Imagine how good you’ll feel in the New Year when you take these steps towards a fatter savings account and a healthier you.
1. Eat a healthy diet
The old saying is true; you are what you eat. Exercise and an active lifestyle are vital to good health, but what you eat matters, too. While fast food and processed foods are convenient, there are ways you can make healthier choices without breaking the bank.
- For best prices and optimum quality, choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Some things like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bananas and oranges are readily available all year. Others like tomatoes, peaches and melons are available but are much less expensive during summer. Many fresh items like berries can be bought in season and frozen for use during the winter months.
- Protein is an important element to your diet, but it can come at a price. Buy meat when it’s on sale or at wholesale clubs and freeze it in individual portions.
- Avoid processed foods which can be expensive and filled with sodium and unhealthy additives. Cook plain brown rice instead of that box of cheesy rice; make your own soup using leftover vegetables and chop your own head of lettuce instead of buying the pre-bagged varieties.
- Bring a sack lunch to work instead of eating out. Plan your meals for the week to avoid expensive last-minute take-out and drive-through decisions. Drink coffee at work instead of buying that expensive (and calorie-laden) latte. You could save hundreds of dollars and thousands of calories with just a few simple changes to your routine.
2. Get moving
Unfortunately, gym memberships aren’t free. A great alternative to a health club is an investment in a good pair of training shoes. Then get out and start walking! Start small by finding time in your routine to get in a few extra minutes of exercise. Park your car in the far corners of the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Grab a friend and start a lunchtime walking group.
People often feel motivated when they can measure the amount of exercise they get. Your mobile device may already have an exercise app that tracks your steps; if not, you could also consider an inexpensive activity tracker or step counter. Then set a goal—walk 10,000 steps a day, for example—and track your progress.
Try yoga, running or other training you can do at home using inexpensive resistance bands. YouTube is free and has thousands of videos that will align with your goals and your fitness level.
3. Save money
Be realistic when you buy fresh food at the big warehouse store. Savings disappear immediately when you toss food that spoils before you can eat it.
Label and date your food before you store it in the freezer; when you know what it is, you’re much more likely to eat it. Then take every other month or one week each month and make it a goal to eat only from your freezer and your pantry before buying anything new. You’ll be amazed at the drop in your grocery bill.
Set a food budget. Start by tracking how much you spend on groceries every month so that you have an initial target, then look for ways to spend less by shopping sales or by choosing store brand instead of name brand items. Once you’ve got a budget, log or track your purchases every time you shop, so that you always know where you stand against your monthly goal.
Do the same for your restaurant expenses; limit the amount of dining out you do and set the money you save aside. Maybe even try going for a month without eating out at all.