Money saving habits wreaking havoc on your health

by Karen on July 14, 2009

Last week I wrote that frugal eating habits are also healthy eating habits. Since Tony and I restricted our budget even more, we’ve experienced a ton of positive health benefits, including weight loss, increased energy, and better sleep. It’s really made me start thinking about the balance between frugality and good health.

The truth is, it’s possible to take it to the extreme and practice unhealthy habits by trying to save money. As with other aspects of frugality, maintaining good health on a frugal budget requires balance. Here are some money habits that may be wreaking havoc on your health.

Cheap processed food

It’s no secret that fast food is cheap and convenient. Sunday paper coupons and sales can help you purchase processed foods at the grocery store for next to nothing. But at what cost? The recent documentary, “Food Inc.,” highlights the dangers of low-cost foods, and why they’re making the nation overweight and unhealthy. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I do recommend avoiding “cheap” food. Instead, shop smart for fresh foods, buy produce when it’s on sale, and always strike a balance between food cost and good nutrition.

Avoiding health care

When our budget was at its tightest, we did the unthinkable: we lived for a year without health insurance. Dumb. The truth is, private health insurance isn’t nearly as expensive as you think if you’re young and relatively healthy. My husband’s costs $148 a month. Even if you have health insurance, you may be avoiding the doctor to avoid paying co-pays. Skipping checkups, refusing to visit the doctor, or ignoring health problems to avoid health costs is not a smart way to save money. That $20 co-pay could turn into thousands in medical bills if you’re not treated promptly.

Skipping exercise

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to pay for a gym membership to get active. I’ve found that $20 a month for gym membership is well worth the cost, but you may not be able to fit even $20 a month into your budget. If that’s the case, check out an exercise DVD from your library, go for a jog, or take a bike ride. You don’t need to spend money to get in shape.

Stressing about money

I’ve said it before: frugality is about improving your quality of life. Putting yourself under constant stress about money can lead to a wide array of health problems. If you find yourself obsessing about money because of your frugal habits, take a step back. Remember that the whole point of being frugal is to live a healthier, happier lifestyle by reducing the amount of stress you face about money.

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{ 7 comments }

1 George July 14, 2009 at 11:30 am

Frugal habits truly can be healthy habits. $20 a month for a gym membership isn’t a frugal choice for most people, though. What tends to happen more often than not is that people pay the $20/month, but they DON’T GO TO THE GYM.

For the past year or so I’ve followed an exercise routine that’s simple and requires no equipment (not even shoes!). The only requirement is enough space on the floor to lay down on, and the discipline to follow the routine every day without fail.

The routine I follow is called the “lifetime fitness ladder”, and is described in an online e-book called The Hacker’s Diet (see the chapter entitled “What, me exercise?”: https://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/e4/

By following the diet and exercise routines set out in the above book, I’ve lost 35 pounds and gained a huge amount of energy. Total cost outlay for this frugal choice: ZERO dollars. :-)

2 Mick July 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm

I’m trying to save like everybody these days. I have to agree with George though, I joined the gym and then ended up not going, while they took money out of my bank account. Anyway, I decided to cancel that and got a buddy and we go running together, do push ups, pull ups, etc. I think the key is, find a partner, it’s much easier to get motivated that way I find.

Food is another tricky one. I did some searching on the net (hence finding this blog) and also came up with a site here: http://deliciouscheapmeals.com – Pretty good recipes, healthy and for me, most importantly, cheap….

And onto your Health Insurance point. I’m going to pull the plug on my coverage except for the basics, like doctors visits, etc. If, God forbid, anything major should pop up, I’m heading O/S. Up to 90% cheaper than the U.S. according to these guys: http://www.jetwellsoon.com and you know what, I reckon that might make it worth the risk……

Anyway, that’s my two cents…..will let you know how I go….

3 Anne July 15, 2009 at 6:10 am

It bothers me no end that the media keeps promoting the message that eating a healthy diet automatically costs more and takes a lot more time than eating a diet full of cheap crap. I know many people (including myself) who love on very strict diets but maintain nutritionally balanced diets.
.-= Anne´s last blog ..Another interesting blog I found =-.

4 jennydecki July 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm

It’s tough to convince people that eating fresh, unprocessed food that costs a little more is actually cheaper because you feel satisfied on LESS food than if you’re eating something that came from an orange box out of a microwave.

But it’s true…and we love going to the farmer’s market every weekend. It just makes me sad when I hear people say they can’t afford to eat fresh fruits and veggies because it’s so expensive.
.-= jennydecki´s last blog ..Gone for a week? What? Did someone die? =-.

5 rox July 24, 2009 at 1:36 pm

not sure where you are getting this cheap health insurance for your husband or what your age is. After 50 individual health insurance is unaffordable if you are insurable at all.
So that tip can be taken with a grain of salt. Even the 20 year old twins health insurance costs more than that with no health issues and a huge deductible

6 Karen July 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Hi Rox. My husband is 25, and his health insurance is through Blue Cross Blue Shield. The plan is comparable to the plan I receive through my employer, and the deductible is the same ($2500, which is high, but not impossible with a decent emergency fund.) You’re absolutely right about older people. If you’re over 50, you will struggle to find an affordable policy, and if you have health issues you probably won’t be able to find private coverage at all.

I know a lot of young people with no health insurance that live without it because they don’t think they can afford it. I was one of them. But then I did some digging, and I found out it’s not that expensive for a good policy. My point is that with a little work and shopping around, you can find health insurance. Even a high deductible is better than nothing. It protects you from total financial ruin in the event of an accident or seriously health problem.

7 Garry Taylor October 4, 2009 at 10:48 am

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to place your savings. Has the recent economic crisis turned the UK into a nation of savers? With the lack of credit making it exceptionally hard to borrow and the low interest rates on savings, there is very little the people of Britain can actually do with their hard earned money.

Read more here “Where to place your savings

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