During the pandemic, many Americans are focusing mainly on two things: their health and the economy. It’s perfectly understandable, given that millions of U.S. residents have lost their jobs and there are now 7.31 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide. It’s clear that the novel coronavirus and the state of our economy are inextricably linked — but what you might not realize is that health and finances are often connected in other ways.
Medical costs in the U.S. are a major source of contention and the money we spend on healthcare is more than virtually any other developed nation. So one of the best things you can do for your bank account is to stay in excellent health — and you may be able to do that by making simple lifestyle changes. After all, harmful habits come with a cost. But you could save quite a lot if you break them for good. Here are just a few changes you might want to consider making if you want to prioritize both your health and your money.
Quit Smoking and Drinking
Some of the most common vices are also some of the most expensive. Although alcohol sales have spiked since the start of the pandemic, you may want to consider cutting back on the booze. Not only will you sleep better and protect the health of your liver or heart, but you could end up saving hundreds of dollars each year (or even each month) if you stop drinking. Aside from the purchase of the alcohol itself, you could save money when you no longer need to call an Uber or when a night of drinking doesn’t culminate in excessive food purchases, dirty clothes, lost belongings, and other mistakes. In the long term, leading a sober lifestyle could mean that your clothes will fit better and that your relationships will improve — both of which are beneficial on their own, but they could also save you money since you won’t need to buy new apparel or prepare for a divorce. Even if you just set aside the $50 each month that you would have spent on alcohol, you can use that extra $600 at the end of the year to do something that will actually improve your life.
Smoking is another expensive and harmful habit. Tobacco use can cause everything from tooth decay to cancer. In fact, 90% of people who suffer from periodontitis have smoked at some point. All of those medical concerns can be quite expensive to treat; whether you need a new smile or you have to undergo chemotherapy, you’ll end up paying a lot out-of-pocket in some way, shape, or form. But, of course, it isn’t just healthcare that can cost a lot when you smoke.
You’ll also have to pay for the cigarettes themselves. When you smoke, you’ll also pay more for cleaning and all kinds of insurance; you might deal with lower resale value for your home, car, or furniture. According to TobaccoFreeKids.org, the average pack-a-day smoker who quits can save anywhere from $1,790 to $3,820 each year due to their decision to kick the habit. That might serve as enough financial incentive for you to rethink your tobacco addiction.
Stop Consuming Non-Nutritious Food
Unhealthy food is often priced much lower than more nutritious alternatives, which creates a problem for many low-income families. When eating junk is more affordable in the short term, it sometimes becomes necessary in order to keep everyone fed and on-budget. However, it’s important to consider the long-term effects of following unhealthy diets. Not only can this make you more prone to obesity and many of the medical concerns that come along with excessive weight, but you could also wreak havoc on your teeth. It’s not just soda that can ruin your smile; coffee, sports drinks, and energy drinks can also take a toll. As a matter of fact, researchers found that energy drink consumption causes twice as much enamel loss as sport drink consumption.
In other words, you’ll want to do what you can to embrace a healthy diet. But how can you do that if you’re on a tight budget? Stock up on staples, shop in bulk, and buy the store’s own brand whenever possible. Be sure to skip pre-packaged items, too. Although they’re convenient, they come with a hefty price tag and may expire more quickly than buying ingredients separately. Cutting down on meat consumption can save money and allow you to use fresh produce more frequently.
By growing herbs at home and adding some spices to the kitchen rack, you can add a lot of flavor without spending much. Don’t forget that your freezer is your friend. Frozen fruits and veggies can come in handy during the winter and won’t break the bank, while freezing food yourself (like meats, fish, and produce) can stretch your food budget for several months. Rather than adding to your food waste — and wasting money in the process — all you’ll need to do is defrost something you already have on-hand when it comes time to make a meal.
Eschew a Sedentary Lifestyle
Although the wellness market is growing by 6.9% each year in North America, eating healthy is only one piece of the puzzle. You should also prioritize physical fitness if you want to save money. It might sound strange, but working up a sweat can allow you to stick to your bottom line. Although gym memberships may sound like an unnecessary expense, they can often pay for themselves because they may help you avoid major health problems. Since non-exercisers tend to spend more at the doctor’s office than those who work out every year, burning calories can be a way to prevent medical bills.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, exercising could save you anywhere between $500 and $2,500 each year. You don’t have to be a burgeoning Olympiad to reap the benefits either; you need only walk for 30 minutes five days a week to see a difference. A separate study published in The Lancet backs up these findings, as data revealed that those who don’t exercise cost the world economy nearly $68 billion per year when you factor in both medicial bills and lost productivity. Aside from helping you avoid things like high blood pressure and heart disease, exercise can help you sleep better and have more energy throughout the day. That can lead to improvements in your personal life and in your professional career — and while it’s hard to put a price tag on those things, there are a number of ways that exercise can literally pay off.
Now that you know the expense associated with unhealthy habits (and what you stand to gain by making a change), you can make smarter financial decisions that will also improve your overall well-being.