Happiness on a budget, there’s something we don’t talk much about. If we are to believe what we see on social media, everyone else is out there enjoying the most fabulous vacations, trips and experiences. What we see less of are the low key, low cost but no less enjoyable pursuits. That’s a shame, because the reality is that for most of us, we don’t have the means to support high end all the time. And for others, who are saving for a big purchase, have a new baby, kids in post secondary education or living modestly on retirement funds, they may not be able to do any of those kinds of adventures.

Just like money can’t buy you love, it also doesn’t have to be the only variable in happiness.Treat this stage as an adventure in living life to the fullest, and accepting the challenge of doing so in a “fiscally responsible manner.” No cost, low-cost or surplus gifting or exchanges are great ways to enjoy yourself.

Happiness is child’s play

Re-visiting some childhood pleasures is one way to connect with the fun inside waiting to be released. My foray into play has brought me back to bike riding, frisbee, backgammon and croquet. Guess what? They are all free. And each of them has given me back carefree, in the moment, child like laughter. And that’s a good thing. Letting go, allowing ourselves to be in the moment, also known as mindfulness, allows our body to relax. To release some of the tension that our adult selves take on through the daily act of living.

I am fortunate to live in an area where a lot of “by donation” festivals, offering me not just musical interests, but also people watching. This completely free and ever so interesting opportunity to people watch gives me glimpses into a bigger world. Parents with young children, couples of all ages, groups of friends, people on their own and people of varied backgrounds and cultures. From clothing to hairstyles to their interactions with each other, all are rich moments in the kaleidoscope of the event.

I also really like watching the free spirited souls who choose to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Like the 80+ gentleman, wearing jeans, cowboy boots and plaid shirt. Lacking a partner at the local blues and jazz fest, he simply enjoyed getting up and dancing on his own. I admired him in doing so. My toes were tapping, my body swaying to the great music, but my natural shyness didn’t quite get me out there with him. Maybe next year.

Happiness – sharing, gifting, exchanges and potlucks!

Then there is the option of “surplus gifting or exchanges”. This can include offering a good friend the use of your home while you are away. I have friends who live in the country and from time to time I house-sit and enjoy their property. They get peace of mind and I get peace of place.Win, win.

Sometimes we receive or have available to us tickets for special events; concerts, theatre, sports games etc. This is often true for corporations who have box seats and from time to time employees get extra event tickets for lower or no cost. Consider asking a friend you haven’t seen for a while to attend with you. It’s an excellent way to re-establish your friendship and create a new memory for you both.

An important part of growing your personal resilience and happiness quotient, is keeping in touch with and nourishing your friendships. Shared activities, experience and memory building is a good kind of history to have with someone.

Then, there is the old-fashioned getting together over a home cooked meal. My sanity was preserved as a young mother, by an informal weekly playgroup. Potluck style and a chance to be with other mothers and some fathers to enjoy not just good food, but great company. Whether or not you have children, and regardless of your age, this is a valid option for a weekly “Sunday lunch or dinner.” Enjoying good food together, sharing conversation and creating a new tradition are budget friendly and definitely raise the happiness meter.

Happiness and your next great passion, a bulletin board away?

Been to your local library lately? So many of us are accustomed to buying online, that we forget there are great resources on our doorsteps. And, they also happen to contain those good old-fashioned bulletin boards. You know, the ones in which local groups, emerging artists and others with something to offer have put a flyer. Who knows, your next great passion might be awaiting discovery among the notices tacked up for dog walking and fundraisers.

Regardless of your income or current situation, there is a lot to be enjoyed in your own backyard and community. And, the more you invest yourself into the place where you live, the more likely you will find satisfaction and enjoyment right where you are. That kind of happiness is a treasure and one available to you no matter what your budget might be.

As we move into a new season, consider this your chance to flex your happiness budget with no cost or low-cost activities. Then perhaps consider sharing those pictures to social media as your contribution to showing alternatives to the current standards of social time. You never know, you could be the start of a new trend.

Have a story to share? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below and let us know what you are doing with your happiness budget.

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