Passage to Thrifty Fifty

A Frugal Way Forward to into the Next Half Century

My son just flew down to join us on a short vacation in Florida. He mentioned that the dining halls had closed on Friday for Spring break. “What did you find to eat?” I asked. I had been in the one store he said had remained open and was not impressed by the selection. “Chocolate donuts” he replied. Weird choice I thought, until I remembered my sophomore year in college. I was living in a double and one of our friends came to visit our dorm. We generously offered him dinner by pointing to a bag of potato chips and a tub of sour cream dip-the “dinner” we had just finished. Long gone are the days when I could afford to eat potato chips and dip or donuts in any quantity, without paying for it in terms of diet and digestion.

I just hit the 50 year old mark last month. Do I feel older? Not really, but my son’s comment reminds me of just how far I have come from the occasional days of junk food for dinner. We neither suddenly feel old nor suddenly go from eating 6 donuts to none (ok, now maybe one donut -a year). It happens over time. Where we once did things abundantly, we now proceed with caution and a thriftier attitude.

This morning for instance, I somewhat grudgingly headed to the gym. It was very very windy so I knew a walk outside would not be pleasant. I hopped on the treadmill for the first part of my walking workout and got up to 3.5 mph before plateauing. The last half century me would have cranked that treadmill up to 4.2 miles an hour. The 50 year old me, with one month into this half century, is if not wiser, more of a realist.

I knew without a doubt that I could push my body to 4.2 mph., but I also knew my body would likely push back, later, in the form of my aching knee waking me up at night. I made the choice to stay at 3.5 mph and do all I could to strive for a good night’s sleep.

On the subject of sleep, if we really want to bring a divided nation back together, getting a good night’s sleep is the common ground on which to start. We would likely find some disagreement from the younger generations who would rather preserve the planet than some zzzzz’s, but if we remind them of that feeling they have when having partied a little too hard the night before, they must drag themselves to work or class, I profess they could come around to making a sleep satisfied population a priority.

As I approached and eclipsed the turning 50 years old mark, I also noticed that I am thriftier about when I will make the effort to dress up. If I am going to spend time getting myself into a much less comfortable outfit, it darn well had better be for a much, much more special occasion. Otherwise, the world can take me as I am or alternatively, I am quite happy to stay home.

Being frugal with my time and how I spend it has definitely been something that has grown on me over the years. Why watch the women’s basketball game at the stadium nearly an hour away when I can watch it from the comfort of my couch for instance? That extravagant cake recipe looks really amazing (and I already would have made it twice if I were still in my twenties) but now I just imagine it and move on, promising that if I have a special occasion I will consider making it.

Of course, another reason I don’t make it is because it is just my husband and I at home now. Who would eat that amazing cake except us? Did I mention he too will be 50 in a few months? Neither of us can really afford more than a piece of fancy cake, no matter how long it took to make it or how many exotic ingredients it may contain. Instead of making that cake, I spend my time thinking of creative ways to make broccoli and sending kale jokes to friends.

To be honest, I don’t miss the donuts and I do love broccoli and kale. I don’t even miss walking on the treadmill at 4.2 mph. What I do miss is reliably blissful sleep and knees that I could take for granted. Luckily, I can sit around in my cozy clothes, on my comfy couch and spend some of my time coming to terms with this, in between sharing jokes about kale and drooling over fancy cake recipes I will never make.

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