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Selfies reveal effect of lifestyle change in 2013

About a year ago, we made some changes after deciding to become one of those families in which the dad goes off to work and the mom stays home and writes.

The decision meant we had to cut back on our monthly expenses, at least until the mom was listed as an author on the New York Times Bestseller list.

The first line item in our household budget to get slashed was television. Since giving up the multi-hundred channel cable service, we’ve taken to watching either network television, streaming video or hard DVDs. We thought this would result in us watching less television. But, we quickly discovered we could watch episode after episode of some of our favorite shows without being interrupted by commercials.

Over the past year, we’ve binge-watched at least 10 different series, three of which were from the UK. And when we reach the very last episode of a series, we start all over with episode one, season one to ease the sadness and disappointment that washes over us at the realization that no unwatched episodes remain.

We are not a completely commercial-free household. We cannot afford a commercial-free lifestyle. Streaming can become boring, so we do watch the local network channels. They offer novelties like sports coverage, local news and live reality shows. All come with regular, loudly broadcast commercial sponsorship.

When we stream music or play games on our devices, we use the free versions of the apps. The free versions are riddled with commercials. But that’s okay. I’d much rather save a few bitcoins and let corporate America pay for my entertainment by harassing me with their subliminal, yet humorous product messaging than go back to the rat race.

Over the past year, I’ve worked diligently to adjust to less income and more time. And while it’s been challenging, the decision was clearly the right choice. Pausing to peruse my 2013 selfies, I notice a clear dissipation of stress as the months progress.

Coming off of nearly 30 years in the work force to the unstructured environment of a SAHM was not easy. What I used to accept as good enough when it came to housework was not acceptable when given the opportunity to stare at the cobwebs and dust bunnies all day long, day after day.

I was never all that adept at the housecleaning gig. Rather, I tapped my delegation skills to ensure the health department would never have cause to condemn our home. Over the past year, however, I’ve taken over more and more of the household responsibilities. I’m actually proud to admit our home looks better than it has in, well, ever.

Homemade meals have also been kicked up a notch over the past year. We’ve never been a schmeat eating type of family. Even when I was a single mom, my children enjoyed homemade foods like pizza dough, marinara sauce, and pancakes.

A year into my semi-retirement, however, my family is almost completely transitioned to scratch-made breads and organic produce. And now that I save every bit of leftover meat and fish, Hubby and the boys have experienced the best Brunswick and seafood stews they’ve ever tasted. They haven’t actually said it’s the best, but they keep filling their bowls until there’s not a scrap left.

Another cost-saving maneuver we adopted was online shopping. It’s not our only method of purchasing goods, but there are times when pointing and clicking can be cheaper than buying something at the store. When it comes to spending our money, we like to comparison shop. Sometimes, the better deals are the ones that are delivered right to your doorstep.

We have learned it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re getting when you shop online. Two-dimensional window shopping doesn’t always provide enough information to make a sound purchase decision. That’s why Hubby and I have taken to showrooming during our date nights.

Not that we enjoy as many nights out these days. We’ve had to tighten the belt on date night as well. We still set aside couple-only time regularly. We just have to be more creative about our activities to ensure we don’t break the bank in the name of romance.

We might cook a gourmet meal together and then head out to see a movie rather than eat at a restaurant before the flick. Sometimes we make use of dining out specials and then come home to watch a DVD. We also like to dance, but we save all the twirling and twerking for home.

It has been a amazing transitional year. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my family and what matters most in life. We have less income, but at the same time, we’re happier and healthier than ever before. My creative abilities have become sharper, as well. You probably didn’t even notice I slipped in all six of the Oxford English Dictionary new words of 2013 to reflect on our new lifestyle and the year it took me to adjust to being at home.

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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com.

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