Don't let money woes isolate you

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How many times have you heard these same tired suggestions from the press about how to save money in today's tough economy? Brew your own coffee instead of visiting Starbucks. Cut out trips to the mall. Watch DVDs from the library rather than going out to the movies. I believe those making these suggestions misunderstand why we do what we do. It's not about the coffee, or the shopping, or the movie; it's about being with people. We are social animals, and isolation is an anathema to us. Therefore the loss of a job is a double blow, to our wallets and to our tribal identity.

So instead of suggesting ways to save money that further isolate you in the time of your distress, I thought I'd pass along some suggestions on how to get your social fix and still rein in your budget: -

  • 1. Go to church. I don't mean to push any religion; in fact, there are churches, for want of a better name, that do not require the acceptance of any particular doctrine, yet provide plenty of social opportunities. Sing in the choir, take part in discussion groups, dance groups, card parties, service projects. Most churches expect donations commensurate with your ability, and if you've fallen on hard times, they won't kick you out of the door.
  • 2. Volunteer your time. Many volunteers donate their time and effort to enjoy the company of others of like mind, and you should be able to find opportunities that match your interests while costing you nothing but time.
  • 3. Build your education. Local schools often offer free/very inexpensive night classes, as do libraries and city parks and rec departments. Some state agencies fund retraining, too.
  • 4. Join recreational groups instead of gyms. In most towns there are groups that bicycle, hike, bird-watch, play kickball, pitch horseshoes.... and the cost to join/participate is minimal.
  • 5. Form your own circles. Reach out to others that are isolated and schedule regular get-togethers. Sack lunches together at a city park or mid-day coffee klatches in one another's homes will be much more satisfying that a hour at the local Sbux, and cheaper, too.

In hard times, our greatest resource is the support we give to one another. Don't let a flat wallet keep you isolated from other people. Go out and dance with some strangers.

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