Friday, January 31, 2014

Frugal Friday: Saving Money Through Health

When people think about being frugal, often they think of spending less money, putting money in the bank and finding good deals. For today's frugal Friday's post I want to talk about a way of saving money that often we don't think about, but I think is one of the most important. I've alluded to this idea in several other similar themed posts, but today I just want to focus on the topic of saving money through health.

It seems like the best payoffs and rewards don't come immediately, but come over time, with years of effort and control. I think health is one of those things. When we are young, most of us are blessed with good health and an active life style. But as we age, we sometimes start to neglect our health. Eating things that we shouldn't, over-eating, stress, and a sedimentary lifestyle take their toll on our bodies and deteriorate our health. Doing this has serious consequences which cost money. Money that could have been saved if we had taken better care of ourselves including costly prescriptions, doctors and even hospitalization. Of course there are exceptions to this and this post is definitely not meant to criticize or chastise anyone who has health challenges that are outside their control. Rather it is meant to inspire all of us, wherever we are at to begin to change the habits and lifestyle practices that ARE within our control so that we can improve our health.

1. Think of Money Spent on Healthy food as an Investment
Sometimes we cringe at the thought of paying money for healthy food. Why is that? The $8 watermelon does seem like a lot of money, but we can go and blow $8 on a fast food meal without blinking an eye. I believe we need to change our thinking (myself included) to think of money spent on a healthy lifestyle as an investment into our future. I don't think this needs to be taken to an extreme (which is easy to do with these things). There are a lot of healthy foods you can buy and not spend a ton of money (for examples of this see my post on eating healthy on a budget). And really it will balance itself out because think of all the unhealthy foods that you will not be spending money on anymore. One of my secrets to eating healthier is to find healthy "treats" to treat myself to instead of unhealthy treats. For example, one of my favorite treats that I occasionally splurge on is a juicy ripe mango. Seriously the best under a dollar treat around. Would I rather let myself splurge on a 85 cent mango than a 75 cent candy bar? Yes I would. Because the mango will help improve my health while the candy bar will not. So maybe it does cost me a little more now. But think of the difference of every cent I paid for the mango going to improve my health while ever cent I paid for the candy bar costing me that much or more later on in health costs.

2. Think of Time Spent in Exercise as an Investment
Exercise is hard work. But it's worth it. I've previously shared some frugal exercise ideas and some exercise tips for busy moms & dads to save time to help you to commit to an exercise program. When you exercise there are a lot of short term benefits that I've shared in those posts: you feel better, you keep you weight in check, you look nicer, have a better outlook on life, etc. All those things are true, but perhaps something we don't think about a lot is how exercise is an investment into our long-term health as well. And how that investment pays off its dividends in money saved on medical costs later on from problems that arise from a sedimentary lifestyle.

3. Finally a Few Examples from my own Experience
When I was in college my main goal was to finish my degree. Most other things didn't really matter to me. My eating was horrible. My exercise consisted of walking a few blocks to classes every day and home again. My one goal was to get a good education so I could have the skills I needed to get a good job. I thought I was thinking of the future, but looking back I realize that I really wasn't seeing the whole picture. By not taking care of myself, I was actually only considering the near future, not the distant future. As I've gotten older I realize that in preparing for the future it's just as important to strengthen our bodies as it is to fill our minds with knowledge or our bank accounts with money. Every minute we spend strengthening our bodies through exercise and eating healthy is preparing us for the illnesses, diseases, accidents, etc. that our bodies may have to face in the future. A stronger body will be more resilient to those things. Not saying we'll never have health challenges. My grandmother is one who lived a very healthy lifestyle still battled cancer which eventually took her life. It's easy to look at that scenario and say, "See. It didn't help her any." But you have to look at the whole picture. She was able to live 70+ years with very little medical costs. I don't think she every went to the doctor or hospital or anything until the very end. That's quite a savings plan. And it did benefit her. And I know countless other elderly folk in the same boat that would tell you the same thing. Spending time and money on health is an investment into the future and will save money in the long run.

Here's a great article on the subject that inspired this post if you want to read it for more ideas: Health is Wealth: The Best Investment I Ever Made.

I'd love to have a discussion with you. What do you think about this topic? Have you seen examples of this in your life or the life of someone you know?

Happy Frugal Friday! Have a great weekend.

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