9 frugal mood enhancers.

th1 9 frugal mood enhancers.Autumn is coming, sooner than I’d like to acknowledge. Although the days are still mild (50 to 60 degrees) the angle of the sun has changed, making its rays seem tentative and transitory. That is, when the sun can be seen – it’s been raining a lot, too.

Where you live might still feel summery right now, but you know the change in seasons is coming. Those of you who live in places where the seasons don’t alter that much can go ahead and feel supremely lucky, or downright smug if you like. The rest of us will come up with such coping mechanisms as are necessary to get us through the transition.

Or through the season itself: Winter can be challenging both physically and emotionally. I’ll be pulling out the seasonal affective disorder light box eventually. Right now we’re leaning on a handful of things that make us feel better and don’t cost very much. In fact, some of them cost nothing at all.

1. Open the windows. Do this while you still can! Even if it’s raining I open the windows just a bit, to get some air moving and to fill the house with the smell of rain. Yes, I know it doesn’t have a fragrance as such but the world smells lovely during a shower. This might not work for everyone, e.g., someone with severe allergies or someone in the middle of a Phoenix dust storm.

2. Hang your bedding outdoors. Again, not the best idea if you’re experiencing a lot of grit or live next door to a lutefisk factory. But when there’s a little sun we throw the comforter, blankets and pillows outside. If you don’t have a clothesline, drape the bedding over a drying rack or a balcony railing. How lovely to go to sleep inhaling the fragrance of that day’s sun and wind.

3. Take a walk. Even if it’s just around the block, the change in scenery has a surprisingly big impact. And if it’s drizzling, so much the better: I’m happy to come back into a house that had started to feel a little claustrophobic.

4. Funny animals. You just knew I’d bring up cat photos, didn’t you? But it doesn’t have to be LOLCats. Just do a Swagbucks search for “funny (whatever animal you love) pictures.” Myself, I find both blobfish and pink fairy armadillos pretty giggle-inducing. There’s just something inexplicably hilarious about pink animals.

Deviled eggs, rubber ducks

5. Scalp massage. Much more fun if someone does it for you, but rubbing your own head (or at least your temples and forehead) is very relaxing. If it’s invigoration you need, try a brisk hair-brushing.

6. Tidy up. A cluttered living space can lead to disorganized thinking, depression or maybe even a minor household accident. You don’t have to scrub the floor with a toothbrush, but having a cleaner, well-organized place will lift your spirits. On that note…

7. Cook something cheap and tasty. A skillet of cornbread, a pot of black bean chili, a plate of deviled eggs, a batch of oatmeal cookies – all inexpensive and delicious ways to perfume the house and whet appetites.

8. Read! Take time away from all the things you think you have to do and sit down with a good book, or wade through your pile of unread magazines.

9. Take a hot bath. Hydrotherapy is terrific, especially if you have lavender-scented bubble bath and a couple of rubber ducks. (I’m told.)

Okay, readers: What are your favorite frugal mood enhancers?

Related reading:


  1. 1) chocolate
    2) sitting/lying in my swing (over 6′ long)
    3) watching my 2 hens
    4) reading
    5) humor
    6) cooking
    7) making something with my hands or sewing

  2. You mentioned my favorite thing to do when the crisp fall weather arrives – open the doors and windows. I love the breeze and the smell of September air.

  3. 1. My dog
    2. organizing
    3. purging (from cleaning house)
    4. hanging the sheets/quilts to dry
    5. crafting/creativity
    6. listening to music
    7. sunshine and a cold glass of water :)

  4. Carolina Cooper

    1. read older entries on Surviving and Thriving–guaranteed to make me smile! (There IS someone else in the universe besides me who knows what Mainline lockjaw is and also says “down the shore” and knows what lutefisk is). Who knew!
    2. read the Burpee seed catalog and plan for spring planting
    3. buy yourself a bunch of flowers at the marked down rack in the supermarket
    4. start to plan a trip for when the weather is warmer
    5. if the cold, snow, ice, etc. is making you cranky, sit under that lamp and start a gratitude journal

    • Donna Freedman

      I agree wholeheartedly on tip #1. ;-)
      And oh, the seed catalogs…When I used to write about gardening for the Anchorage newspaper I learned just how important those catalogs were. They’d start arriving in late January and the recipients pored over them with gleaming eyes. I used to call them “garden porn.”
      At this moment I’m sitting in front of a lovely blaze in the fireplace insert, and the heat plus the dancing flames equal one huge mood-booster. We had a fire almost every evening last winter and what delightful evenings they were. Given all the wood we split and stacked, it will become a frugal mood enhancer this winter, too. Well, once we amortize the $100 wood-splitter rental.

      • Carolina Cooper

        You will never know how honored I feel that you responded to something I wrote, you Jersey girl. I am NOT a Jersey girl, but I was a Washington, DC transplant to Philly, where in the 1970s I attended Temple University. Now I live in New Hampshire and know plenty about cabin fever. Speaking of which, I have been thinking the last week or so that I wanted to write a heartfelt thank you note.
        For almost 3 weeks in August, I was housebound with a excruciating case of the shingles–terrible pain, only alleviated by narcotics. So, I could not drive. One day in a drug induced fog, I found Surviving and Thriving. I was home–someone who thinks like me!!! Thank you for existing Donna!!! I have followed you on MSN money blogs since the beginning, but only in my shingles pain did I find you on Surviving and Thriving. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the marvelous distraction from the shingles pain!!! You are the BEST!!!

        • Donna Freedman

          Ouch! My mom had shingles and she said it was the worst pain she ever had — and she’d had four kids, a couple of D&Cs and a hysterectomy that went septic. So sorry that you had to go through that.
          Glad you kept reading even after the drugs wore off. ;-) Hope you’ll browse the archives.

  5. I don’t know that I have a whole lot of ideas to supply, but I sure agree with your assessment. Just this past week I posted something on my Facebook page, after reading that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a bitterly cold and snowy winter, about how winter’s light kind of makes me feel like I’m dying inside. I read my post to my husband (who never understands what I feel like in the winter) and he just kind of rolled his eyes and thought that my words were a little over-the-top. But they weren’t- I really do feel that way. I’ve never had a lightbox, but I’m thinking pretty seriously about getting one. And I am noticing that our sunlight is definitely at a different angle in the sky now- do other people even notice such things?? I think that I am probably more aware than most simply because I dread what’s coming! Anyway, keep writing, and we’ll all keep encouraging one another. That’s always the best mood booster!! :-)

    • Donna Freedman

      Seasonal affective disorder is real. I strongly encourage you to get a light box. Just 20 to 30 minutes a day can make a big difference.
      Frugal tip: Before you buy, ask your insurance company if it will pay for the device if it’s recommended by a physician. It could happen! And if so, then talk to your doctor — no doubt s/he has heard about your symptoms (depression, fatigue, weight gain, difficulty waking up, et al.) over the years.
      Here are a couple of links to show your husband:
      From the National Institutes of Health:
      From the Mayo Clinic:
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment. And you’re right: It’s good to keep encouraging one another.

      • ImJuniperNow

        I can confirm that SAD is real, too.

        One long, dreary winter ago, while I was feeling particularly down, a friend took me to a pet store that had saltwater aquariums in the basement. I didn’t know it at the time, but all the tanks were lit by “natural” sunlight lamps. OMG – the effect was instantaneous. The baby sharks weren’t the only ones smiling!

        Help is out there. Get it.

  6. Today I have completed getting the yard ready for winter by pulling weeds, putting stuff away in the garage, and planting bulbs on my 4 acres. It’s fun to imagine what my yard will look like next spring.
    Purging my home of extras is next on my list as the husband has left for the last time. Painting and redecorating will be my winter chore–I will use bright colors, no taupes or greys for me! I am actually looking forward to a winter of studying, writing, and being with friends, lotsa tea and reading.

    • Donna Freedman

      Yep. Yesterday DF built a big square bed from scrap lumber and we filled it with compost, rotting leaves, steer manure and soil, then added strawberry plants that I rooted from runners. He’s also been burning brush and tidying up around the yard.
      Today we hope to pull the carrots and pressure-can them. It’s good to have the place looking more ready for winter, even though I am loath to let go of summer.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  7. **giggle** I first read “built a big square bed” and my mind went to a pillowed place for lounging indoors while the snow flies outside. Then got hit by “filled with compost, etc” and it sure took me aback for a second.

    I don’t know if it works in Alaska, but in northern Michigan, I used to mulch the heck out of my carrot rows, and could pull yummy, sweet carrots right into the new year.

  8. Nature sounds! The rainforest, flowing rivers, etc. are a great way to relax. There are tons of nature soundscapes on youtube and a pandora station too.

  9. Tammy Littlejohn

    My husband and I enjoy a variety of frugal activities. We both love to read. Sometimes we veg on the internet or we might read a book. We enjoy going to the library or bookstore to read books and magazines. We also love to cook. And because we love to eat, we take walks or bikeride to work off a few calories. Often the walk includes a stop at the local coffeehouse. We love to garden and planning the next venture while perusing the seed catalogs is exciting. We like to write, sing dance. We have done audio and video work. Radio ads are fun to do. I like to teach and we have considered doing educational videos for a winter project. My hubby and I have considered developing some of his ideas, I would like to patent a bunch of his ideas. But that is not exactly frugal … It could be a moneymaker. I have considered carrying a notebook to write every one of his ideas down. We aldo farm. We like to picnic in the living room. Blogging is enjoyable, although it can cost you money or make money for you. Watch the stars, birds. Go to free concerts at college. Go to free museum. Learn something new. Play with granchild. Paint. I love free activities…play in the rain. It is refreshing. The list goes on.

  10. Tammy Littlejohn

    Reading the Bible is the best mood enhancer. When I feel unhappy, fearful,unsure, even angry I like to read the Bible for guidance. It really uplifts my spirit. There are so many things I enjoy. But if ever I feel as if I don’t know what to do, I turn to God and pray for guidance. We can fill our lives with activities and hope for happiness. But true happiness comes from God. Without God, I would be lost.

    • Amen to that…so true for me as well. I often wonder how people get by without God in their life. I would be a mess.

  11. In my house, I get a combination of #1 and #4. My kitties are both indoor cats, but they LOVE it when I open the windows.

    So many smells. So many sounds. So many breezes to ruffle the whiskers…

  12. I think I will pin this. I get in a sour mood when fall sets in and it’s about here.

  13. I used to sit next to the bilirubin lights for jaundiced babies in the winter when I worked night shifts in the NICU. I found the lights quite helpful. So when I went back to school and spent hours in my office in the winter studying, I added full spectrum desk lamps. They made a world fo difference!

  14. I forgot to mention the obviously feel good mood enhancer that is very frugal, have sex.

  15. Knitting!

  16. My favorite perk of fall & winter is sitting in the hot tub in the backyard with a cup of coffee or my favorite glass of wine. We watch the birds frequent the feeder, and put on some relaxing music. This summer we added a pond to the yard, so that should add extra ambiance!

    • Donna Freedman

      Sometimes the folks in Interior Alaska will sit in a hot tub (or a hot spring) and have the temperature around their heads be 150 (or more!) degrees colder than the temps around their backsides. Brrrr….

  17. On a sidenote, would LOVE to have your recipe for skillet cornbread Donna! I’ve always made it in the oven, and it is truly one of my favorite fall foods…especially when I can get my hands on freshly ground corn meal. Pair it with a hot cup of Chili and a Husker Football Game on TV…gotta love Fall!

    • Donna Freedman

      This one’s made in the oven, too. It’s just a regular cornbread recipe adapted from a Betty Crocker Cookbook version (I use an extra egg and 1/3 cup of oil instead of 1/4, to make a more moist product) that I bake in a cast-iron skillet.
      I’ll be making some later today, in fact: DF took out a ham bone with a nice piece of meat left on it, and I put pinto beans to soak this morning. Mmmm…beans and cornbread.
      I can’t find freshly ground cornmeal, alas, so I buy mine from the health food bulk bins at the grocery store. The kind on the store shelf is not only more expensive, it’s degermed; I prefer my cornbread with a bit of grit. In fact, I sometimes substitute polenta-type cornmeal (also available in the bulk bins) for some of the regular cornmeal.
      Thanks for reading. Enjoy those chili-and-cornbread games.

  18. I have a playlist of Disney music I listen to if I’m down. How down can you be listening to seven dwarfs sing:)? Seriously put together a collection that makes you smile and hit the play button.

  19. Nita in southeast Michigan

    Movies on TV from the company that also sells greeting cards are what we watch with family because we like good, clean entertainment. Also like to go places together: visit family, out to eat, church on Sunday morning, even grocery shopping together which we first did when our children were babies and they are 34, 30, 28 and 26. We help each other be frugal and enjoy life.

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