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There's never a better time to invest in your health. People who live healthy lifestyles tend to be more productive and better at handling stress, making them more valuable employees. It turns out that being fit can even save you on health insurance—many companies factor in height and weight when determining rates for consumers.
Here are seven tips for improving your health while saving money:
Skip the gym
Take your workouts outdoors or set up a workout space at home. Americans spend many billions of dollars on health and fitness club memberships each year. What's more, a large percentage of Americans paying for gym memberships aren't using them (Medical News Today, April, 2010). Invest in athletic shoes and make every nearby street, trail and park your workout space—for free.
Gear up for less
Working out at home can save you the $50 to $100 a month you'd pay for a gym membership. Stock up on weights or other used athletic equipment by hitting a garage sale or browsing online classified ads. Water bottles, laundry detergent containers, and all kinds of household items can double as weights. And, if you're short on inspiration, check out workout DVDs from your local library or smartphone apps.
Revisit your rate
If you're a bigger fan of the gym than the park, there's still no need to pay top dollar. Shop around for deals elsewhere and see if your gym can match them, or tell the sales rep that times are tight and see what they can offer you. If you're not a member but want to be, visit your local YMCA for monthly memberships. If you're looking for a gym, the trick is to shop around—watch for specials, negotiate with sales reps and avoid large initiation fees.
Bike to work
Your body—and wallet—will thank you. Commuters who drive 20 work-related miles per workday drive over 5,200 miles annually. If fuel is $3.60 per gallon, they're paying over $900 for gas alone. Add in bridge tolls and car maintenance, and you're probably looking at over $1,200. Why not hop on your bike instead? Now you can even map your route online.
The average American family of four eats out approximately three times a week at a cost of $300 or $400 per month or more. You can eat more healthfully for less by reserving meals out for special occasions. For even bigger savings, make large batches of soups, lasagnas, and other dishes, and then freeze some for work lunches and future meals. You can find a wealth of healthy recipes online.
Get supermarket savvy
Smart grocery shopping is a critical part of eating healthfully and keeping costs down. Before going, make a list and determine a budget to avoid splurges. On your trip, opt for the store brand instead of name-brand items. Other money savers include buying frozen veggies instead of fresh, avoiding prepackaged foods and grabbing oatmeal instead of packaged cereals. Use store savings cards and stock up during sales. Another tip: Visit your local farmer's market to get in-season, organic produce on your table for less.
Vanish your vices
We all have our habits. If you smoke or drink regularly, there's never been a better time to cut back or quit. Instead of an after-work glass of wine or beer, take a walk, have some tea or pick up a book. If you're a smoker, try to quit. You'll save money and seriously reduce major risks to your health.
In the end, investing in your health won't just save you money. It will also improve your lifestyle and outlook on life.