Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Be frugal by staying healthy.

Health care is a complex issue in the western world, especially within the United States. It's a very big, expensive subject that a lot of people don't really pay attention to all that much. Sure, if you're following the presidential race even remotely you know it's talked about a lot. And a good number of people like to pretend that it's an important issue.

But more often than not this is just to save face, the issue is given plenty of time, but not quite enough thought that it really deserves in the end of things.

People talk about it a lot, but like education and fiscal responsibility, nothing really materializes out of it. Which is a shame, because it's an issue that every single human being has to deal with on a daily basis.

Because of the aging baby boomer population, the medical industry is exploding. Nurses, doctors, technicians, pharmacists and every kind of support personnel you can imagine are in high demand. This means a lot of new, relatively highly paid professionals in the industry need to be paid.

This means rising costs. Which is fine if your budget is large and your bank account is even larger. But lower middle class John and Jane Smith often find themselves in a crunch. Sometimes medical treatment is completely unavoidable, sometimes it's not per se, but it's definitely needed in a maintenance fashion.

Even with insurance and careful planning medical costs alone are enough to bust a meticulously planned and followed budget wide open. This is why it's not only economical to keep yourself running on all cylinders, but common sense.

If you find yourself in a debt laden situation it's even more dire. Every penny needs to be thrown at the growing monster in your closet. You can't be bothered to throw money at a medical bill, or on over the counter medications week in and week out.

So stay frugal by keeping yourself healthy and happy. Here's a small, concise list I've drawn up for myself to keep my money out of the doctor's pocketbook.

Do you have a unique way to cut costs by living healthier? Post in the comments section and I'll link back to your blog in my next post!

  1. Eat better and greener, but cheaper: Eating organic sounds great, but it's going to weigh down your grocery bill. If you're willing and capable of eating all organic food, go for it. I'm neither willing or capable of spending that kind of money for that narrow of a product niche.

    Make a list of your weekly food requirements. Now check off the ten most expensive things. Now check off the ten most consumed things. Chances are you don't need those twenty things to get you through the work week and into the weekend. Some of the cheapest foods are the best for you, and some of the most expensive are the worst.

    Some of the cheapest and best include unprocessed rice, whole seasonal fruits and vegetables and bulk nuts.

    Your grocery store likely stocks a surprising amount of local produce. If it's local and on the shelves, chances are it's fresher, cheaper and better for you than anything shipped in from Chile or Vietnam.

    When you buy processed foods you're paying more for the processing than the foods themselves. You're paying for them to be ground up, mixed with a bunch of crap, wrapped in non biodegradable plastics and shipped to you.

    With whole foods and produce you're only paying for them to be picked and shelved.

    And do I really need to elaborate as to why skim milk is a better alternative to Pepsi?

    If you're eating foods that are as a whole better for your body, your body is going to have the ammunition it needs to ward of disease.

    And hey, if you're eating right you hardly need to spend all that money on vitamins and supplements, do you?

  2. Don't skip meals: It's easy to do, especially if you're living on a fixed budget. But you'll quickly find yourself either digging into a convenience food half way to your next meal (which is an unexpected cost and likely not too healthy), but you'll tire a lot more easily. Your body will begin to burn materials that take a lot more energy to burn.

    And if you're working overtime to appease American Express, you're going to need every ounce of energy you can muster.

  3. Cut caffeine and nicotine out of the picture: Some people can't live without coffee or their cigarettes. Which is a shame, because at that point they're an addict. Cigarettes cost an enormous amount of money, especially if you're a heavy smoker.

    And while caffeine may on occasion give you the boost you need to get through yet another 16 hour day, it's usually buddied up with lots of refined sugars (which will promote future dental work) and fattening substances (which will reduce your energy in the long term). Neither of which are really desirable bed fellows.

  4. Exercise: It doesn't have to be a lot and you don't have to become obsessive about it. And no, I'm not going to suggest you get a gym membership or any special type of machinery to promote positive habits.

    Those things cost money. Which is fine, they're good products and services. But the point behind this article is to live healthier to prevent you from spending money.

    Simple exercises will keep you occupied and burn excess calories. Take a walk around the office once every hour or so. Do some light yard work on the weekend. Wash your car by hand.

    I live in an area with community mailboxes, at the bottom of a hill. It's a good walk.

    It doesn't have to be a lot, but the more you move around the better you'll feel.

  5. Sleep more: And whenever possible. Your body and mind needs to stay rested in order to perform the reasonably complex tasks that bring in the dough every week. So stay rested and relaxed above all else. Especially if you're working a second job.

    Take a power nap on your lunch break, go to bed slightly earlier if possible, take a nap when you get home.

    You're not going to want to do anything, including work, if you're exhausted all the time.

  6. Wash your hands, reasonably: I'm not asking you to become a germaphobe and wash your hands every five minutes. That'll leave you defenseless for when you actually do catch a superbug, as what happens to most people during flu season.

    But occasionally washing your hands will reduce the chance of nagging illnesses that may cause you to miss a day or two of work. Even rinsing your hands is better than nothing. But don't over do it.

  7. Stay hydrated: Keep a reusable water bottle around you whenever you're in one place for a reasonably long time. Like at a desk or a cash register. Keep it full of water. If you keep yourself hydrated, you're less likely to splurge on a $2 soda from a vending machine every other day. It'll also help with your digestion and weight loss, should you need it.

    If you really can't stand drinking water, try drinking unprocessed fruit juices. Good things to look out for are not from concentrate, no added sugars, %100 fruit juice and unblended juices.
I'm not suggesting a whole life style change by any means. But if you stay ahead of the game you'll keep yourself up and running, and earning those much needed paychecks.


Danielle said...

I couldn't agree more. my boyfriend and I have been trying our very best to keep those expensive medical bills away.

but if you had a gym membership you probably wouldn't have had to take freezing cold showers when your hot water heater died. :)

Anonymous said...

great post! I couldn't agree more! I really like reading your blog.

Pamela said...

Hi, Ed, great post! Caffeine is the one thing I am not willing to give up at the moment. I do drink my coffee black and my iced tea is sweetened with stevia, though, and the rest of the time I drink filtered water. (I also home-brew the coffee and tea with it). I am a tea addict.

Unfortunately, our grocery stores are not good for carrying local produce. Most of it is from Mexico. So I am willing to spend a little extra to join a local co-op.

I really enjoy your blog and thanks for visiting mine. Happy New Year and the best of health and wealth to you!

Ed said...

Danielle, Anonymous: Thanks for your kind words! I'm no saint myself, (I really like steak.. and carbs..) but hey, the first step is putting the ideas down, eh?

Pamela: And it won't be my only visit!

I'm also pretty addicted to caffeine. I admit I drink my fair share of coffee. I'm probably a bit worse than you, I still add a spoonful of refined sugar.

The thing I'm most concerned about is the soda. I used to pound them back like they were going out of style.

So coffee and tea (especially tea, you gotta love those antioxidants!) are a good compromise for recovering junkies, I think. Especially when compared to cocoa, soda and energy drinks.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Jenn said...

Staying hydrated is a biggie. I bring a huge reusable bottle with me everytime I leave the house and I'm constantly refilling it.

Out with the bad, in with the good is what I always say!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you are only 21;you must have an old soul...
A very concise post on the frugal and simple things we can do to improve our lives. (Yet a list so many of us choose to not do). Isn't that just silly how our culture has changed in the last 40-50 years. Back then, your list was relatively unnecessary, because people did those things as the norm. Behavior is going to have to cycle back to that lifestyle, or we are going to kill ourselves off via McDonald's and Pepsi.
I went back to school a few years back and won a fairly decent scholarship for an essay I wrote. You know what I used the money for? A kick-ass treadmill... best purchase I've ever made. I love it!
Anyway...good timing on the topic. Can't wait to see what you come-up with next!

Ed said...

Dawn: It's a long story, but I've been hearing that all my life. That I have an "old soul." Suffice to say pressures beyond anyone's control were exerted on me from a very young age.

As such, I grew up in a hurry. I consider it a compliment. Thank you!

Treadmills are pretty good pieces of equipment, especially up here in the barren wastes of NH. (Where, I'll add, it currently is 11 F with a wind chill of -5)

I figured this post would pique quite a few people's interests. I don't exactly believe in new years resolutions per se, but I figured a lot of people would be looking to loose a couple of ponds.

So it's fitting, I think.


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