If you’re perusing this article, you probably have two goals you’d like to address:
- To live a healthy lifestyle
- To save money
Many people address one of these goals but leave the other hanging. Some examples will help.
If your organic food bill matches the GDP of a small developing nation, that’s healthy but not frugal. And if you subsist on chips, crackers, and soda from the Dollar Store, that’s frugal but not healthy.
The Pillars of Health and Wellness
What does living a healthy lifestyle entail? The question requires a thoughtful answer.
It’s not just nutrition. If you’re sleep deprived, no amount of protein, plant polyphenols, and extra virgin olive oil will rescue you. You’ll be less concentrated, less jolly, and less able to burn fat than you otherwise would.[*]
Fine, you’re thinking, I’ll dial in my nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Those are the pillars of health.
They may be the central pillars, but the list is incomplete. Mental and social wellness also deserve your attention.
Your mind is all you have, after all. If you don’t befriend it (via meditation or other practices), you’re in for a long, stressful life.
The aspiration, then, should be to do your best with these five pillars. Now let’s include the additional goal of saving cash.
Can You Stay Healthy on a Budget?
Staying healthy on a budget is easy. Why? Because the highest-impact activities are usually free.
What does it cost to go to bed at the same time every night? Or go hiking? Or meditate? Or call a friend?
These things require an investment of time, not money. And if that time is in the service of your health, it’s a wise investment.
Nutrition seems to be the exception. When you hit the organic section, your credit card notices.
But while you’ll never eat for free, you can significantly reduce your food costs without living on microwavable noodles. Let’s explore how to do that.
5 Ways To Eat Healthy Meals on a Budget
It’s easy to spend big on healthy food. That king salmon may be delicious and nutritious, but $30 is a lot to shell out for a piece of fish.
Try these wellness tips for saving cash while eating right:
- Buy and cook in bulk. Bulk foods (especially meats) are cheaper. Freeze the excess, and don’t fear leftovers.
- Shop organic selectively. Go organic if a given food is likely contaminated with pesticides (see the dirty dozen list), and save on the rest.
- Eat in. Make dining out a treat, and your bank balance will start growing.
- Eat eggs. They’re inexpensive and have all the macros you need.
- Track costs. Like tracking macros with Carb Manager (also free!), tracking costs will inspire better habits.
5 Sleep Tips That Won’t Cost You
Sleep is a pillar of health. Mind these tips to sleep well on a budget:
- Keep a consistent bedtime. An inconsistent bedtime is linked to bad health outcomes.[*]
- Sleep in a dark, cool room. The A/C cost is worth it for the sleep quality improvement.
- Minimize blue light at night. Or wear blue blocking glasses while you Netflix and chill.
- Get blue light in the morning. Bright light early increases melatonin (your sleep hormone) later.[*]
- Go easy on alcohol. Skipping alcohol saves you money and sleep impairment.[*]
5 Exercises at Home for Cheap
These gym-free activities will keep you strong and vital without emptying your wallet:
- Push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, lunges and planks. Who needs exercise equipment when you have your body?
- Hiking or walking. The ultimate low-level exercise.
- Jogging. This aerobic standby is sometimes pronounced “yogging.”
- Online classes. The internet is full of free yoga classes. Namaste.
- Standing desk. Hack one together and burn more calories by throwing your laptop on a stack of books.[*]
Want a deeper dive on budget exercising? Read this article.
5 Ways To Stay Socially Connected Without Spending
Social connection is often neglected, but it’s right up there with the other pillars. Here are some budget-friendly ways to nurture it:
- Phone a friend. Bonus points if you ambush them with Zoom or FaceTime.
- Eat with family. Make meal time sacred family time.
- Join a meetup group. Find folks with similar interests (pressing wildflowers?) and enjoy their company.
- Become a regular. Become an institution at a local coffee shop. It’s nice when everybody knows your name.
- Most importantly, don’t isolate yourself. Alone time has many benefits, but push yourself to be social if you feel lonely.
5 Mental Health Tips
Caring for your mind is a lifelong journey. These tips will help you chart the right course:
- Meditate. If you want a healthy mind, it helps to understand how your mind works. Mindfulness meditation helps you become less distracted, less reactive, and more peaceful by increasing your awareness of what’s happening right now.[*]
- Meditative exercise. Hiking, yoga, swimming, cycling, and many sports promote a Zen-like flow state that might be called “happiness.”
- Read. There are countless books on how to be happy. If you’re looking for time-tested ideas, start with Eastern or Stoic philosophy.
- Practice gratitude. It costs nothing to keep a gratitude journal, and it’s been shown to improve mood.[*]
- Laugh. Choose company and entertainment that make you giggle. Be sure to frequently remind your friends that you’re laughing for the health benefits, not because you think they’re funny.[*]
Most of the Important Stuff Is Free
It’s true. Most big healthy moves don’t cost a penny.
What it requires is your commitment. Tools like Carb Manager can help solidify that commitment (the free version handles the nutrition pillar), but it won’t take action for you.
The good news? Perform healthy actions enough times, and they’ll become habitual.
Then your health will handle itself.