Cherie Lowe Queen of Free

By Cherie Lowe

My mom wore tennis shoes with holes in them when I was in high school.

It wasn’t that our family couldn’t afford a new pair. But when it came to our family, my mom took care of everyone else’s needs first. I remember thinking she was maybe a little bit crazy for not just going and buying new sneakers.

And then I became a mom.

I struggle to take care of myself on a regular basis. Last year, my body began physically manifesting the dangers of this unbalanced habit. As my blood pressure creeped higher, I realized I needed to make wiser choices or I wouldn’t be around to take care of everyone else as long as I’d like to.

This predicament endangers one’s health more than a holey pair of shoes.

So this year, I invested in some regular self-care practices. For years, I neglected my own health and well-being thinking it would cost too much to maintain. However, I began to discover a number of smart ways to live life to the fullest and richest without putting my health or budget at risk.

Fruit water

Most research points toward the need to regularly take in more water. A wise rule of thumb states you should divide your body weight in half and then consume that number of ounces of water per day. While I don’t mind water and reach for it first in restaurants because of the price (yay free) or after a great workout, I get bored with the lack of flavor.

So this year, to reinforce the positive life habit and take better care of my body, I’ve been drinking fruit-infused water. While you can buy a bottle that separates the fruit from the water, I found that placing a slice or two of lemon or lime in refillable water bottle does the trick just as well.

Occasionally, if we’re running low on fresh fruit, I place a drop or two of lime concentrate in a bottle, too. I’ve added blueberries and pineapple and even herbs to my water. My favorite fruit combination of all time though is sliced strawberry and sliced lime. Delicious.

If you can, fill up a bottle the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Then you can grab it on your way out the door in the morning. Bonus: no need to grab a drink at the gas station or the drive-through.

Yoga and stretching

After some measurements and self-reflection, I realized my blood pressure spiked during times of high stress. To combat my weary spirit, I chose to spend intentional time breathing and stretching. Simply slowing down every day for 15 to 30 minutes and calming my heart and body began to cause my numbers to drop.

I knew I didn’t have the budget to afford a regular yoga or stretching class, so I headed to YouTube to find some ideas. I’ve always loved the free FitnessBlender Channel which features a wide variety of workouts posted every week by a super fit husband-wife duo. However, this year, I discovered 30 Days of Yoga from Yoga with Adriene. After completing the first challenge, I couldn’t believe what a difference it made in my day and life. I dove into another 31-day challenge and rarely miss my afternoon appointment with YouTube.

Fresh basil

The winter months in Indiana feel bleak and long. Early in January, I begin to long for green — green leaves, green grass or I’d even settle for green weeds. In the fresh produce department of Meijer, I found a small fresh basil plant priced at $2.99. I had enough extra green in our grocery budget to bring a little green home with me. So I brought the lovely little plant home and placed it in a coffee mug on my desk. Not only was I able to enjoy all of the fresh basil goodness in my meals, the plant grew new leaves and continues to thrive.

Watching something grow is good for my soul. I don’t have to have a fancy hydroponic garden or a greenhouse. My sweet little $3 plant accomplishes more than I could have ever imagined it would.

Audiobooks from the library

My pursuit to take better care of myself this year dovetailed nicely with another goal — reading more books. I set out to read 80 books in 2018. I’m almost finished with my 12th volume. I love reading across genres and history, across perspectives and topics.

However, I don’t really have the cash to purchase 80 new books this year. Enter the local library. Certainly, we all know we can check out high quality books, DVDs and more at our local branch.

However, few people know about or use the free apps libraries offer. This year, I’ve already listened to best sellers and sought after books by using both the Hoopla and Overdrive Apps on my smartphone. You simply download the app, link it to your library card, and then select the books you want to read.

While I’m folding the laundry, driving to pick up or drop off kids at school or even grocery shopping, odds are good I’m also listening to an audiobook.

The TV remains off and my mind opens to works of fiction and nonfiction, scholarly pursuits and imaginary worlds. And cost? Absolutely free. The books return themselves when they’re due so you don’t even risk a late fee.

In the end, I’ve realized I can’t afford not to take care of myself. Self-care doesn’t have to look like pricey meals out or a trip to the spa. Each day, I can take small steps to restoring my body and soul without shoveling out loads of cash. Then, when you need to, take the time and all the money you’ve saved to buy yourself a new pair of hole-free shoes.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to