Living richly begins with the heart, not the wallet. But since many of you may be sitting down with your budgets for the summer before school is out, I thought it might be timely to look at a few ways to both shrink your bottom line and to grow your heart this summer. This will be a two-part post, with the last two items coming next week.

Here are a few things to consider replacing in your budget:

1. Meals out with meals outside: Eating out can take a big chunk out of your budget. And not to mention if you work up a hefty bar tab to go alongside it! This summer, we are trying to reduce the number of times we eat out and replace them with backyard BBQs with friends and family. We have mostly replaced our eating out tab and bar tab with home cooked, local-grown food, and sangria; or, since I’m nursing, sometimes what I call “sans-gria.”

We are also part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where we buy a crop share of a local farm up-front in the Spring, and then pick up a box of local, GMO, free-range, and super fresh produce, eggs, and meat each week (you can opt for delivery). The produce costs about what we would pay at the grocery store. Though the meats and eggs cost more, meal planning ahead and eating some meatless meals has more than made up for the cost! The total tab is $30-35 CAD per week. We have been part of the Cooper’s CSA program for three summers now, and absolutely love it!

2. Consumption with Sufficiency: Shop your shelves before your store. As a family, we are focused on practicing contentment this summer. Traditionally, we spend a lot more time at the store than we have recently—the grocery store, Costco, the mall, the butcher, the baker…you get the idea. But in an effort to limit consumption, as well as increase our contentment, we are moving toward shopping our shelves first.

How about that arborio rice that you bought two years ago for a single recipe and haven’t used? Check! And the cup of frozen pizza mozzarella in the freezer? Check! And the remaining six asparagus from the bundle you got last week? Check! I’m going to try a lovely asparagus risotto. Foodies everywhere are cringing at the sound of this. But not every recipe has to be exactly perfect!

For other fun, we are shopping our garage—which is a disaster! So we will kind of clean up as we go. Instead of going to the movies, we are getting the bikes out. Instead of trying out something new, we are trying to reiterate possibilities with what we have and get rid of what we don’t use or need. Maybe you have bike equipment, an old skateboard, roller blades, a frisbee, baseball gloves and balls, soccer balls, basketballs, and hiking gear. Bring back the nineties and strap on those roller blades! Or set it curb side with a FREE sign on it.

All of this shopping our shelves has helped reduce our trash output by about 75% over the past two months, not to mention our waste in other ways!

3. Costly Tickets for Free Entertainment: 

Some of the best free entertainment is a walk in the park! How many of you remember vividly the most amazing date ever as dinner and a movie? I doubt very many.

One of my favourite dates with my husband, very early in our relationship, was a walk to this little lake that I had been to once before (or so I thought). We laughed, and talked, and joked for a couple of hours as the rain started to drizzle. Eventually we were totally soaked, so we returned to his apartment to make a strong pot of coffee.

The funny thing was…we never found the lake. And to this day, we haven’t found it! He doesn’t believe me that the lake exists. But the memories made holding hands while crossing a stream on a soggy, fallen tree were priceless. We have been to concerts together, and certainly movies, but those haven’t been the most memorable times by far!

Try going for three months of free entertainment and create many meaningful moments with friends and family. Especially if going to the mall is entertainment for you, this can save a ton of money. In addition to just getting outside and hitting the trails, there are a number of events in most towns and cities that are totally free! Look up your city’s free events calendar. In Toronto there are all sorts of art shows, poetry readings, even concerts, food festivals, and film festivals that are free.

Get your family involved and make it a fun process. Rather than just focusing on what you are cutting out, focus more on what you are gaining! Entertainment doesn’t have to be consumptive or expensive.

Finding meaningful ways to spend time with loved ones is living richly. You don’t have to spend inordinate sums, or even a penny to do this. There may still be a few special occasions you have plans for or want to plan for, and that is fine! My challenge to you is to join me as my family works toward these three goals this summer.

What are your free summer plans? Post a comment or idea below!

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