(ESL learners – click on the bolded words to see explanations and notes. Try the exercise at the bottom after! 🙂 )
We’re all, on a fundamental level, chasing the same exact thing: Happiness. Satisfaction. Fulfillment. Mental and physical wellbeing. Enjoyment.
(It may sound a bit selfish at first, but when you think about it, if the whole world could achieve this, there would be virtually no problems left in the universe — provided of course that we assume that true happiness cannot be achieved at the cost of hurting someone else).
Well, this is all great, but there’s just one problem: money.
They say happiness can’t be bought, but entertainment in nearly all its forms sure can — and, you could say, must.
Once upon a time, before money came to exist, people had to have had ways to enjoy themselves — what happened to these activities? Did they get left behind under some prehistoric rock? It seems like nowadays, the only ways that we socialize, spend our free time, or just relax, cost money. Going out with your friends? You’re probably going to go buy some drinks or food, or to a movie theatre, or shopping, or at least for a cup of coffee. Looking for a way to de-stress? The spa has many great services to offer, with a pricetag of course. Even in our free time, we are constantly consuming — music, movies, TV, books, magazines, courses, etc.
I like to go out in between my classes or projects to experience the city I’m in. At a certain point, I realized that practically all of my outings revolved around buying food or drinks. It almost felt like I was constantly either earning money, or spending it. Money, money, money.
This has slowly started to drive me insane. We cannot possibly be such a consumerist society that any form of living comes with a cost!! But thankfully, it doesn’t. I thought about it a lot, I asked my friends, and I did some research, and I’ve put together 3 great ways that we can enjoy ourselves, at home or on vacation, without spending a single cent.
Get In Touch With Nature
Alright, if you want to use equipment such as a bicycle, roller skates, or camping gear, you will probably have to reach into your wallet to obtain it (unless you have some generous nature-loving friends who can lend you their stuff).
But we also have these amazing tools called feet! You can use them to stroll around the streets and gaze at the beautiful architecture that is around you, or do some trekking surrounded by a forest, mountains, or flowery meadows.
If you’re not big into nature, before you write this one off, just know that in addition to this being a very low-cost way to spend your time, studies show that being in nature is a significant benefit for nearly everything regarding your health, from lower blood pressure to boosted creativity and even a decreased risk of cancer.
Find Another Human
How did people function before we had Google, video games, or phones? Oh, that’s right. We were forced to talk to each other! And not just when we were getting food or doing business — all day. For work AND play.
I think the number one obstacle to having meaningful human interactions is… well, everything. We are too distracted. Our modern lives are so complicated, and we always have something on our minds. In the middle of our conversation, we might pick up our phone, or wonder about that job application we sent in, or how the stock market is doing, or what the newest episode of that show we love will be about, or one of a million other things.
In reality, it’s humans who write your favorite shows and books, who create the products you buy, who make decisions that affect your life — who run the world as we know it, basically. Think about it — what would the world look like without humans? It wouldn’t have 95% of what occupies our brain during our normal day. Giving undivided attention to humans is going to the very root of nearly everything that interests us.
Find The Real “Free” Stuff
Thankfully, there are still lots of free things left in today’s world, we just might forget some of them sometimes! Here are a couple ideas:
- Get some library books (they may not be as shiny or smell as good as brand-new books, but second-hand books have a life of their own. Each pair of hands that has held and flipped through the pages has its own story, and I like to think that the more worn out a book is, the more essence it has, from having mingled with so much more life.)
- Listen to some podcasts. Unlike most movies, books, and TV shows, podcasts are actually legally free.
- Read some blog articles on topics you want to learn about.
- Make use of the things you already own! Our houses are full of stuff that we once decided to spend our money on. That money is gone, but in most cases, the usefulness of the object isn’t yet.
- Borrow items from friends! If your house filled with stuff is not enough, rest assured, the planet is full of them.
At the end of the day, there is no problem with spending money. It’s practically impossible to avoid, and spending money in itself is not unhealthy or bad.
But like everything in life, I believe there is a healthy balance that lies in the middle of two extremes, and in that spirit, it may be good to include a few frugal activities in our day-to-day lives.
ESL Notes (15 words / expressions)
sure can: this is a way to emphasize. It means something like “definitely can”. It’s used much more frequently than “definitely can”, possibly because it’s easier and quicker to say. (Back to the text)
gear: equipment used to do a particular activity, usually this will be sports since they often use equipment. Common examples are fishing gear and camping gear. You can also say sports gear, surfing gear, etc. (Back to the text)
to write something off: to decide that something is not important, or will not be successful. You can also write off a person. An example from Cambridge dictionary: “When he lost the election for governor, some observers wrote him off as a future candidate, but they were proven wrong.” (Back to the text)
to boost: to improve or increase. In this cased, “boosted” is the adjective form, so it means “improved” or “increased”. In Canada, there is a fruit smoothie company called “Booster Juice”, which advertises juices that will increase your health, energy and well-being. Here are more examples from Cambridge Dictionary:
- The magazine misreported its sales figures in order to boost advertising revenue.
- The boss gave the staff a pep talk this morning in an attempt to boost sales.
- The compliments she received after the presentation boosted her self-esteem.
- The successful branding and marketing of the new beer has already boosted sales and increased profits.
- More money is needed to boost the industry. (Back to the text)
to be on your mind: if something is on your mind, it preoccupies you, that is it’s a problem that you’re thinking about a lot. If a friend looks worried, you might ask, “You look worried – what’s on your mind?” (Back to the text)
to mingle: to mix or combine. In the context of social interactions, to mingle means to talk to other people, usually at a social event. For example: “You’ve been talking to Roger all evening – you really ought to be mingling with the other guests.” (Back to the text)
Want to start using these words and make sure you don’t forget them? Try this exercise! Think about these questions (discuss them with someone) or write down your answers, using the word or expression in your discussion or answer.
- When you were a child, did you like to chase birds or butterflies? Do you have any pet that likes to chase things? Do you think everyone should chase their dreams? (as in, try to achieve their dreams?)
- What is the last outing you went on? (note: the verb used with outing is to “go on” an outing. You can also take someone on an outing).
- Have you ever put together a photo album for a friend or family member? Have you ever put together a list of all your goals, dreams or ideas? Do you think it’s a good idea?
- Do you have any camping or fishing gear?
- Do you enjoy strolling around your city? Where do you enjoy strolling around the most? Would you prefer to stroll around the beach or a mountain?
- How often do you take the time to gaze at the sky? Do you do it during the day or during the night?
- Have you ever written off a restaurant or hotel because you read some bad reviews online? What are some reasons why you might write off (as a potential partner) someone you go on a date with?
- What helps you boost your creativity? Do you think drinking coffee is a good way to boost energy?
- What do you do if there’s something on your mind? Do you try to distract yourself, or do you try to deal with the problem? Can you usually tell if there’s something on one of your friends’ minds?
- When you’re at the bookstore, do you like to flip through books or do you just look at the cover?
- Do you have any clothing that you love but that is visibly worn out?
- When you stay at a hostel or a hotel, or at a resort on vacation, do you ever mingle with the other guests?
Feel free to try writing some more sentences, or a text, of your own to practice some more.
Thank you for reading! These ESL notes, links and exercises each take several hours to make, so if you found this useful, the kindest thing you can do is to like the post, leave a comment, or share with anyone who needs it. Have questions about any other words? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply! 🙂