5 ways to save money AND be healthier

I pondered calling this article something like “get thinner and save money,” but I’m not really about the thinner anymore. I mean, if that’s your jam, you rock the thinness thing, but for me, the older I get, the less I worry about the thinner, and the more I worry about the stronger and the healthier.

Basically, I want to be like this one old lady I see working out in the park near my house. She looks… I dunno, old? I’m rubbish at guessing ages. Let’s just say she looks like Betty White, but fitter. I see her in the park every couple of days doing all these intense bodyweight exercises, and she looks really fit and healthy and on top of stuff, and I want to be like her. I also want to spend much less than I earn on a monthly basis so that I have enough money to save up and splurge on travel. Happily, there are ways to combine these goals!

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Make your own meals

You’ve heard this so often that reading that line made your eyes droop and a wave of sleepiness wash over you. But it is facts, people! I can personally attest to this. Before I moved in with my now-husband, I didn’t cook. I mean, I really, really didn’t cook. I used my oven for storage. I washed my pots once a year to get rid of the dust. And I ate out A LOT. My meals were either cereal, or microwave insta-food, or meals at a restaurant. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I spent a lot on money and ate pretty poorly.

My husband is an amazing cook, and eats very healthy. When I moved in with him, I started eating home-cooked meals with vegetables. I actually gained a few pounds, because my previous lifestyle did not add up to a lot of quality self-care, but my health improved dramatically with the addition of actual food to my diet (turns out that Kashi Go Lean Crunch for three meals a day is not a balanced diet). Plus, my grocery bill dropped a lot (not just because I was splitting the groceries, but because I was eating at home six nights a week). Cooking can be an amazing way to eat healthier, control the quality of your food, and save mad cash.

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Skip the gym (but not the workout)

Confessions - I do actually have access to a gym right now, because there's a small gym in the building I work in, and it's free. Free is a price I can live with. 

That said, I didn’t have a gym membership for ages because it turns out that you can get all the exercise you need without a gym. For me, this realization happened at the same time that I moved to Philadelphia and gave up having a car (because you are INSANE to try and park a vehicle in Philly. Have you seen the failed TV show Parking Wars? Set in Philly.)

Having no car forced me to use my body to get places – walking and biking in particular. And I found that I was walking at least 2-3 miles a day without making any time for exercise. I know that not everyone can go car-free, but switching to biking to work can save you a TON of money and get your butt into better shape.

I then discovered bodyweight exercises – there’s a great post on them from Popsugar here. Turns out that your body is more than enough weight to develop rippling muscles (well, strong muscles) if you put in the work. Plus, you can do it at home so the world isn’t exposed to your gross sweatiness and you can watch Netflix at the same time. Winning!

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Eat half, save half

This is a nifty little trick that I use when eating out at restaurants. Basically, those places give you way the hell too much food. Even the classy restaurants double down on the rice, potatoes, and sauce – it’s madness.

So try this money (and health) saver. Only ever eat half of the portion you get served at a restaurant, and save the other half for a delicious meal of leftovers. You get two meals for the price of one, and you get a way more reasonable portion.

Look out for produce deals

I’m not really good at farmers’ markets. They are usually outside and early, which are both things I don’t have an appetite for on a Saturday morning. However, any reasonably sized city is going to have a lot of street vendors selling cheap produce (in Philly, the place to go is the Italian Market district on 9th St). You can find great fruit and vegetables for below-supermarket prices. Doing this can save you money, fill you with the thrill of the hunt because you are in an exciting shopping environment, and encourage you to eat more stuff that grows out of the ground.

Apps that are free and fabulous

OK, so this is a contradiction, because I am “saving you money” by telling you about free apps that you have to have an expensive smartphone to use. But whatever, apps are awesome.

I’m not a massive fan of tracking calories (although I AM a fan of tracking spending, I’m a mass of contradictions), but if you’re going to do it, do it with a handy free app like the Livestrong My Plate app (and website). An easier way to keep track of your eating without too much fiddling around is to use something like WeightSnap – you take a photo of whatever you’re about to stuff in your mouth and give it a health ranking. It’s not calorie tracking, but it can help you monitor how healthy you’re eating over time.

For fitness, I really like RunKeeper to track walks and runs (hah! Running! Like that’s a thing I do!) and the Nike Training Club app for workout ideas. There are a million free workout apps out there, and all of them can inspire you with cool ideas and shame you by tracking what you actually do.  

Getting healthy can be cheap and money saving in the short-term, and it can save you LOTS of money in the long term. Exercise staves off physical and mental problems, and eating healthy and maintaining a reasonable weight reduces your risk of basically every lifestyle disease you care to think of. Since lifestyle diseases like diabetes cost a lot of money to treat, staying fit and healthy can literally save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and improve your quality of life. AND you can do it all for less money than it costs to maintain an unhealthy lifestyle.

Talk about your free lunch.