Paper or Plastic?

If you want to be really mindful, go to the grocery store with cash.

I’ve started using cash for everything. I’ve created an allowance for myself. Every week I go to the bank to get cash. It is really weird.

I grew up this way of course. I’m old enough that credit cards weren’t a part of life during my formative years. When I first got a credit card it was just for emergencies. Then somehow it became a way of life. Somehow the credit card became the norm and cash became the thing I used for emergencies.

So many of us reach for plastic over paper these days.

I know a young guy who bought a wallet. It took him two weeks to realize that it didn’t have a place for cash. He didn’t even think to look for a place for cash when he was buying the wallet. He was constantly scoffing at me for carrying cash at all.

There are so many advantages to using a card. You can see online what you are spending your money on. Many companies give you money back or rebates for using their cards. If you pay your card off every month, you can actually make money doing this. I did, for many years.

But it is all a trick. I spend way more money when I use my credit cards. I don’t think about what I’m buying. I need it, so I get it. Or, I think I need it. Well, sometimes I just want it.

And then I have to make a place for it. Whether it is a new dress from Goodwill or a pint of ice cream, it has to go somewhere. With the ice cream the somewhere is my butt.

Shopping with cash at the grocery store means I have to really think about what I’m getting. Do I need it? I can’t justify buying snacks and other non-food items. I’ve not bought sodas in a while, but chips and cookies are still appealing. The more money I spend on those, the less money I have for actual food that I need. You know, food with vitamins and minerals. Actual nutrition is going to win in this debate. Having limited resources makes me mindful. Thus, it means I’m eating better.

Even with a bargain dress from Goodwill, I have to be mindful. I’ve got other dresses. I’m fine. It isn’t like I don’t have clothes that fit me and look acceptable. I justify buying the dress because it is a great price. But even then I’m not being mindful of my money. Ten dollars spent is still ten dollars spent, and it adds up. Too many trips to Goodwill means I’ve spent $100 before I even know it.

A bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t need it.

I’ve always carried at least $40 in my wallet. I rarely used it, but when I needed it I was reminded of how useful that practice is. Sometimes the credit card machine isn’t working. Sometimes your card doesn’t work. Then how are you going to buy your gas or your meal? Cash always works, and cards don’t.

Some places don’t even take credit cards. We went on a trip to North Carolina and ate at a restaurant. It was a nice meal, but what happened at the end wasn’t very nice. We found out they only took cash or checks. There was no message about this on the door or on the menu. Fortunately I always kept a spare check in my wallet and used that. Otherwise we might have had to wash dishes to pay our bill. Or one of us would have to leave to find an ATM.

These days I’m turning this around. I’m carrying the credit card as the backup and carrying cash as the main thing. I’ve done this for a week and already I’ve noticed I’ve spent $200 less than normal, and I’m eating better. Instead of eating out as often, I’m making food at home.

It is interesting how this is dovetailing into my New Year’s resolution to cook more. I’ve wanted to get better at cooking for years, and the only way to get better at cooking is simply to cook. I’ve wanted to go to the store and get fresh vegetables and cook from scratch, and now I’m doing it. I’m feeling really empowered by learning how to feed myself well. But then I started deciding to use only cash, and that is going nicely with it. Both practices are keeping me mindful of how I spend my money, which ultimately represents my time and my energy.

I’m sometimes resentful of having to spend forty hours a week at work. I’m grateful for a job, but I’d like to have more time away from it to live my life. Thirty hours would be better but it isn’t an option. But how smart is it for me to waste that money on expensive, unhealthy food and trinkets and baubles? Using my money wisely will mean I have more money saved up for bigger things, like a trip overseas, or improvements to my house. In the meantime, I’m learning how to take better care of myself, and that is the best investment of all.

On quitting smoking.

Many people stop doing something bad or start doing something good for their New Year’s resolution. Why not combine the two? If you are going to stop smoking, I suggest you start walking.

Take the time you were going to use on your smoke break and go for a walk instead. Many people take a 15 minute smoke break. 15 minutes is a great amount of time for a walk – but even 10 or 5 minutes is good.

Walking does for you what smoking does, but better. It is calming. It is a mental break. It takes you away from your problems, both literally and figuratively. But while smoking takes away from your health, walking adds to it.

Walking clears out your head like nothing else.

You can walk anywhere. You don’t have to have a walking path around your workplace. You can go for a walk inside your building. While it is better to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine, it is important just to walk. Walk up and down some stairs. Walk around the hallways. Get outside and walk around the building. But just walk. If you limit yourself to walking outside, 90% of the time it will be too hot or too cold or too wet. Rarely will it be just right. Savor those days when it is nice outside, but don’t just walk on those days. Walk every day.

You don’t have to walk fast. Just walk. Ambling is fine. A stroll is good.

Think you are too out of shape to walk? All the more reason to walk. Just get going. Do what you can. You’ll get stronger. People don’t walk because they are in shape. They walk to get in shape.

Some people use this as an excuse – “I’ll walk a mile and then I have to walk a mile to get back where I started.” Walk in a circle. Find a path and loop around.

You may be self-conscious at the start when you are walking. That is normal. You are doing something different. You are taking care of yourself. The shame you felt from sneaking away to smoke will be replaced with pride that you are doing something to help yourself. Try to recruit others to go walking with you instead of smoking. That way you have a group. You can cheer each other on.

Realize that every excuse you come up with is your unhealthy self trying to stay that way. Your healthy self is really weak right now and you can’t hear its voice very well. See those excuses as a sign that you have to stick up for your healthy self. Just go ahead and do it. The more you put it off, the longer it will be before you start feeling better. Every little bit you do towards the good will give you energy and momentum to do a little bit more.

Go walk instead of smoking. Your life will thank you for it.

Get moving. New Year’s thoughts.

I recently met a lady who said that she had to drop her books in the bookdrop just inside the door at the library rather than bring them up to the desk. She said they were too heavy for her. She uses a cane to get around.

I know another lady who needs large print but can’t hold it. Just one book is too heavy for her. She now is no longer able to get herself in and out of bed, or to the bathroom.

I’ve heard stories of women who have had breast cancer surgery who can’t use their arms to get up because of the surgery. They have to let the area heal and can’t use those muscles. So they have to use their leg muscles to get out of a chair, or off the toilet. But they are in such bad shape that they have to get friends to stay with them to pull them up.

It has to be terrible to be trapped in your own body. It has to be sad to get to the point that everything is difficult. It has to be embarrassing.

This is in part why I exercise. I don’t want to become this feeble.

I know a lady in my yoga class who is 72. I am sure the reason she is doing so well is because she goes to the Y. She works really hard to stay flexible and strong.

It takes a lot of effort to stay in shape. I’m not talking about losing weight. I’m talking about having the strength and energy to be self sufficient. I’m talking about muscles in good enough shape to live well. What does it matter if you are 60 years old but you are in a wheelchair because of something totally preventable?

Exercise is no fun. The first 15 minutes I want to be anywhere but
there. I’d love to have my week nights back too. All that time at the Y takes up a lot of my free time. But even without the Y, I walk at work. Even twenty minutes at lunch is good. And even though I’m not excited about exercise, I feel better after I do it. Some of the benefits are mental. I’ve come to see exercise as the same as dialysis. It gets the icky bits out, and it isn’t optional.

I think the key is movement, and understanding that these bodies have to be maintained. They degrade in slow motion. One day, you’ll realize that hunching over your computer all day and not moving has caught up on you.

Don’t let time slip away from you. Get going. Sure it is cold outside. Walk in your building. Can’t afford a gym membership? Rent an exercise video from the library. Just move. The life you save will be your own.