You know, life’s about two things: money and happiness.  OK, a lot of money is happiness, but in these tough times, you don’t have to go without one just because you don’t have the other.  Here are some of the best ways to live on $20,000 per year or less and actually be happier, or at least the better off for it.


1. Get a Roommate.

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The financial benefit is you save as much as you can on rent. About the only way to do better is to own the place.  The happiness benefit is that if your roommate is cool, you’re not alone.  Sure, being alone sometimes is nice, but it’s also great to have a nice, upbeat, easy going, happy roommate around. There, we just wrote your Roomster “looking for a roommate” ad.


2. Eat Cheap Healthy.

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You hear, or maybe just believe, that poor people can’t afford healthy food, like vegetables and fresh fruits.  The New York Time’s Mark Bittman blew the lid off that old chestnut back last September when he looked into the claim that unhealthy fast and highly processed food was cheaper than all the stuff we should eat — “[that] is just plan wrong,” he says, and the Washington Post’s Katherine Mangu-Ward says that 93% of people that live in “food desert” locations (i.e., areas with a high proportion of junk food joints) have a lot of access to vegetables and fresh fruits.

So, buy and eat your veggies rather than having a quarter pounder with a side of Cheetos.  The financial benefit is you’ll save on food costs and the happiness benefits is the sound of your arteries hardening at night won’t keep you awake.


3. Go vintage,

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but not that rich person’s vintage store on Madison Avenue. Go to a real honest-to-goodness consignment or thrift shop.  It takes a bit of research to find them, but once you do, you can find used designer stuff for a fraction of its market price. The financial benefit is you save on clothes and the happiness benefit is people will think you’re cooler and more creative than they would if you were just wearing Gap.


4. Skip the midtown bar scene

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and other expensive forms of distracting yourself.   Instead, check out books and DVDs from your local library.  Play WOW on the weekends (that’s only, what, around 20 bucks a month?) instead of shoveling out 35 bucks for a crappy big action movie and some popcorn or spending 300 bucks hanging out in a bar that’s way too noisy slowly getting plowed.

OK, the last part doesn’t sound too bad, but – still, think of all the money you’re saving, and you can still meet someone of the opposite sex in WOW, except they’ll look like a mutant something or other and they’ll be trying to kill you but how is that so different from all your other past relationships? The financial benefit is you save on recreation costs, the health benefit is avoiding all that alcohol that’s killing your brain cells, and all the bar noise that is making you go prematurely deaf.


5. Can you say Staycation!
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Of course you can — you’re just under the weather, financially, not dumb. Besides, you know how many people are killed in cars traveling to places like Disney Land?  A lot (though it’s been kind of going down because of safer cars and people taking a staycation!).

Staycations are now quite popular. If you’re stuck on what to do, just Google “staycation ideas” and your town name and you’ll see page after page of great ideas. The financial benefit is you save money by not staying in hotels, eating at “Jimmy Deans,” and paying for all that gas and the health benefit is you won’t die trying to get to your vacation. Just stay home this year . . . and maybe next year too . . .