Dining Out, Downshifter Style

Since I began my downshifting journey, I’ve read hundreds of books and articles on saving money and living below one’s means. Most of them recommend preparing meals at home and eliminating restaurant meals as a way to cut costs. I won’t deny that dining in is a great way to save. It’s a no-brainer, really, but…

I truly enjoy going out to eat. As the only person in my house who cooks, sometimes I just get sick of cooking. Seriously sick of it. For me, trying different foods and new restaurants is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So what’s a frugal downshifter to do?

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a few simple ways to save in this area, so if dining out is important to you too, read on. We really can have our cake and eat it too!

  1. I don’t do “DINNER.” Perhaps due to my early morning work schedule, I’m not a big night eater. I like to get most of my eating out of the way earlier in the day, when I’m working, moving around, and burning calories. (Also recommended for good digestion and weight loss too!) I love to go out for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and/or happy hour, then just have a light snack at home in the evening.
  2. I try to keep it light. Kind of related to # 1 above. When I go out, I usually opt for lighter fare: soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers. Or if I get a bigger meal, I take half (or more) of it home and get another meal or two out of it. (Also another good diet tip!)
  3. I don’t eat a lot of meat. I’m not a vegetarian, but keeping my meals light and simple often means not eating much meat. Even when I cook at home, I often use half the meat and twice the veggies that most recipes call for. It’s cheaper, and again, healthier!
  4.  I take advantage of specials whenever I can. Weekdays are an especially good time to take advantage of happy hour deals, half-price appetizers, buy-one-get-one-free offers, coupons, etc.
  5. I enjoy a drink. One. Sometimes two. Not three or four. Booze is expensive — and loaded with useless calories! Have a drink, then switch to water. Your wallet and waistline will thank you.
  6. I pay with cash most of the time. I hate credit card bills even more than I hate cooking. Dining on plastic just doesn’t make sense to me.
  7. I tip well, especially at places where I’m a regular customer. When you take good care of your waitstaff and bartenders, they’ll take good care of you, sometimes with free drinks, “samples,” etc. They work hard for their money. Don’t skimp on the gratuity.

While saving money is an important component of downshifting, mindful spending is key to living life according to your priorities. For me, this means never passing up an opportunity to share a drink and a good meal with a loved one. After all, isn’t that what life’s all about?


Confessions of a Low-Maintenance Woman

In the pursuit of simplifying my life, saving money, and streamlining my daily routines over the years, I have evolved into a relatively “low-maintenance” woman. Don’t get me wrong. I still take good care of myself. But now I tend to work more from the inside out, focusing my attention on things that affect my overall health instead of simply my outward appearance.  And you know what? I feel pretty good, and I don’t look half bad either!

Here are a few of my biggest time-saving and money-saving “secrets.”

  1. I don’t go to the gym. I go for walks. I hike. Outside. In the fresh air. Even when the temperature is so ridiculously cold that my eyelashes freeze. I have a physical job, so every day entails plenty of heavy lifting: trays of letters, bins and bundles of magazines and catalogs,  heavy packages. At home, I lug armloads of firewood into the house every day during the winter. My cable TV network offers a variety of free workout videos “On Demand,” so I stretch, tone, and do pilates in the privacy of my own living room.
  2. I color my own hair. As a matter of fact, lately, I haven’t even been coloring it at all! Those pesky grays are starting to creep in though, so I’ll be picking up a $6 package of Clairol’s Root Touch-Up very soon.
  3. My husband cuts my hair. (Un)Fortunately, I have the kind of long, fine, straight hair that really doesn’t do much of anything no matter how hard I try, so it looks basically the same whether I have it cut professionally or do it myself. My husband has a steady hand, so why waste the money?
  4. My fingernails look like crap. I pretty much gave up on my hand-modeling career prospects when I started working at the post office. I now have the callused hands of a working woman. Hangnails. Paper cuts. Dry skin. Split fingertips. All of these occupational hazards make manicures a total waste of time and money.
  5. I shop at Goodwill and the Salvation Army. They carry a unique and ever-changing selection of clean, gently-used clothing. Sometimes I have to work a little, riffling through the overstuffed racks, but the rush of finding the perfect item for just a few dollars makes it worth the effort. I also have a friend at work whose twenty-something daughter is the same size as I am, so I get plenty of hand-me-downs. Don’t get me wrong. I also buy plenty of new clothes–more than I really “need,” I’m sure (usually off the clearance racks, though!). But I have no problem wearing other peoples’ cast-offs. Less waste, and more clothes for ME!
  6. I choose multitasking products. Despite my frugal and simple ways, I am still a bit of a beauty product junkie. My mother swears by her Oil Of Olay, never leaves the house without lipstick, and is the most beautiful 85 year-old woman I know. I hope I’m genetically programmed to follow in her footsteps, but I also have no problem giving mother nature a little help. My bathroom counter is covered with a variety of lotions and potions, but I prefer those that serve more than one purpose: all-in-one tinted/anti-aging/sunscreen/moisturizer, conditioning/styling hair products, etc.

Despite my no-muss, no-fuss attitude toward my appearance, however, I also have a few rules and minimum standards that I always uphold without fail. I NEVER wear sweatpants in public, and I will NOT leave my house in the morning without a shower, perfume, and mascara. I may be low-maintenance, after all, but I’m not a cavewoman.