This week I am hosting two group events at my house. One is a luncheon and one is a dinner. I'm also responsible for hosting a cookie exchange (elsewhere). I'm attending a concert tomorrow night. Finally, I'm going to a music festival later on this week. With two small exceptions, these events will require no outlay of cash. Who says you can't live richly on a fixed income?
I apologize in advance if this post turns into a "how to" or "how I" missive. I usually prefer to simply talk about things happening in my life so that people see the ups, downs, and possibilities of living on a fixed income or less money in retirement. In this case though, how this week is coming about is a perfect example of all the possibilities that exist out there for having a full life on little money.
I try most of the time to have a positive attitude towards my life (like everyone, sometimes I fail). I have realistic expectations. This is no way means that I have given up everything I ever liked or loved. It only means that I look for alternatives whenever possible, or limit those expensive choices. One benefit of my many travels is that I have learned that one doesn't have to be on Broadway or at a Paris restaurant to live well. Just as the best French restaurant I ever ate it was a small place in Bayeux, there are good things in every corner of the world. This means that the local symphony can be as enjoyable as the Boston Pops, and that the local repertory theater production of Barefoot in the Park was nothing to laugh at. Rather than turn away from amateur talent I embrace it. After all, actors have to perform somewhere until they hit Broadway. I'm not convinced that the small group of actors on the great white way are the only ones worth watching. One of the concerts mentioned above is at my church. The church will host a concert of advent music and carols that include a quartet. It's even advertised in the weekend section of the local newspaper. Is it the Boston Pops? No. Will I enjoy it as much? I believe I will.
I am truly lucky to be positioned where I am socially. The social groups in my circle (church groups, book group, quilting groups, volunteer groups and so on) are made up of mainly like minded people (with the exception of politics). I have chosen my friends for the most part. I am also lucky to have a family that generally thinks alike. Most importantly, I am no longer exposed to school or work related expenses and entertainment costs. While I enjoyed them at the time, I am glad they are gone. No more years choosing presents for secretaries, gifts for the office party or participating in the office pool. Whew! I sympathize with those of you who must participate in such things because of your employment or that of your spouse, or who have family who figure "more is better". I truly have no answer for that one. My sister in law will receive homemade place mats happily
The other big way that I am able to live so richly is the way I use my financial resources. While this is not the time to talk about extreme couponing (no it does not require lots of time), discount shopping (same true) or shopping loss leaders, all of those contribute to my financial bottom line. Because I use all of these techniques I am able to have a stocked freezer, pantry, and gift closet-with everything at the lowest possible price or free.
On Wednesday, I will host a luncheon. I will provide beef stroganoff, Christmas cookies and eggnog. Others will bring other things. We will have a gift exchange. I will in fact purchase sour cream and eggnog. Everything else will be made from what's on hand, purchased a deep discount prices and frozen (or stored) fresh. This includes the beef and rice and mushrooms as well as all the baking requirements. My token gifts will be the free bath and body hand lotions that come out as free coupons monthly throughout the year that I have stored.
Sunday, I will host a more formal meal. since my house is now fully decorated (guess I need to picture this), centerpieces will be German wooden ornaments of which I have many. I will provide the lasagna, cookies again (I bake by the ten dozen), and eggnog. Others will provide salad, vegetable, appetizer, wines (we're Episcopalian after all), bread and another dessert. I will make the homemade lasagna out of whole wheat noodles in the pantry, frozen pork and beef, canned tomato sauce and fresh spices. the entertainment will be the food, our conversation and Christmas music streamed on the laptop to speakers. Again, I'll buy dairy products .
The concert at the church is tomorrow night. The cost for three hours of classical Christmas music mixed with carols will be the price of gas. The cost of admission (free) includes a reception afterwards. What's not to look forward to?
Don't get me wrong. I like the more expensive alternatives on occasion, and try and fit them into my budget. Because I love gourmet food, I go to really, really good four star restaurants two times a year (its not a social thing, its a gourmet food thing). Twice a year I go to a real musical and a real expensive concert where I wear close to formal clothing. However, I've discovered a whole world of entertainment, culture and socialization in my back yard. Until I've explored it all and done it all, I won't lack for things to do.