Financial Literacy for Everyone

7 Ways to Save on Healthy Living

If you're like many people, you're cutting corners and saving wherever you can. You might be fearing – or facing – unemployment in a challenging job market, or struggling to meet the rising costs of health care, gas and groceries. With today's focus on the essentials, fitness expenses like a gym membership or athletic trainer might not be a priority.

Yet now can actually be a key time to invest in your health. People who live a healthy lifestyle tend to be more productive and better at handling stress, making them more valuable employees. It turns out being fit can even save you on health insurance many companies factor in height and weight when determining rates for consumers.

Here are seven tips for improving your health while saving money:

Skip the gym.
Take your workouts outdoors or set up a workout space at home. Americans spend many billions of dollars on health and fitness club memberships each year. What's more, 80% of the 40 million Americans paying for gym memberships aren't using them (Medical News Today). Invest in athletic shoes and make every nearby street, trail and park your workout space for free.

Gear up for less.
Working out at home can save you the $50 to $100 a month you'd pay for a gym membership. Stock up on weights or other used athletic equipment by hitting a garage sale or browsing Craigslist.com. Water bottles, laundry detergent containers and all kinds of household items can double as weights. And if you're short on inspiration, check out workout tapes or DVDs from your local library.

Revisit your rate.
If you're more gym fanatic than park fan, there's still no need to pay top dollar. Shop around for deals elsewhere and see if your gym can match them, or tell the sales rep. times are tight and see what they can offer you. If you're not a member but want to be, visit your local YMCA for monthly memberships that cost just $30 to $50 per month. If you're looking for a gym, the trick is to shop around watch out for specials, negotiate with sales reps and avoid large initiation fees.

Bike to work.
Your health and wallet will thank you. Commuters who drive 20 work-related miles per workday drive over 5,200 miles annually. If fuel is $2.80 per gallon, they're paying over $700 for gas alone. Add in bridge tolls and car maintenance and you're probably looking at over $1000. Why not hop on your bike instead? Now you can even map your route online by selecting the bicycle option at http://maps.google.com/

Dine in.
The average American family of four eats out approximately three times a week at a cost of $300 or $400 per month or more. You can eat more healthfully for less by reserving meals out for special occasions. For even bigger savings, make large batches of soups, lasagnas and other dishes, and then freeze some for work lunches and future meals. You can find a wealth of healthy recipes online, like the ones here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-recipes/RecipeIndex

Get supermarket savvy.
Smart grocery shopping is a critical part of eating healthfully and keeping costs down. Before going, make a list and determine a budget to avoid splurges. On your trip, opt for the store brand instead of name-brand items. Other money savers are buying frozen veggies instead of fresh, avoiding prepackaged foods and grabbing oatmeal instead of packaged cereals. Use store savings cards and stock up during sales. Another tip? Visit your local farmer's market to get in-season, organic produce on your table for less.

Vanish your vices.
We all have our habits. But if you smoke or drink regularly, there's never been a better time to cut back or quit. Instead of an-after work glass of wine or beer, take a walk, have some tea or pick up a book instead. If you're a smoker, try to quit. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you can save as much as $1,500 a year by quitting. The real perk? You'll seriously reduce major risks to your health.

In the end, investing in your health won't just save you money. It will improve your lifestyle and outlook, as well.

For more tips on ways to live richly in trying times, check out www.practicalmoneyskills.com and http://www.whatsmyscore.org.

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