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I’m trying 12 cheap/free things that promise to make me happier

Because trying things is fun. And watching other people try things is fun too!

I mean, Gretchen Rubin wrote a whole book about trying happiness habits for a year, and the world was pretty interested in that. 😉

For this project, I scoured the internet’s lists of habits/practices that promise to make my life happier and chose twelve that don’t require much cash outlay, if any.

I skipped the, “get a monthly massage.” type of ideas, not because a monthly massage is a terrible idea, but because this is, after all, a frugal blog.

I also skipped habits that are already solidly in place in my life, such as exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.  I do think those things will make you happier, but I can’t give them a trial run if I’m already doing them!


I’m gonna give each of these ideas a one-month go, and I’ll let you know how they work out for me.

If I really like any particular habit, I’ll consider making it a regular part of my life.

And if something’s not really working out for me, well, a month isn’t that long. 😉

January’s free happiness practice

You can’t really turn around on the internet without running into an article letting you know that spending less time on the internet, and specifically, less time on your phone, is better for you.

And there’s at least one study showing that teens are happier when they spend less time on their screens and more time on in-real-life activities.

(though we probably could have guessed that was true even without the study!)


I’m not about to give up my phone entirely, but here’s what we’re trying this month to at least get the first half of our days off to a good start.

(*we being Sonia, Zoe, and me. Joshua’s moved out of the house, Lisey’s nearly an adult and can manage her own screen time, and Mr. FG is at work all day where he can’t have his phone anyway.)

  • charge phones overnight somewhere other than bedside
  • get all the have-to’s done before using phone (school, chores, laundry, working out, etc.)

It’s mid-January as I write this, and I can definitely tell that this is helping the three of us make time for things that were previously getting pushed to the side.

For one thing, my house is cleaner because we are getting cleaning chores done! And schoolwork is getting done earlier in the day.

I’ll report back at the beginning of February to share my thoughts on whether or not this is helping to improve my happiness level.

And I’ll share February’s happiness practice then too!


If you want to join Sonia and Zoe and me, we’d love to have you along for the ride.


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Tuesday 15th of January 2019

I know I've also read those suggestions that people would be happier if they decreased their online time, but I think that's probably a vast oversimplification. The quality of what you do online makes a huge difference. I mean, I spend a lot of my online time in a volunteer capacity, building an online community that matters to me. Also, I found that getting rid of my bedside clock and using my phone instead added to, rather than taking away from my happiness.


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Do you listen to the Happier podcast? A friend and I have been doing the 18 for 2018 and 19 for 2019 lists. Her 19 are unique and more closely follow Gretchen's intent — goals-based and fun/task balance — where as mine are 14 leftover from 18 plus five new ones, all much more task- and learning-oriented than they ought to be.

I started the Happiness Project (first edition) and am finding it to be a struggle. I like her spoken style but am not as attracted to her writing, as it turns out.

Liz Bishop

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Karen, I love the Happier podcast! My 18 for 2018 list was a flop....that was my fault, though. I still need to make my 19 for 2019 list....I think I was too ambitious last year, so will try and be more realistic this year.


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

This is so great! I needed some extra spurring on to plug in and leave my phone away from my bedside.

I like that you're trying one thing for one month instead of a traditional year-long New Year's resolution.

A year feels like a long time to do anything, but a month is much less overwhelming. I'm looking forward to what you find out and your next trials!


Monday 14th of January 2019

Good idea. I have an app that is supposed to tell me how much time I spend on my device, however it doesn’t seem accurate at all, probably because I don’t close things properly. Maybe ai should do something about screen time although I am pretty happy and not troubled by this issue, at least not that I’m aware of! Another thing is always trying to notice and acknowledge things that make me feel good. I am not a fan of winter, but it can be beautiful. Your photos made me happy today! Thanks!

Mrs. Picky Pincher

Monday 14th of January 2019

GIRL! I just finished reading Gretchen's book! I had read her habits book in the summer and I just finished The Happiness Project.

(PS I'm about to start Happier At Home. I bought it at Half Price Books and realized I was lucky enough to snag an autographed copy. How neat!)

I love how you picked just one thing a month, too. I think it was hard to follow The Happiness Project simply because she took on so much every month!

I've been limiting screen time in a neat way. I restructured my daily schedule. Instead of leaving my time from 5 - 10 pm unplanned, I scheduled in time for reading. And when I'm reading, I'm not on the phone or watching TV.


Monday 14th of January 2019

It's been so long since I read The Happiness Project that I can't remember how she structured hers! Was she trying multiple things every month?

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