I read an excellent blog from a writer I have come to appreciate as of late. The link to the article is right here. In it, she basically covers what it is like to be poor. Not dirt poor, but certainly not all set either. I have fond memories of the same type of living when I was in Chicago working for a non-profit. I think at the time, about 60% of my income just went to pay rent on the smaller-then-my-dorm-room room I rented. My meals usually consisted of a granola bar or some reconstituted vegetable beef soup.
My fun was found in doing things that were free. I used to ride my bike all over Chicago in my free time, or go to the beach, or just ride the El to a new and exciting location. These were the simple pleasures that constituted a good day. Did I long for something more... of course. It is hard when friends are going out and you cannot because you know it will be $40 you do not have. As Chelsea says in her article.. "Working out sounds nice... the weight of the machines, the sound of people breathing heavy and the smell of sweat, I miss that all....the first thing I'd do is get a gym membership, if I had the money."
I am not usually one to spew out advice, but let me tell you, you do not need a gym membership to be happy. I am also speaking as someone who, while not well off, is certainly NOT in the same position as I was in Chicago; and in fact someone who ironically belongs to a gym. If I want a really nice pastry from the bakery, I just get it. Ditto for a new pair of shoes or even my new Playstation 3. So it is NICE, not to have to worry about eating the food you want to, but I don't know if it actually makes you happier.
There is much joy to be found in the simple pleasures of life, and sometimes, keeping life simple is it's own reward.