Phew. Or is it “whew”? I’m not sure, but either way, goodbye 2016. I’m not saying it was all bad, by any means, but it was a tough one for sure. Like the month of September that involved ten moves, literally, between temporary accommodations while I tried to make my new place livable. My motto at my stinky place was “out with the old and in with the new” and I’m applying that also to the new year. Except…some old stuff is still good and worth revisiting, so how about a blend of the familiar with the fresh new year?

For months I’ve been needing a new pair of exercise pants, you know the kind you wear for just about anything other than actually exercising? Then again, the fabric was still in good shape and they fit just fine, it’s just that the holes had gotten seriously embarrassing and I couldn’t wear them to do lunges at the grocery store or bank anymore. If I so felt like doing lunges. So, on my list of things to acquire in the new year, they went. Until I thought, hey, why don’t I just sew up the holes? I know, crazy idea.

I pulled out my old sewing kit and proceeded to rustily mend the substantial holes. And voila! My pants are wearable inside and out. Even inside out if I feel so inclined. And there goes a $30 purchase, crossed off my list. Nice.

Another way I’m saving in the new year is returning to the concept of cooking. I know, also a crazy idea. Well, this past year the stove and I went through a painful separation. No more baking cookies or casseroles. It was all about convenient survival and a lot of nuked chicken pot pie and higher grocery bills. But as my stove in my new kitchen has finally been installed, I felt inspired to start the new year off fresh and finally cooked something from scratch. When you’re on your own it can be easy to grab the prepared meals to go but as I want to get back to my $1 or $2 meals instead of the $5 meals, it’s time to get serious. And I personally don’t mind eating the same thing a few days in a row, though I know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

My invention (I think!) of wild salmon, chick peas, potatoes, and spices, blended and pressed like a meatloaf (except it’s a sealoaf?) and topped with cheese, onions, mushrooms, and capers worked out rather well and costs about $1.50 per healthy serving. If I want to stretch the meals farther, I can buy some thirty cent buns and get about three more servings from the sealoaf, reducing the cost of each serving a modest amount. (I saved on the salmon by buying one larger can for $5 instead of two smaller for $8; I saved $1 using dry beans and soaking them instead of buying a can of beans; and I bought a bag of organic potatoes for the same cost per pound as loose, non organic.) Every little bit adds up to stretch the budget!

I know there are endless apps for budgeting, but if you’re old fashioned like me, you could join me in the idea of starting the new year with a fresh, tangible budget booklet (just one of those lined page booklets from the dollar store), even if there’s space left in last year’s. As my life is going to be very different this year, I’m starting off with an approximation of all monthly, and otherwise, expenses, alongside the keeping precise track of what’s left in rapidly diminishing savings and chequing accounts (due to ongoing renos). Unless one goes online almost every day, it can be hard to know just how much you have, and we all know that a few hundred in your chequing can dive to close to zero, lickety split. My personal approach is keeping receipts in my purse until I bring them out every couple days and determine my current remaining total.

A key difference this year will be shifting groceries to be a cash only venture. I’m giving myself a set allotment per month and with the tangibility of the cash, I aim to be extra inspired to stretch those dollars farther. My neglected bags of beans and rice will be lovingly revisited as I get the bonus of pocketing any extra food funds to use as I wish, like going to the recording studio!

For yourself, while you may love the convenience of debit like most of us, think of an area of your expenses that could benefit from being limited by cash use only, and when you run out of that month’s cash, you have to hold your horses until next month.

A fun thing to save on is buying products “out of season”, such as chocolates all of two days after Christmas. And since I had to mostly be my own chocolate supplier this year, I was extra inspired to pick up my favourite treats at half price. Yes, the starting prices are often too high in the first place, but half of too much works fairly well for my pocketbook, and sweet tooth. Of course these aren’t necessary items but… no, I take that back, Toffifee is absolutely necessary. And I’ll be sure to cruise the aisles the days after Valentine’s to see what may call out to my heart. Even if it’s considered “old”. The treats, that is, not my heart.

Speaking of treats, if I’m going to eat them, I have to earn them. And my walking mileage for this past year (yes, I do keep track!) was a couple hundred miles less than my usual total. I know, that sounds like a lot, and it is, but if you break it down, it’s only about four miles less per week. So if we reverse and shift that idea to our money saving, think of what a modest weekly amount saved will add up to in the course of a year!

Whatever your plan of action is with exercise or money saving, I’m a huge advocate of keeping track, and I find doing so to be a great way to hold myself, well, accountable. I even want to give myself gold star stickers sometimes like I used to get for spelling tests in grade five. But one of the best things is that my favourite form of exercise is free, as are many other options. Or you could check out if your local community centre offers a great New Year’s discount for those willing to commit to a year’s pass for the fitness centre, like the one in my area. Either way, community centres are often an affordable way to go, with a variety of commitment levels and exercise options. For yourself, think about what inspires you, what will motivate you, what will make you feel proud of yourself, and help you “earn” your version of treats. And just do it.

Carrying on with this health focus, I’ve had to reevaluate my supplement situation. Actually, it’s the whole nutrition thing that I’ve been lacking this year as green juice only gets one so far. But with some research I’ve got clarity on what I need to do, including eating more healthily, and the best part is that some of what I need can be easily acquired outside of the vitamin shop. As Dr. Oz says, one brazil nut a day offers us our daily selenium, helpful for anxiety and offering a variety of benefits to the immune system, and my almost daily walks in the sun, that sometimes shines, are great for my Vitamin D supply. For the others, I look for the combo packs that offer a healthy daily amount of supplements such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc, all in one affordable tablet. A couple hundred tablets for about $10 will last me many months, as opposed to another brand offering half as many tablets of just magnesium, at the same dose as in the combo, for three times the price, and I’ll save about $100 in a year. Okay, the nuts aren’t a big saver as they cost about $10 for three months’ worth, comparable with the cost of a bottle of a hundred selenium tablets for $12, but I love the idea of the body naturally processing a pure source of the nutrient, along with whatever else brazil nuts are good for!

And so now off I go into a cloudy day (come on Vitamin D, sneak on through!) with my revitalized exercise pants and Amazonian infusion of brazil nut energy, walking gratefully into a new year. Simple exercise, simple meals, simple changes, and simple saving. It’s kind of old fashioned, but refreshing, isn’t it?

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