We've been talking a lot these days about the expense of the back to school season, which can give your wallet a hit even if you are buying super cute things. The list of school mandated supplies, as well as new socks and underwear for growing bodies can have you thinking that even public school is mighty spendy. These are the times when it's more important than ever to be grateful for the things that don't cost a cent. It's far too easy to get caught up in the flurry of we need this! we want that!, but when you look around at the stuff money can't buy, you realize you've got the important stuff covered.
1. That look your dog gives you. You know those sad, loving eyes? Heart-melting, right?
2. Kindness. Random acts make the world go 'round. Offering your seat to someone, holding the door, smiling--these are the things that separate us from the animals. And perhaps best of all, it feels as good to give as it does to get.
3. A library card. Hardbacks break the bank, and you're always "accidentally" dropping $20 a month on iTunes. That's why I remind you, my friend, of the library. Check out every single volume in the Millennium Trilogy, borrow When Harry Met Sally for the fortieth time, and have access to all the Charles Mingus albums in the world, all for free.
4. Nature walks. Not only does research show that being outdoors lowers blood pressure and can zap your stress levels, but it just feels so dang good. The rhythms of the natural world are slower, and being around them taps us into the big picture of life.
5. Flirting. It doesn't matter if it's with your longtime sweetie pie, a new charmer in your life, or the bright-eyed barista at your local coffee shop, the rush we get from a bit of witty, smiley banter is unmatched.
6. Time. Forget your Roth IRA and your 401k. Time is the most valuable asset each of us has. How are you going to invest it?
7. Hot baths. Sometimes the only thing that can get you through the day is knowing that eventually, you'll be able to sink up to your neck in hot water and let your troubles just float away.
8. Naps. In a hammock or on top of clean sheets with the sun coming through the window just so. Heaven.
9. Silence and solitude. You can't turn off the world, but those gem-like moments when things get quiet, or you find yourself blissfully alone make the wait worth it.
10. Street musicians. One minute you're walking along, late for work and composing your grocery list in your head, the next you're listening to a great cover of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
11. Old friends. They knew you when you had that terrible haircut and wore the world's least flattering jeans. They take your phone calls at 2AM, give you those wipe-the-tears-away laughs, and keep all your secrets under lock and key.
12. New friends. They haven't heard that story about you and the ice skating fiasco too many times yet, and there's a buzz of excitement as you hang on each other's words and feel the spark of a fresh connection.
13. A good night's sleep. You might have to rearrange your schedule and let the dishes wait until tomorrow to make it happen, but you it's nothing that fishing in your wallet can make happen.
14. Knowing just who you are. Sure, you could buy hours of therapy to help you figure out who you are, what makes you tick, and how you can feel good about yourself. But all you really need is the will, a bit of reflective time, and maybe a pencil. That's all it takes to know just who you are and just what you want. Oh, and maybe numbers 11 and 20.
15. Spring. Every year we start doubting that it will ever finally happen, and every year those white blossoms take our breath away.
16. The things kids say. Like, randomly telling you you're so pretty, or asking that you name your next kid Frankenstein. It just never gets old.
17. Saying sorry and forgiving. Admitting we were wrong stings, but it also allows us let go of our guilt. And to forgive someone for their mistakes is to give yourself a break as much as it is a favor to your friend: you get to put down that very heavy load of resentment you've been hauling around.
18. Kissing and stuff. Enough said.
19. Confidence. It doesn't come from a new top or a pair of shoes you've been drooling over. But you already know that. It comes from right inside.
20. Family. Heaven knows they drive us nuts from time to time, but the sense of community that comes from being part of this unit is deep. We come from somewhere; these people love us, even when they hate us. In the timeless words of Caroline Manzo, "We are as thick as thieves."
21. Dance parties. It could be a party of one or a jammed, sweaty dance floor, but letting go of your inhibitions and dancing to Aretha like no one is watching is pretty much one of the best things ever.
22. Feeling understood. You know that scene in Avatar when the blue lady places her hand on the hero's chest and says, "I see you"? It's one of the most powerful feelings on earth.
23. Sunset, sunrise. Admission is free to the most amazing light show on earth.
24. Bedtime. Whether you're tucking a little person in and kissing them on the forehead, or slipping into your own bed after a too-long, too-hard day, these are the quietest, sweetest moments of the day, and they're absolutely priceless.
25. Knowing you've done your best. Life can be wicked hard. But the feeling of pride and self-satisfaction that comes from putting your best foot forward day after day feels about a four million times better than a massage.
Obviously, there's a world of free, meaningful pleasures out there. Keep it rolling! What else is priceless?
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