A Budget Balanced by Bread

Economics was a required course, so I of course took it. Passing it was also accomplished, yet someday someone will have to explain to me why inflation is required. Inflation manages to negate a not so bad salary that only needs to cover one plus a cat. The only reason I need more money is because everything costs more each year — rent, air conditioning, internet, cute flats, creamy cheddar cheese…frugal living stops adding up in this equation. The answer, I suppose, is that inflation is a sign of growth. But, then I wonder why growth is necessary.

Growth doesn’t have to mean improvement. Evolution doesn’t either — just as a side, yet related, definition.

Penny-pinching has been a part of my life for so many years that spending money always leaves me feeling guilty. After a spree of financial indulgence my only option is to scrounge meals from the kitchen after a day of free fun. Fortunately there are options:

Seeing a show. Goodwill holds live auctions every Saturday at 4 p.m. At least that’s the time of the one near me — check your local listings. Bidding is not required. What’s best is to stand off to the side not moving and watch the action.

Eating out. Grocery stores provide free samples to entice purchases, but they don’t check. Whole Foods is probably the best for getting a gourmet multi-course meal. Start at the produce aisle for your fruits and vegetables, make your way to the pre-packaged goods, then wash it down with a thimble tumbler or two of wine. The carnivores out there can get a main course at the meat aisle. Finally, head to dairy for the cheese course and finish with dessert in the bakery section.

Dinner and a show. Austin Community College almost always has something big going on. Most events are advertised on the school’s website or by flyer on campus. However, the easiest way to be in the know is to get on their email list. This would require enrollment in a class at some point, but while the class is only for a semester the emails can be indefinite. To top it off, flash that student ID at places all around town — from movie theaters to thrift stores the savings add up.

Shopping. The Austin Public Library is the best place for free shopping in Austin. Whether you’re looking for a new book, magazine, DVD, hair accessory, terrarium or more you can find it here. The best part is they also offer no hassle returns during the first three weeks.

Salads and old bread for dinner. A little of this and a little of that get along when mixed with a bit of lettuce. Old bread becomes palatable as a fried bread and vegetable patty. The recipe for that comes from watching Jacques Pepin on late night KLRU Create TV. This station is only available to those who employ rabbit ears to watch free television.

There are lots of advertised free events happening in Austin, but these lesser known avenues always give me a little extra thrill. Finding the event that no one knows about…until now…feels so much more extravagant.

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