Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Beat the Winter Blues Without Spending a Lot of Money

Beat the Winter Blues, Forget the Financial Troubles (at least for a day), and Go Have Some Fun

It's that time of year where every one gets a little anxious for winter to be over. We're tired of the cold, wet weather and we're ready to get out and go do something. And this winter's just a bit more dreary than many previous winters. The financial crisis is on every body's mind, and many of us have our own personal financial worries to deal with on top of the global economic mess that's way beyond our control.

Many of us have stayed cooped up inside most of the winter to avoid spending more money than we have to. We've scaled back on going out to dinner, going to the movies, or shopping for things we don't really need. We've even kept our winter vacation closer to home and shorter in duration, or skipped it altogether.

But with times as difficult as they are, it can be especially easy to fall into the winter doldrums. Snap out of hibernation - for the health and emotional well-being of you and your family. The lack of sunlight during short winter days makes our bodies respond by sleeping more, eating junk food, causes difficulty with mental concentration, lowered mood and energy level. And that can be a bad combination for Americans already dealing with the economic disaster we're facing today.

Most of us who have the "blahs" will feel better after spending a day in the sun. Spend as many days as you can in the sun. (But, if your winter depression is severe, be sure to seek medical advice.)

So, go outside and take in some fresh air and sunshine. Yes, I know it's winter time and it's cold outside. But even a ten-day weather forecast is fairly accurate so you can easily plan ahead to go out on afternoons that are expected to be bearable. And good winter gear will keep you warm on all but the wettest and windiest of days.

Here's a few ideas for beating the winter blues while spending very little money in the process. Okay, also a few pricey ideas that may be worth spending on.

Just go outside.
Take the family to the park. Pick a sunny day and head out there for a picnic, a hike, or a dog walk. Let the kids play on the jungle gym, or take them on a bike ride. Take some stale bread with you so you can feed the ducks or the geese. Really, anything you do will probably help you feel more lively if you've spent most of the winter sitting in the house.

If the ground is still covered in snow, then you already know what to do. Make a snowman, go sledding, build an igloo, or have a snowball fight. The last big snow we had, my son built a huge snow fort that was about five feet high and fifteen feet long. That mound of snow provided us with an arsenal of snowballs for a week after all the rest of the snow had melted away, and maximized our outdoor play time.

And if you're an active type that can spend some cash, try a traditional winter time sport - go skiing or snowboarding. It took a lot of convincing for me to try it for the first time. But once I did, I was hooked. Looking forward to my next ski trip is one of those things that keeps my mood up nearly all winter. And it doesn't even have to be a pricey mountain resort - all we have here is a rolling hill with man-made snow most of the time and it's still a great day every time.

How does your garden grow?
Probably not at all right now, but now is the perfect time to make plans and do a little clean up. Pick up trash or leaves that have blown into your yard. Remove the dead, dry sticks left over from last year's perennials to make way for fresh spring growth. Walk through the garden to get new inspiration on what to plant in the spring. Even if you don't follow through with your ideas, it's an enjoyable way to spend part of your afternoon outside.

Consider visiting a botanical garden if you live near a major city, those gardens are growing. They aren't free, but the admission is fairly reasonable considering the cost to keep up a massive greenhouse and all the exotic plants that grow there. You can spend the day surrounded by luscious greenery, beautiful flowers, and plenty of sunlight (or artificial light, but it gives you the same effect).

You can start your garden now if you have some indoor seed-starting equipment and the know-how. While grow lights can be expensive, they give your plants the best start and also have the benefit of providing the humans in the room with mood-elevating full spectrum light. Or skip the light and put your sprouted seedlings on a south-facing window sill. The emotional gratification (and the little extra sunlight) you get while nurturing them by the window will still help lift your spirits.

Organize a block party, or a simple get-together between your friendliest neighbors.
You won't have to drive anywhere and spend money on fuel, and you're going to eat at home anyway. So you might as well enjoy the outdoors and some social time while doing it. Have a fire pit going and roast hot dogs or fire up the grill and let everybody contribute something to the feast.

While outdoor events tend to be more popular during warmer seasons, you may be surprised at how many would welcome a gathering even this time of year. It's likely that many of your neighbors are also tired of being cooped up inside.

Luckily, I have great neighbors and these little social gatherings just seem to happen spontaneously - when one family goes outside, several others are sure to follow. Parents, kids, dogs, bikes, a trampoline, and some remote control cars and aircraft - it's a lot of fun for cheap (considering the toys are already paid for) and well worth bundling up for.

And if you just can't bear the cold, stay inside. But stay active.
Try waking up earlier so you can take advantage of every bit of sunshine available. Open your curtains and blinds to let in as much sunlight as possible. Get a DVD and start an exercise program. Start a hobby. Paint your walls. Organize your closets. Take your vitamins, especially Vitamin D3 - the body's natural production slows down when there isn't enough exposure to sunlight. Look into light therapy if you can't snap out of it. And finally, know that spring time will soon be on it's way.
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Saturday, 28 January 2023

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