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The Best Things in Life Are... Free?

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BEST THINGS

Ah, Money.

Money. It's something we all need. Whether you work for it, inherited it, saved for it, married into it, won the lottery, or some combination thereof, when you start to inch toward midlife, just make sure you have a plan so there's some left over for you to live on... and enjoy.

Financial issues can be complicated, frustrating and emotionally charged, but dealing with these things now will ensure that we're not scrambling in the future. These days we're facing global economic circumstances that aren't terribly reassuring, as well as more personal financial concerns -- aging parents, college expenses for those of us who still have kids in school, and the precariousness of our own careers as we get older.

House of Cards

For decades, though, so many of us have spent time -- and usually too much money -- on acquiring more stuff than we could possibly ever need or use, often generating more debt than we could handle. Getting credit was too easy, and a lot of us took advantage.

Are You an Ant or a Grasshopper?

This was a reality for many people in the baby boomer generation, and even those of us who were more like Aesop's fabled ants -- spending the summer busily gathering up food for the winter while the grasshopper basked in the sun -- saw our personal savings drop when the financial freefall started in 2008. The grasshopper lives for today; the ant plans for tomorrow. Most of us have both the ant and the grasshopper fighting it out inside our heads. But, after 50, tomorrow is fast becoming today. So how do we stop the battle, and take charge of our finances and our lives right now?

Consider this simple idea: stop spending and start saving.

Stop Spending and Start Saving

In "The Best of Everything After 50," there are tips on how to follow through on this idea, especially on how best to save, in the chapter on money -- "Money: Strategies for Simplifying Your Finances" -- based on interviews I had with some of the worlds most respected authorities including Jane Bryant Quinn and Jason Zweig. Many people, though, have a much more difficult time keeping the wallet safely inside the pocket. Slowing down your spending is not easy, especially when living in a country where there's an overabundance of choices, and a media constantly flashes messages -- subliminal and otherwise -- trying to convince us to keep up with the Joneses.

The Best Things In Life Are Free?

A few days ago I walked past a store, and there was a t-shirt in the window with these words splashed across the front: "The Best Things In Life Are Free." When I got home, I made a list of all the things that are truly meaningful and important to me, and are absolutely free. Of course, my love for, and from, my family and friends are top of the list, but there are so many wonderful, enjoyable, meaningful "free things" that are essential to my well-being and happiness, that, short of my basics (food, clothing, shelter) I could probably put my credit cards away forever.

Here's a "The Best Things In Life Are Free" Starter List:

Love -- the love you give and the love you get.
Your Faith -- whatever it is, it is yours to follow.
Your Conscience -- During the reign of King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More followed his conscience -- to his death -- and stood behind what he believed was right. Only you can look yourself in the mirror every night at the end of every day and tell yourself that you truly did the right thing, according to your own conscience, and you didn't let anyone persuade you otherwise.
Your Thoughts -- whether you choose to share them, or keep them to yourself.
Happiness -- In most cases, we can choose to live our lives in a state of happiness with moments of unhappiness (it's the rare person who can be happy 24/7), or we can choose to be unhappy with moments of happiness.
Laughter -- Laugh every day, because no matter what's going on in the world or in your life, you can find a little humor in just about everything.
Compassion -- Be tender of heart, and the world will be a better place.
Reading -- Go to a library and check out a book or magazine, or borrow from a friend.
Walking -- I started a walking program a few years ago, and eventually added running into the mix. You can do this anytime, anywhere. The only cost is a pair of running or walking shoes. You'll be exercising your body, and your mind.
Push-ups and Sit-ups: These are two of the most basic, and yet effective, exercises you can do (20 of each every day), and they are absolutely free.
Singing -- Even when my two teenaged daughters roll their eyes at me, I sing pretty much whenever I feel like it, which is quite often.
Central Park -- It's one of my personal "Great Wonders of the World" but there are community parks everywhere for us to enjoy.
Eating Healthy Foods -- True, it's not free, but choosing to eat healthy foods costs no more than eating unhealthy foods.
Sex -- Engaging in a loving, intimate relationship with your partner is one of the most beautiful expressions of love I can imagine.
Attitude -- My article last week was about feeling invisible -- "Feeling Invisible? HuffPost Readers Speak Out" -- but even that is a choice. Choose living your life with a good, positive attitude, and without fear.

There are free concerts, lectures, tastings (wine and food), and so many other wonderful ways to enjoy life . . . at no cost, and in my ongoing effort to "spend less and save more," I'm always on the lookout for great ideas.

What is your "The Best Things in Life Are Free?" list?

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Staying connected is a powerful tool: "Friend" me on Facebook, and "tweet" me on Twitter (@BGrufferman). For more information about "The Best of Everything After 50," and to read my blog, please visit my website: www.bestofeverythingafter50.com.

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