2017 January Money Diet Winner Announcement

Logs in heart shape

Dear friends,

I spent a most enjoyable day re-reading all of the wonderful comments you left on each post throughout the January Money Diet.

This year’s community of dieters was truly our best ever! So many of you participated wholeheartedly, and generously wrote about your honest struggles and challenges. You encouraged others and shared your own ideas and money-saving strategies. Your participation made this endeavor better and richer for everyone. Thank you.

I wasn’t expecting the difficulty of choosing the winner of this year’s prize, but so many of you completed the challenges and stayed true to the money diet throughout January that we had lots of qualifying candidates.

It was difficult, but I eventually narrowed the field to a small group of twelve people who were really, really involved this year: Susan T., Colette, Judy, Annie, Sara, Annette, Lyn, Melissa, Nancy, Catherine G., Maggi, and Betty.

From those twelve I did a random drawing for the gift box, and the lucky winner is: COLETTE!

Here’s what Colette wrote on the last day of the money diet:

“In general, I have come away after this second January Money Diet with better habits and an even stronger resolve than ever before! Thank you Eliza, and all who left comments, for your ideas and encouragement! It has been a great success for me!”

Throughout January, many of you entrusted us with your personal stories of struggles and difficulties. I think most of us can relate to having financial worries or having to dig out from unwanted bills, and it was good to put our heads together and strategize.

I was also deeply touched by your response to Challenge #1 to give 31 gifts, and amazed at all of the many acts of kindness you performed and things you gave away.

My hope and prayer for each one of us in the months and years ahead is that we can do EXTRAORDINARY things with money. May we take the necessary steps to simplify and live within our means, so that we never have to be slaves to debt or experience financial fear.

Thank you for sharing this journey, and I look forward to having many more conversations with you in the days ahead.

Hugs and gratitude,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

100 Little Things

January Money Diet

Dear friends,

As this no-spending month winds down, I want to thank each one of you who participated in this journey. Thank you for showing up, and sharing your creative ideas and thoughts, and trying new things. It’s been so good to be with you during the January Money Diet.

As we each continue our journey in 2017 with a desire to be good stewards and accomplish extraordinary things with money, the best approach might incorporate a lot of little steps practiced faithfully over time.

Maybe we cook a few more meals at home, grow a little more produce in our gardens, get creative with leftovers, use up things we already have in our freezers and pantries, and the net result is that we save $100 on our monthly food bills.

Perhaps we fix some drafty places in our homes, conserve water by retrofitting our toilets, switch a few more incandescent lightbulbs to CFLs, and save $25 on utilities every month.

Maybe we continue decluttering and creating space, and sell a few unused items each month to net an extra $25.

Perhaps we put our credit cards away in a safe place so we’re not tempted to use them for impulse buys, and faithfully apply the extra $150 to our balances each month, so that our interest payments drop, too, until on day we have the glorious feeling of being debt-free.

The beautiful thing is that none of these steps will affect our quality of life in a negative way. The upside is less worry about money and more financial freedom to focus on the things that matter.

Some of the steps we take to steward our money wisely will produce bigger results than others, but together they form the basis for a better financial foundation. This month we explored many strategies:

  • Whittling down monthly expenses
  • Saving energy and water to reduce utility bills
  • Eliminating wastefulness
  • Cooking good food at home
  • Fixing and maintaining the things we have
  • Giving generously to others
  • Growing our own food in a garden
  • Setting up an emergency savings account
  • Using things we already have at home
  • Paying off debt
  • Figuring our net worth
  • Making things with our own hands
  • Nurturing our health
  • Creating peaceful, uncluttered spaces at home
  • Earning extra money
  • Finishing projects
  • Saving for the future
  • Being mindful about every dollar spent

Future Shopping Strategies

Many of us will continue to stay on a modified version of the money diet in the coming days. As needs arise, we will inevitably shop again. Perhaps we might ask ourselves these questions before handing over our hard-earned money:

Do I love it?

This is now my mantra for every single clothing purchase. Do I love this? Do I feel great when I wear it? Is it well made? Will I want to wear it for years to come? Do I need it? I no longer buy something just because it’s a good deal. I have to love it. Consequently, my wardrobe has shrunk quite a bit. I don’t shop that often, and when I do, I don’t often find clothing that I truly adore. But interestingly, my smaller cache of clothes is evolving into a better selection of nice pieces that I truly love to wear.

Can I plan for the purchase?

If your old hot water heater suddenly breaks, you’ll have to raid your emergency savings account and make a fast buying decision based on what’s in stock locally.

On the other hand, if you know your water heater needs to be replaced and you have the luxury of a little time, you can research the best quality models with the help of Consumer Reports (at the library, of course). You can figure out the exact size you need for your family, and choose whether you want a tank or an on-demand heater. You can comparison shop, and watch for sales. Best of all, you can save up the money for the water heater, and replace it before your old one breaks and causes damage and stress.

Can I wait?

I once wanted a particular energy-efficient ceiling fan for the kitchen that was out of my budget. I created a custom search on eBay, and several times a month I received e-mail notices about auctions featuring my fan. I bid several times unsuccessfully, stuck to my budget, and finally got lucky.

By being willing to wait, I finally upgraded the fixture and got the fan I really wanted; you can see the old and new fixture here.

If you know what you want and can be patient, you can often find the item of your dreams on sale or at a greatly reduced price. It’s when we want something NOW that we usually pay top dollar.

Will this purchase lower our overhead?

Certain purchases might quickly pay for themselves in future savings — a rechargeable lawnmower that you use instead of paying a lawn service, or canning supplies to preserve food from your garden, or quality scissors that you use for kids’ haircuts.

Other things might be worth investing in for long-term savings: rechargeable batteries, an antenna that brings in free television, solar lights, perennial food plants like berries and asparagus, fruit trees, window film, insulation, and energy-efficient or hand-powered appliances. These are decisions we will have to weigh carefully and research thoroughly.

Can I innovate instead of spending money?

Figuring out a solution for little or no money is not only fiscally rewarding, but personally satisfying. I love the Budget Living section of Apartment Therapy, where readers show their amazing hacks to transform spaces for little or no money.

Young House Love is a fun blog with tons of DIY home projects, and LifeHack has numerous articles for saving money and repurposing.

Let’s continue what we started

I am so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together this month. You have been the most engaged, generous group of money dieters yet, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you.

Some efforts produced big results and others are small, but financial stability comes as a result of many efforts and thoughtful decisions, practiced faithfully over time. If we continue what we started together in this first month of 2017, I promise that these steps will add up and produce real, lasting change in our finances.

How about you?

I did the math this morning, and we saved $600 as a result of practicing the January Money Diet this month. It’s going straight into savings.

What specific results did you achieve as a result of your participation in the January Money Diet? I invite you to share your experiences in the Comments section of this page.

If you have excess cash left over as a result of saving all month, I challenge you to go stash it immediately in an inconvenient savings account, pay off debt, or invest the money before it drifts into the slush fund.

Prize Giveaway Tomorrow!

If you have completed the 5 January Money Diet Challenges, be sure to leave a comment on each of the challenge pages (see links below). Tomorrow I’ll choose one lucky winner who will receive a January Money Diet gift box with a $35 Amazon gift card, cookbooks, and an assortment of fun household goodies.

Here are links to each of the Challenge pages:

Challenge #1 – Give 31 things away.

Challenge #2 – Figure your net worth.

Challenge #3 Do something to earn an extra $25 or more this month

Challenge #4 – Reduce one monthly expense

Challenge #5 – Open a savings account

Although our month-long experiment is coming to an end, I look forward to continuing this journey with you in the year ahead. I’ll be sharing ideas and posting about my money-saving strategies in the coming months, and I encourage you to do the same.

If you have any ideas about how to improve next year’s January Money Diet, I’d love to hear from you at elizagcross (at) gmail (dot) com.

Enjoy this last day on the January Money Diet, and you’ll hear from me again tomorrow.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Baby Steps to Take in 2017

Take baby money steps

Dear friends,

Did you enjoy the weekend? We spent several satisfying hours spiffing up the house as part of the Weekend Curating challenge, and I enjoyed hearing from many of you about the projects you tackled.

It’s hard to believe we have just two days remaining in the January Money Diet. You’ve been such a wonderful, caring, generous group of dieters, and I have SO enjoyed getting to know you.

As this spending break winds down, I encourage you to drop by your library and check out a good money book to read and reinforce the financial concepts we’ve been exploring this month.

These books have each inspired me develop better money habits:

“Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez was recommended by a former JMD participant, and it quickly became my favorite financial book. Through a series of essays and questions, the authors challenge us to delve deep into our spending habits and consider what we might be sacrificing by our lifestyle choices. Their message of money mindfulness resonated with me so much.

“The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko opened my eyes to the fact that most people who enjoy financial freedom generally don’t waste money trying to impress other people. They drive reliable cars, for example, and make careful spending decisions about major purchases. They build real wealth, and tend not to fritter their money away.

Finally, one of the most practical financial books I’ve read is “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. Dave is the founder of Financial Peace University, and I remember the first time I heard that phrase I took a deep breath and felt calmer. Financial peace…what a wonderful concept. Reading his no-nonsense advice was like having a trusted advisor take me by the shoulders and tell me exactly what I needed to do.

As you’ve probably gathered by reading this blog, I like things that are simple. That’s probably why Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps appealed to me so much. Dave recommends 7 steps to achieve financial peace, pursued in a very methodical order. With apologies to Mr. Ramsey, I have also taken the liberty of adding a few extra suggested steps to the list:

Dave Ramsey’s (and Eliza’s) Baby Steps

Eliza’s Baby Step 0.5: Start an emergency fund and build the balance to $100.

Eliza’s Baby Step 0.75: Start a separate Freedom Account to accumulate money for large annual bills. Save 1/12th of the total amount needed each month.

Dave’s Baby Step 1: Fund an emergency account with $1,000.

Eliza’s Baby Step 1.5: Start a separate savings account for a vacation fund. This is important!

Dave’s Baby Step 2: Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball method.

Dave’s Baby Step 3: Build 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings.

Dave’s Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Dave’s Baby Step 5: Save for college funding for your children.

Dave’s Baby Step 6: Pay off your house early.

Dave’s Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give.

How About You?

Do you agree with these steps? If so, which step are you currently working on? Because I bought a used car and took out a small loan in 2015, I’m simultaneously working on steps 2, 4 and 5.

Do you have any of your own steps or tips for achieving financial stability to add to the list? Do you have any other good money books to recommend for solid financial advice?

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross
P.S. If you have completed the 5 January Money Diet Challenges, be sure to leave a comment on each of the challenge pages (see links below). On Wednesday I’ll choose one lucky winner who will receive a January Money Diet gift box with a $35 Amazon gift card, cookbooks, and an assortment of fun household goodies.

Here are links to each of the Challenge pages:

Challenge #1 – Give 31 things away.

Challenge #2 – Figure your net worth.

Challenge #3 Do something to earn an extra $25 or more this month

Challenge #4 – Reduce one monthly expense

Challenge #5 – Open a savings account

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Weekend Home Curating Challenge

Less is the new more

Dear friends,

For the past six years, I’ve written a regular interior design feature called “Designing the West” for Western Art & Architecture magazine. I love talking with the talented designers and studying the beautiful spaces they create, and I’ve learned so much from these conversations.

With few exceptions, most of the rooms featured in home design magazines are open and uncluttered. People with great taste can often afford to fill their homes full of stuff (and some do), but most tend to opt for rooms that lean toward simplicity and serenity.

Many of the top designers I talk to invest in clean-lined, classic furniture of good quality and scale, appropriate for the size of the room.

They help their clients accessorize sparingly. With just a few well-chosen pieces, spaces look elegant and streamlined.

Here’s an example from the January 2017 issue of Western Art & Architecture, featuring a lovely dining room designed by Nina Magon, founder and creative director of Contour Interior Design. I love the simple slab table, the classic lines of the chairs, and the fresh flowers and simple pieces she placed on the table. The room is open and spare, with plenty of space around the furniture.

 

Dining room

Simplicity Adds Appeal

If you’ve ever browsed home listings on real estate websites, you may have noticed that the homes that are uncluttered look larger and more appealing. Cluttered spaces, on the other hand, can seem small and cramped.

Professional stagers are sometimes hired to declutter and spruce up spaces of homes for sale. The result? Realtors say that buyers offer a 1 to 5 percent increase on the value of a staged home.

The good news is that we can emulate this look in our own homes. We can edit our belongings. We can store things, and resist the urge to fill every surface of our homes with stuff.

Uncluttered rooms are also easier to clean, which will give us more time to relax and enjoy our homes.

As we wean ourselves off the January Money Diet, we will be confronted with shopping temptations. We will need to be strong! So let’s visualize our homes as beautiful, simple and spare when we are tempted to buy throw rugs or gyro snack bowls or Brookstone TV remote pillows.

A Weekend Challenge

To avoid spending during this final January Money Diet weekend, I’m going to continue decluttering and work on simplifying the look of some of our rooms. I have another load of stuff to drop off at the ARC to complete Challenge #1 of giving away 31 things. I’m also going to clean surfaces and edit some of our accessories.

Would you like to join me?

If you do any streamlining or editing of your stuff, or work on any of the other challenges, we’d love to hear your experiences. I have thoroughly enjoyed your many wonderful comments and ideas throughout the diet!

Enjoy this final weekend of simplicity and saving, and you’ll hear from me again on Monday.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

7 Small But Important Money Tasks to Tackle

Tend to your finances | Happy Simple Living blog

Dear friends,

These final days of the January Money Diet are perfect for taking a little time to review some important details related to our finances. These are some suggestions:

1. Lock Everything Down

In both the online and physical realms, do all you can to protect yourself from theft and fraud. Do you have super-duper tough, unique passwords for each and every one of your financial accounts? A password program can help you choose and store complex passwords; I use the free version of LastPass.

If you keep confidential financial documents in a file cabinet, is it locked? Do you have copies of your important papers and financial account numbers scanned and securely stored?

2. Review Your Credit Report

Check your credit report and make sure there are no errors. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. It just takes a minute to order your free copy at annualcreditreport.com.

3. Set Up an Automatic Savings Plan

If you do nothing else this year, set an automatic savings deduction. This is the easiest, most painless way to grow wealth and I promise you’ll be glad you did it. Start with just $10 or $20 a month if that’s all you can afford. If you can start now and gradually increase the amount as your income increases, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save.

4. Rebalance the Investment Mix in Your Retirement Accounts

Most financial experts suggest checking your targets at the beginning of every year, and rebalancing your investments when your balances veer more than five percentage points from the targets.

5. Consider Hiring a Financial Advisor

Do you feel confident in your own abilities to manage your money, or could you benefit from professional advice? If you decide to hire an advisor, I recommend working with a fee-only expert who doesn’t receive commission for investing your money. You can find one through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

If you have an advisor, do you feel confident that this person is carefully monitoring your investments and has your best interests at heart? If not, it’s time to have a conversation about your goals and expectations. Or perhaps it’s time to make a change and find just the right person to help you achieve your objectives.

6. Make Sure You’re Adequately Insured

When our roof was damaged in a hail storm, I discovered my policy covered the actual (depreciated) value of the roof, not the replacement value. How did I miss this important distinction? The result was that I had to spend months getting bids, disputing the insurance adjuster’s initial claim and fighting for a fair settlement. Despite paying thousands of dollars in premiums over the years, I still had to pay nearly $4000 out of pocket toward the roof.

Learn from my mistake! Schedule a call with your insurance agent and ask to go though your policy coverage. Ask questions, and make sure that you understand exactly what is covered and what isn’t. You don’t want to pay for coverage you don’t need, but you also don’t want to be under-insured.

Another lesson I learned the hard way:  if you have a 16-year-old driver hitting the roads this year, purchase an auto insurance policy with the lowest deductible amount you can get. Higher deductibles make sense for more mature drivers with a history of safety. Trust me on this.

7. Review Your End-of-Life Plans

Have you created a will? If not, put this on your 2017 ‘To Do’ list. You can find online resources to do it yourself, but a good estate attorney can make sure everything is done according to the laws in your state and also help you create documents like a health care proxy and durable power of attorney if needed.

If you have a will, it’s a good idea to review it at least once a year to make sure it still reflects your wishes. Have you designated the right person to be executor of your estate or make decisions for you in case you become incapacitated? Also, review the beneficiaries of your investment accounts and life insurance policies to make sure this information is up-to-date.

You may also want to create a Living Will, with instructions for your care in case of a terminal illness. I used the online form at 5 Wishes to create mine, and the cost was $5.00. You can also find a living will form at www.caringinfo.org.

How About You?

Are there things on this list you can tackle this week? If you have other financial tasks to add to this list, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the Comments section of this page.

The January Money Diet will officially end next Tuesday, and I can’t believe how quickly the month has passed. You’ll hear from me again tomorrow, with a challenge to keep us all focused and strong during the last weekend of the month.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

20 Great Foods You Can Make From Scratch

Make Something by Hand | January Money Diet

 

Dear friends,

It’s already January 25, and we have just seven days left in the January Money Diet — a week to stay focused and finish strong!

Here’s a fun challenge:  make something from scratch that you might normally buy at the store. You’ll save money and have complete control over the quality of ingredients.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Graham crackers

English muffins

Granola

Greek yogurt

Bagels

Chocolate Truffles

Tortillas

Dim Sum

Pita bread

Latte

Donuts

Gingersnaps

Barbecue Sauce

Hummus

Pizza

Spaghetti Sauce

Ricotta Cheese

Bread

 

How About You?

If you make something from scratch this week, will you leave a comment on this page let us know what you create?

If you’re on Pinterest you can check out all these foods and more on my “Foods From Scratch” board.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Challenge #5 – Open a Savings Account

Open a savings account | January Money Diet

Dear friends,

During the January Money Diet we’re tackling 5 challenges to strengthen our relationship with money. In case you missed them, the other four challenges are:

Challenge #1 – Give 31 things away.

Challenge #2 – Figure your net worth.

Challenge #3 Do something to earn an extra $25 or more this month

Challenge #4 – Reduce one monthly expense

Your fifth challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to take the money you earned during Challenge #3 and open a savings account. Even if you already have a savings account, you may wish to consider opening another. Read on…

How a Savings Account Can Help You Avoid a Credit Calamity

There are two scenarios that have gotten me in trouble, debt-wise.

The first is having a large, unplanned expense. The worst example was when our main sewer line broke and I had to come up with $7400 to replace the line.

The second is paying for travel with a credit card.

We belong to a credit union that allows us to open as many accounts as we like at no charge. Having dedicated accounts for different needs has worked well for us, and it might help you, too.

First things first:

Step #1 – Open an Emergency Savings Account

The one certainty, for each of us, is that unplanned things will happen that cost money. We want to do extraordinary things with our money and live debt free, but to support those goals we each need an emergency savings account. Otherwise we’ll be scrambling, and risk losing the momentum we’ve worked so hard to build.

How much do you need to set aside? That will vary depending on your situation. Dave Ramsey recommends first establishing a $100 emergency account, and then building it to $1000. My health insurance annual deductible is $1950, so I need to account for that, too. Suze Orman recommends setting aside six months of income so that you can withstand a job loss, and that makes sense, too.

Step #2 – Open a Freedom Account

Our Freedom Account is where I stash a set amount of money each month for once-a-year expenses like insurance, taxes and HOA fees.

One tip – if you have large annual expenses, explore whether your vendor offers the option to pay monthly. My life insurance company just started offering this service, and now I have a small amount automatically deducted each month and no longer have a bigger annual bill.

Step #3 – Open a Vacation Account

Once you take this step, I think you’ll love having a dedicated vacation account. I began funding ours with $50 a month. What it meant was that when Southwest advertised airline tickets for $79, the money was already there and we could pounce on the deal. We saved about 10% by prepaying for our hotel and rental car from the Vacation Account, too. Then all I had to budget for was daily expenses. The result was zero credit card debt after our last trip.

Make It Inconvenient

The credit union where we keep our savings accounts is not connected to my regular bank, and I don’t have a checking account there. I declined the free debit card they offered me. When I want to withdraw money, I have to drive over there and talk with a human to get it.

This is an important key for me! While my regular bank offers a savings account connected to my checking account, it’s too convenient to transfer the funds electronically and therefore the money never really accumulates. Having an inconvenient savings account makes it tougher to get the money out, and I need that.

Some may argue that savings accounts pay pitifully small interest rates, and while this is true it doesn’t matter much if you’re just saving a few thousand dollars for short-term use. As your balance grows, you can transfer the money away to another inconvenient place that pays a higher interest rate.

Safe and Sound

The credit union’s interest rates are a little better than the bank’s, but the real appeal for me is that the account is FDIC-insured and the principal is not affected by the economy or market fluctuations.

The credit union doesn’t charge monthly fees, and the nice folks there will happily open as many savings accounts as I like with a $25 minimum balance.

Both of my children have learned about saving money with their credit union accounts, and the credit union gave my daughter her first car loan when she was 16.

For simple, short-term savings, I’m a big fan of the credit union. If you’re interested in joining a credit union, you can learn more and find one at MyCreditUnion.gov.

Make It Automatic

When I worked for the publishing company, I arranged to have a set amount withdrawn from each paycheck and sent directly to a savings account. If your company offers this benefit, I highly recommend it as a painless way to build real wealth. If it seems impossible, start with a small amount. You’ll love seeing that balance grow, and with time you’ll be able to increase the amount.

I started having just $25 withdrawn from each bimonthly paycheck, which added up to $600 a year. I eventually eased that up to $50 a paycheck after my next raise, and then $100, until eventually I was having $200 a check sent to my savings account — which added up to a nice $4800 a year. The funny thing is, I really didn’t miss the money — as long as it didn’t have a chance to pass through my fingers.

Now that I’m self-employed, I budget for savings each month and pay the amount just like a bill. It takes a little more self discipline, so having an inconvenient place to stash the savings really helps.

Challenge #5 – Open or Fund a New Account with at Least $25

Your challenge between now and January 31, if you choose to accept it, is to take the money you earned during Challenge #3 and open a savings account in a place where you can’t easily transfer the money back to your main account. If you don’t currently have an emergency account, you may wish to earmark the fund for unplanned expenses. If you do have a funded emergency account, you may wish to set up an account for another purpose. And if you have all the accounts you need, deposit at least $25 this month.

Remember, everyone who completes all five challenges will be entered to win a special prize at the end of the month.

Once you’ve accomplished this task, leave a comment on this page so we can cheer for you!

If you already have an inconvenient savings account, or another system for managing unplanned expenses, we’d all LOVE to hear your strategies and thoughts.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

It Pays to Take Care of Yourself

Nurture health

Dear friends,

All the money in the world won’t buy good health.

For any of us who have ever experienced an injury, pain, or sickness, we know how it feels to wake up unwell and think we’d give anything — anything — for a normal, healthy, pain-free day.

Many of us are juggling a million things right now, and sometimes taking care of ourselves can fall to the bottom of the list. But really, self-care deserves to be one of our very top priorities.

The good news is that most of the ways we can nurture our health don’t cost a penny!

10 ways to care for your one-and-only precious body

1. Get a good night’s sleep. Here are my 7 natural ways to enjoy better slumber.

2. Exercise each day. In the morning while I’m waiting for the coffee to heat, I do stretches. During the day I walk as often as possible, ride my bike, and use resistance bands and weights to build muscle strength. When it’s cold and snowy outside, I run the stairs. Working out doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.

3. Eat nutrient-rich foods for a strong immune system and healthy bones. The fewer processed foods, preservatives and chemicals we consume, the better our bodies will feel. We owe it to ourselves to eat as many good foods as possible.

4. Drink water. Staying hydrated helps us look and feel better, and reduces headaches and fatigue. Research has shown that drinking water before a meal may even help maintain a healthy weight. If you’re busy and have a hard time remembering to drink water throughout the day, you might benefit from an app like Waterlogged or Water Drink Reminder,

5. Floss your teeth. Dental problems are no fun, and flossing is an easy way to care for our teeth and gums. This simple act has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which might even reduce rates of cancer and other diseases. Let’s floss our teeth today — I challenge you!

6. Have some down time, every day. Meditate. Take a warm bath. Pray. Read. Think. Listen to music. Watch the grass grow.

7. Limit time interacting with digital devices. We all can feel it in our brains when we’ve been online too much, don’t you agree? Push away from the computer. Power off the TV. Unplug from social media for a while. Engage with the real world.

8. Stimulate your brain. Practice your favorite hobby. Write a poem. Do a crossword puzzle. Learn something new.

9. Go outside. Take a walk. Get fresh air. Enjoy whatever today’s weather brings. Notice the world around you.

10. Seek balance. Have you ever gotten sick at the worst possible time? I used to sometimes wake up sick on Christmas morning, because I’d been trying to do too much. Our bodies will complain, and sometimes even shut down, when things are out of whack. A more balanced life will ultimately give us the energy to do the things we really want to.

Let’s agree to honor our health, and make caring for ourselves a higher priority.

How about you?

What can you do today to better care for yourself? Do you have things to add to my list above? I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies for living a healthier life.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Congratulations to Peggy, winner of the book The Prosperous Heart–Creating a Life of “Enough” by Julia Cameron. I used Random.org to choose a winner from among everyone who commented on the Mid-Month Check-In post. Thanks to all of you who shared your amazing money diet progress stories. You inspire us all!

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Explore Your Local Library This Month

Visit your library | January Money Diet

Dear Friends,

Today’s challenge is to visit your local library. As you may know, libraries have evolved into places that do so much more than lend books. We live just a few blocks from a wonderful public library, and even though we visit every week I keep finding new offerings. Your neighborhood library can be a rich source of entertainment and education…and best of all, everything is free.

Just the basic process of checking out a book has evolved. If I’m interested in a book, I don’t even need to change out of my pajamas. I simply visit my library’s website and search the book title. Often, I can check out and instantly download an eBook. Otherwise, I can reserve a hard copy of the book. Our library sends us an e-mail when the book is ready to be picked up.  I also borrow movies, CDs and current magazines from my library.

From High Tech to Home Tech

A couple months ago, my son and I had the opportunity to experience the dizzying wonder of Google Glass firsthand, when a librarian had a pair of the smart eyeglasses for patrons to try. Currently, the library has a 3-D printer set up so that people can try making their own three-dimensional plastic objects. Our library also loans other high-tech gizmos like Nooks and Go-Pro cameras.

When my computer died a few years ago, I went to the library and used one of their free computers until mine was fixed. When my daughter was shopping for a used car, she borrowed Consumer Reports magazine and researched the most reliable makes and models. Our library offers a delightful kids’ library and a summer reading program, free classes on a variety of subjects, meeting and study rooms, and regular art exhibits.

Last year our library partnered with our local power company to loan out portable power meters. We were able to borrow a meter to plug into home appliances and learn how much energy we’re using. You may want to check with your utility company or library to see if a similar lending program is in place.

Free Seeds to Grow Food

Some libraries even “lend” seeds to grow fruits and vegetables! Patrons borrow a packet of seeds, and at harvest time gather the seeds from the most robust produce and return those seeds so the library can lend them out to others.

The Basalt Library here in Colorado is doing such a program, and users report much success with the seeds they’re planting because they’ve already proved hardy in the mountain town’s short growing season. Some libraries are even lending gardening spades and shovels; the Oakland Public Library has 3500 tools for loan.

How About You?

Your challenge is to explore your public library and see what’s new. You could also visit your library district’s website and check out the online offerings. Be sure to let us know if discover something new and surprising at your library!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.