America needs to shape up: according to the CDC, more than one in four Americans is considered obese. Even if you're not seriously overweight, have you ever thought about what your habits may be costing you in cold hard cash? Here are five ways you can get healthy and save.
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- Eat In - Annual Savings: $4,317
Life's busy, and sometimes it's just easier to order a pizza or Chinese take-out. And who wants to brownbag and eat in the office lunchroom? You may want to rethink these habits when you look at the price tag. By my calculations, a family of four spends an average of $4,317 on meals outside the home - a huge bite out of the monthly budget.
Restaurant food is notoriously laden with fat, high in calories and portioned to help you gain weight in a hurry. Start cooking at home, brown bag lunch, and you could save enough in a year to pay for a nice family vacation. Now that's food for thought.
- Edit Your Cart - Annual Savings: $2,088
Have you ever stopped to think about what you're loading into your grocery cart? According to the Department of Labor and Statistics, our annual grocery bill consists of more than $2,000 worth of soda, sweets and fatty foods. These are foods your body doesn't need, and definitely don't help you stay in shape. Instead of eating candy and drinking soda, look for fruit to please your sweet tooth – you'll actually get some nutrition in the process.
Look for seasonable fruits and veggies, or canned or frozen out of season. Plan your menu for the week to save on time, and include those brown-bag lunches and healthier snacks. Get the whole family involved by picking a savings goal everyone can unite on, like a vacation or a swing set for the back yard.
- Ditch the Diet - Annual Savings: $552
The American population spends an annual $54 billion (that's billion, with a b) on diet products - not surprising, given the amount of people that are overweight. If you're on a diet program, like some of the better rated pills and powders out there, you're probably forking over an average $46 a month, or $552 a year.
Now that you're no longer eating fatty restaurant food, have cut back the junk food from your groceries, do you really need to chase crash diets anymore? Your new money-saving eating habits will help you lose weight without the pricey chemicals, so stop feeding the diet industry.
- Tell the Gym to Take a Hike - Annual Savings: $540
Going to the gym is a great way to stay healthy, but it's also a pricey one. The average gym membership costs between $40 and $50 a month, not including any sign-up fees. That puts your runs on the treadmill at $540 a year. Gyms are great, but the majority of us don't go regularly: According to the authors of "Freakonomics," most people use their gym 70% less than they think they will, and would do better buying day passes - or better yet, find free ways to get your exercise.
Now that you're no longer having lunch at a restaurant, invite your coworkers to start going for midday walks. Take the stairs, ride your bike to work, go hiking with the family at one of your state's national parks. Improve your health by looking for ways to get moving every day, without the pricey gym membership. (For more, see Get The Best Deals On Gym Memberships.)
- Quit Bad Habits - Annual Savings: $317 or more
Your job is stressful, so you take a smoke break, or drink a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage at the end of the day. The cost of this stress relief is real, with alcohol expenses running $444 for the average family, and tobacco expenditures at $317 per year. Let's say you only smoke: quitting will not only extend your life and make you smell better, but it also saves you money. Save the alcohol for special occasions; your wallet will be thankful.
The Bottom Line
These numbers are all based on national averages, adjusted to assume a family of four. Look at your expenses for a month to see what unhealthy habits you're supporting - are they worth it? Cutting back doesn't mean you have to eat in every day, or never eat potato chips again. Just make these treats - which is what they are - more of a conscious choice than a lazy habit that sabotages your health. Making some changes can mean big savings, for your health and your wallet. (For more helpful tips, check out 7 Ways To Trim Your Budget - And Your Waistline.)
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