be extremely useful in my life. If I had to choose some of the wisest acquisitions I have made in the last few years, these items and services would definitely be on the list.
1. Gym Membership
I decided to join a gym about 8 years ago and it has been one of the wisest investments I have ever made. The gym I joined did not require me to sign a long-term contract and, instead, allowed me to pay month-to-month. I purposely chose a gym that was located close to my house because of convenience.
Why: Joining a gym has literally changed my life. I currently go to the gym and exercise 5 days per week and it has made me healthier, more confident, and more motivated. It also has been instrumental in reducing my waist by 4 sizes and helped me lose weight. Another significant benefit is that I have met so many people that are highly motivated and care about their health. These wonderful men and women have been extremely encouraging and make the perfect support group for anyone wanting to get fit.
Cost: $29 per month
I have been a member of Netflix for about 3 years and I do not plan on cancelling my membership any time soon. Like my gym membership, there are no long-term contracts to sign and billing is month-to-month.
Why: Over the years, Netflix has both entertained and educated me. It also has saved me a lot of money since I do not have to go to a movie theater to watch a movie. As some of you might know, I am a big fan of documentaries, especially ones that are motivational and educational. Netflix has an impressive array of documentaries that touch on so many interesting and unusual subjects. I generally watch at least 2 documentaries per week and have learned so much invaluable information. Imagine how much you would learn and get inspired if you watched a few documentaries each week in the comfort of your own home. It is important to point out that Netflix includes many of your favorite TV shows and also offers movies that are not available anywhere else. Best of all, you can watch Netflix movies or TV shows on your computer, TV, phone, or tablet.
Cost: $10 per month
3. Membership in My Local Library
If you think of libraries as being out-dated and boring, think again. I joined 2 local libraries a couple of years ago and it turned out to be a great decision.
Why: Many libraries today have been upgraded and modernized. The 2 libraries that I joined both offer ebooks, audiobooks, printed books, and videos. I love the convenience and immediacy of downloading ebooks. I am partial towards nonfiction books and download about 2 books each week which I read on my iPad or phone. Since books can be expensive to purchase, I have saved thousands of dollars over the years. I have managed to download numerous books that were on the New York Times Bestseller list and have learned so much about the world as a result. I truly believe that reading is one of the best hobbies and activities one can engage in. As Frank Zappa said, “So many books, so little time”.
4. Membership in a Local Organic Farm
I am fortunate to have a wonderful organic farm located a few miles from my home. This is where I buy a large majority of my fruits and vegetables each week.
Why: I am a big proponent of organic fruits and vegetables, especially in light of the increased use of harmful pesticides in modern agriculture. My local farm offers the freshest and most delicious produce at a fraction of the price that grocery chains charge. If you have never eaten produce that was harvested less than a day ago, you are in for a real treat! Organic farms do not use harmful chemicals (google “Roundup pesticide”) and their produce has not been transported thousands of miles to earn a place on your plate. Not only do the fruits, vegetables and eggs taste better than what can be found in common grocery store chains, they are often cheaper. This is because the costs associated with transportation and middlemen have been eliminated. I still get surprised by how much produce I can get from the farm for about $15. There also is something soulful and relaxing about visiting the farm and harvesting your own produce.
Cost: Free to join, $15 per week for produce
5. My Edible Garden
To supplement the produce I buy weekly from the local organic farm, I also grow my own herbs and vegetables in my backyard. I planted many of them in pots and the rest are in flower beds.
Why: There are times when I run out of herbs like cilantro, parsley and basil, so I decided to grow some at home. I also grow thyme, mint, bell peppers, sage, oregano, and green onions. It is so rewarding to be able to walk out to my backyard and pluck what I need for the day’s meal. It saves me money and provides me with the freshest herbs. Another advantage is that I can only harvest what I need so that there is no wastage. It is no fun throwing away wilted herbs and vegetables from your fridge. Most importantly, growing your own edible garden is relaxing and rewarding. It also teaches you patience, which is an important life-skill. I still get very excited watching herbs and vegetables grow. And I know what I grow is organic and free of chemicals. You can buy most herbs and vegetable plants for a few dollars each and you can harvest them for a long time.
Cost: $10 per month
6. Whatsapp and Other Communication Apps
Because i have friends who live across the globe, I use Whatsapp to communicate with them conveniently.
Why: Staying in touch with friends and family around the world is important to me and that is where Whatsapp and other communication apps come in. I currently use Whatsapp to stay in touch with at least 15 friends and family members who do not live in the USA. Not only can I text message them for free using wifi, I also am able to call them (as long as they have Whatsapp, too) and chat for hours without paying international long-distance rates. Video conferencing is also a breeze. I often exchange files, photos, and other documents with my contacts as well. Whatsapp has been instrumental in helping me stay in touch with the people I care about.
7. My Ninja Professional Blender
This gadget is amazing and has changed my nutritional habits for the better.
Why: A few years ago, I decided to start juicing fresh fruits and vegetables every day because I wanted to be healthier by improving my diet. I was fortunate to have a close friend give me the Ninja blender as a Christmas gift and it is a tool that I use every day. I simply place an apple, some celery, a handful of kale, and a bunch of spinach into the blender, add water, and blend it, pulp and all. I sometimes add fresh berries, too. The machine has a powerful 900 watt motor that blends contents smoothly. The end result is a smoothie that is delicious and extremely healthy. In fact, on days that I forget to make a smoothie, I feel sluggish and less alert. That is how impactful the blender has been. Although I did not personally pay for this blender, I would gladly pay twice the current price to buy one because of its advantages. It is one of the best gadgets I own, period.
Cost: Free (it was a gift), or $65 to purchase at most stores
8. Meditation Book
As some of you know, I am a big advocate of daily meditation. Not too long ago, I purchased a fantastic book called The Mind Illuminated by John Yates.
Why: Even though I had researched and read a lot about meditation, I came across this book and it proved to be the best resource on the subject that I have found. It is a complete guide to meditation and it answered many questions that I had. In fact, I still refer to this book often and it has taught me how to meditate more effectively and consistently. Meditation has altered the way I think and view the world, and this book has been a real blessing.
9. My Meetup.com and Reddit.com Accounts
I signed up for Meetup and reddit a few years ago and I am so happy that I did.
Why: Meetup is a great online resource to meet other people who share the same interests. Do you like gardening? There is a Meetup group for that. Are you a soccer fan? There is a Meetup group for that. Photography? Meetup has a photography group. Enjoy wine? There is a Meetup group for oenophiles. The list is endless. Reddit is another wonderful online service that offers a way for people to meet, have questions answered, and help one another. For example, I recently met some people on reddit that shared my interest in hiking. A group of us met for the first time and had a great time going on a hike. I also use reddit as a learning resource. Whenever I need to have a question answered on a certain subject, I simply post a question and people will take the time to offer their help and knowledge. Both Meetup and reddit are valuable to me because they allow me to learn while meeting others who share my passions. And it costs nothing to join.
Companies today are constantly trying to make us more materialistic and buy things that we do not need. I have gotten much better assessing and assigning value to things that really matter to me. Surprisingly, many of the free or inexpensive items and services that I have acquired over the last few years have made a huge positive impact on my life. I suspect that I will be having a garage sale soon!