Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cheap Dates - Part 2

I have a confession to make.

I talk a big game about our culture's unhealthy reliance on "things" and "stuff." But when I set out to live cheap last month, I was secretly thinking "yeah, like I'm really going to SHOWER for this." But now, as I sit here in my room, overwhelmed by all the amazing community-building, inexpensive opportunities for fun and fiber, I am taunted by Lazlo The Chihuahua who has positioned himself ever-so-subtly next to a plaque reading: "It's Not Shopping, It's Retail Therapy." Even my dog thinks I'm a fraud.

While he may be partially right, that I may still love the "cha-ching" of New Shoes Being Purchased, today I am proud to announce that I am now 100%, no-holds-barred, hook, line and sinker, fully bought into the movement I'm fond of calling The Great Cheap Date.

To be part of The Great Cheap Date, one must be willing to put in just a few extra minutes online or lingering at the coffee shop bulletin board to find that awesome out of the way happy hour, a free independent film screening or bingo tournament that isn't necessarily advertised in old town Scottsdale.

And I'm not the only one pushing for this kind of life. Every magazine I open these days has a list of things to do with little or no cash. And since I've become interested (read:obsessed) with living cheap, I've been inundated with ideas and articles thoughtfully clipped out and mailed to me from all parts of the country. Thanks mom, for Woman's Day Magazine, June 2, 2009 Issue, Page 78.

Keep in mind that a Great Cheap Date doesn't have to be of the romantic kind (although lets be real, aren't those the best kind?) but can be with a friend, family member, professional network or even alone. Sometimes what a soul needs most is a little Me Time. And since it is a blistering 111 degrees today, stay in and feed the need.

First off - a few online fun sites along the lines of "time-wasters-I-would-never-consider-doing-on-the-clock-if-I-actually-had-a-job" type: Hunch.com, the site that helps you make the real important decisions in life, Benign Objects and Design Delights when you feel like swooning over something other than Colin Farrell, and Not Your Grandmother's Crossword Puzzles. There's CheapHealthyGood written by the very funny and very hungry Kristen Swenssen and a new favorite of mine Lords and Ladies of Leisure - which touches the soft spot I have in my heart for the unemployed.

And how about learning a new skill? Split the cost of Lynda.com with a friend and you may both master Photoshop, Dreamweaver, or even Microsoft Word! The best software tutorial I've ever seen. What about mastering the Art of the Mixtape? Remember those? When just the right mix of songs could tell that hot professor why you - a design major - did so well in his Calculous class or when you found out your best friend's boyfriend was a cheating sleaze and needed Carrie Underwood, Hinder, and Brandy and Monica to tell the story? The perfect mix is important, and done right might just score you some home-baked brownies, or at least some brownie points.

And when the inevitable happens as it often does - Twitter gets too many tweets, Facebook times out, no one has emailed you in at least an hour and your laptop battery bleats out its last charge - THROW A PARTY! Not a lavish affair, but a rocking, fun, casual get together. Think board games and BYOB, a Wii Tennis tournament and night swimming. Give it a theme - Margaritas and Mustaches, Christmas in July, 80's night, 60's night - anything to get people to connect and laugh and take the edge off our money woes for awhile. Better yet - host a Swap Party and you may find yourself a new pair of shoes cute enough that you don't even miss the "cha-ching."

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