The Number One Way to Save Money

3 Nov

healthyThere are, of course, lots of different ways to save money. These ways are often debated as far as which one is the best, and there is definitely merit to those arguments. However, I am here to tell you that there is one way to save money that is very clearly the most effective. Not only that, but it helps improve life in general.

Being healthy.

Now I’m not talking about going to doctors and taking medications. In fact, I’m talking about the opposite.

I’m talking about keeping your body in good physical shape, about exercising, eating healthy, living in a clean environment, and all the other little things that will help you avoid illness and medical expenses.

I couldn’t even tell you the last time I went to a doctor for anything other than a standard physical (which always show I am in excellent health). Maybe when I broke my face playing basketball a couple years ago, but that’s a different story.

Turns out, that saves a huge amount of money. In fact, according to an article in the LA Times, average healthcare costs for a family are rising by close to double digit percentages every year, and this year topped $20,000. Of course, employers pick up a big chunk of that. But employees still pay 41% of it through payroll deductions and cost sharing. That means that the average family pays close to $9,000 out of pocket for health care, not even including what your employer is paying.

That approaches 20% of median family income.

The thing that I simply don’t get is WHY! How could the average person ever need that much medical attention? I mean of course if you have cancer or another horrible ailment, then your health care is going to be very expensive. But why is the average person having to get so much medical treatment?

And then I looked around.

The average American is a rather disgusting creature. Overweight, smoking and/or drinking constantly, eating fast food, watching TV 4 hours per day, commuting close to an hour per day in a car instead of riding a bike or walking to work, and so many other horrifying things. I mean really, just in TV and driving alone, Americans spend 5 hours per day, on average, on our asses. And that’s before you take into account the rest of our mostly sedentary lifestyles. That, combined with the a lack of consistent, dedicated exercise and disgusting, processed, mass produced food explains why American’s are so overweight and so unhealthy.

Let’s face facts, that needs to change.

How is it possible to even enjoy that lifestyle? Depriving yourself of better tasting food and exercise, watching hours of brainless television when you aren’t working a boring job, screaming at traffic on your way and way home, stopping at McDonalds halfway there to satisfy your enlarged stomach’s demands.

In other words, that lifestyle is neither enjoyable nor cheap. Besides the costs associated with that way of going about daily business, there is also the degrading health as a result. Here’s a shocker: being overweight leads to health problems, which in turn cost money to fix. Those health problems and their costly fixes lead to more health problems, and the vicious cycle continues.

But there is a simple solution to this problem, and if you are young, you can avoid it entirely. The solution: change your lifestyle.

Now that may sound outrageous. “Why should I change my entire way of life just to save some money on healthcare?” I can hear the critics screaming.

Well, as I’ve already stated, the average family’s healthcare is nearly 20% of their take home pay. You can easily get five to ten percent of that back in your pocket by being healthy. At least to me, having five to ten percent more money sounds pretty awesome. And that’s not to mention the fact that the lifestyle I’m talking about is substantially cheaper than the average American’s.

Also, these lifestyle changes really aren’t that hard to make. Being healthy is a choice that you make, and once made, you’ll find it isn’t that hard at all. In fact, it’s rather fun. I absolutely love the fact that I’m in excellent physical shape. Rewards feel better when they are earned through hard work, and being in good shape is one of the best.

So what changes need to be made? Let’s look at some of the most important.

Exercise

Physically intensive exercise is a major part of being fit and healthy. And I’m not talking about walking from the parking lot to your desk at work. I’m talking about doing actual exercise at least a couple times per week. Depending on your goals, this is going to be very different for everyone. I am currently trying to gain muscle mass, so I do weight training three times per week. If you are trying to trim fat, then you are probably going to do lots of cardio.

There are all sorts of different ways to go about exercise, and companies will gladly sell you an instruction set on any of them. This industry seems to have more scammers than any other I’ve seen. If the results a certain program claims are absolutely insane, than it probably doesn’t work. In general I’ve found the best exercise doesn’t come with a price tag. Running in a public park or doing pushups at home is probably just as good, and maybe better, than that fancy gym membership or online video course. There is merit to some programs, but unless you have some sort of specific fitness goal they probably aren’t needed.

Forget the Sedentary Lifestyle

Another major mistake people make is that they think that just because they are exercising three times per week, that gives them an excuse to relax the rest of the time. Instead of watching TV for four hours per day, do something more active. The more you are on your feet, the better off your body will be. This can be hard if you work a desk job, but aim to be moving around constantly when you aren’t at work. Ride your bike to work or to get groceries. Take the dog on an extra walk. Play some frisbee with your friends. Activities that include body movement are so much more fun than those that don’t, and the health benefits are tremendous.

Eat Healthy

Just like with the exercise world, the diet industry is highly commercialized and mostly full of misconceptions. If you ask ten people today what the healthiest diet is, you’ll likely get ten totally different responses. However, there are some universally standard principles for a healthy diet. Here are some of the most critical.

  • Variety is Key – The main thing that nearly all “experts” will tell you is to eat a varied diet, and it makes perfect sense. You need all kinds of different vitamins, minerals, and food types for your body to function correctly, so make sure you eat some of everything you need. This is one of the reasons why people who eat fast food are so unhealthy. Sure, most fast food has lots of things in it (and wayyyyyy too much of some, namely fat and salt), but it completely lacks others. Eating nothing but Mc(insert food here) will result in some pretty serious deficiencies in some critical needs for you body.
  • Simple vs. Complex Carbs – One thing that many people fail to understand is the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates (also known as fast and slow carbohydrates). They see that the body needs X amount of carbs, and think that that means they can eat that much sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate, yes, but it is a simple one, and your body processes it very differently than the carbohydrates in grains or vegetables. It has been proven that the more simple carbs you eat the more likely you are to be overweight. Also, eating less sugar will make for healthier teeth, so less expensive dental procedures.
  • Not all Fat is Bad – Some people decide to try and lose weight, and immediately cut fat out of their diets completely. While the intentions are great, the method isn’t always the best. For one thing, our bodies need some fat intake. Fat is a great energy source, and if you replace the fat you used to eat with something even less healthy (like sugar), you’re bound to be even worse off than you were before.
  • Processed Foods: The Root of America’s Obesity – In my humble opinion, mass food processing is one of the biggest reasons that America has become such an overweight nation. That includes everything from fast food to TV dinners to anything already cooked when you buy it. This is two-fold:
    1. These foods are way too easily accessible. Because it is so easy for someone to obtain and eat gobs of this food, people tend to do that. Just because something is easier than the alternative doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.
    2. They tend to be relatively unhealthy. Companies that make these foods have two goals. To sell lots of food, and to make it as cost effectively as possible. That means that food is designed to taste good, no matter what is actually in it. If a fake chemical gives the food a more appealing color or taste more addicting, the company is likely to use it, even if that chemical isn’t necessarily healthy for you. It also means that they use the lowest quality ingredients possible. Just think about the kinds of meat that are in cheap hot dogs or frozen food. I would be willing to bet everything I own that there is a direct relationship between the number of hot dogs eaten and life span for any given human.

I personally eat a diet that follows pretty closely the slow carb diet outlined by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Body. I highly recommend that book for anyone interested in the extremes of physical human health and conditioning. This diet has worked very well for me. Basically I eat mostly protein, complex carbs, and fat. No sugar, no wheat. I drink nothing but milk and water. Vegetables, meat, and beans are the staples. This diet has worked well for me, and works well for countless others. However, everyone’s bodies are different, and you should experiment with different things to find what really works best for you.

Fake Happiness, Real Lack of Health

It never ceases to amaze me how dumb some of my peers are. I mean really, why would anyone take up smoking cigarettes? The premise behind smoking something that clearly states on the label it will cause cancer and likely death baffles me. Not to mention the fact it is a major latte factor. They are called death sticks and cancer sticks for a reason. And what do you get for doing it? A quick nicotine buzz that is gone in minutes. And once you’re addicted, all you get is relief from anxiety you never even had to begin with.

Same thing goes for any other type of recreational drug, including alcohol. Is fake, temporary happiness really worth your money and life?

Now I’m not say these things are totally evil all the time. In fact, I think they can be great when used carefully and in moderation. It has been proven over and over again that people who drink occasionally and responsibly live longer than those that don’t, simply because they are more social and happier people than those who don’t. I myself love to occasionally smoke cigars with a few of my friends. But it’s when you are addicted or use a drug regularly that they become a major problem for your health and your wallet.

Over-doctoring

Whatever cliche expression you like to use, prevention is always better, cheaper, and easier than repair. So doesn’t it make sense that regularly going to a doctor and having all your little aches and pains examined is a preventative measure well worth it’s money? Definitely not in my opinion. I’ve seen lots of people that go to a specialist for every little problem they have. They take five prescription pills a day, and talk about all their little health problems to anyone bored enough to listen.

I visit doctors very rarely, don’t take any medication under any circumstances unless I’m either seriously ill or seriously injured, and in general just deal with aches, pains, and discomfort when they arise. Guess what? I don’t get sick, my body performs well, and I save a ton of money. If you are mixing together a cocktail of ground up pills every morning and juggling appointments with specialists for your “weak knees” and “sore back”, you are over doctoring. Now of course, if you have a real health condition or injury, you should seek medical attention and do exactly what the doctor tells you. But it never ceases to amaze me the little things that people think they need to have a specialist look at. Often times doing so causes more problems than it fixes.

Being unhealthy is a sordid state of being. And yet, so many people choose that lifestyle. If they realized how much happier they would be, how much better they would feel and look, and how much thicker their wallets would be if they followed the above guidelines, life would be so much better for all of them. Hopefully you have taken some of the things I’ve talked about and will apply them to your own life. If you want to live a full and happy life, physical health is the best place to start.

If you want to live a full and happy life, physical health is the best place to start. (<– Click to Tweet That)

12 Responses to “The Number One Way to Save Money”

  1. Canadian Budget Binder November 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    We quit smoking at the end of January this year. Although it was a difficult task and if you have never smoked you will never understand. Quitting smoking is terribly difficult and we all smoke for many reasons just like overeating etc. It’s about Life changes that we need to make on our own, but it was the best thing. We feel so much healthier and we clearly not only feel the benefits but understand more about why we chose this path. You only get one shot at life and we didn’t want to leave this planet early due to something we could control. If life takes us any other way then so be it but for now we are staying healthy, fit and aware. Cheers Mr.CBB

    • James November 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Great advice Mr. CBB. I’m sure quitting such an addicting habit very hard to do, and can put lots of stress on you and your family. But like you said, you only get one life. Congrats on quitting and living healthier!

  2. WorkSaveLive November 5, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Great article and advice! My wife was sitting next to me as I was going through my reader and she caught the title of your article…she guessed health immediately and she was pretty pumped to have gotten it right. :)

    Health is such a BIG factor in saving money. It’s crazy to think how much things will cost when you’re 60 or 70 and haven’t taken care of yourself.

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules November 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Good post. I completely agree that prevention, generally, saves so much more money over time as opposed to eating like a college student and not exercising. I think a lot of it comes down to perceived convenience. Real food, as opposed to processed and fast, is so much tastier and so much better for you. Sure, it might take some effort to prepare, but in the long run is so much better for you.

  4. David @ Bankruptcy Canada November 11, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Wonderful tips. I’d love to be healthy and happy. Quitting smoking is also a great achievement. I agree. We can save money by living a wholesome lifestyle and we can live longer too. It requires much effort but this can be done.

  5. David @ Bankruptcy Canada November 11, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    These are very good tips. I’d love to be healthy and happy. Quitting smoking is also a great achievement. However, what is more important is that we can save money by living a wholesome lifestyle. We can live longer too. It may be difficult but this can be accomplished.

  6. David @ Bankruptcy Canada November 11, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    How to save money is a no-brainer. Your article is one of the best pieces I ever read. A healthy person can save a lot of money. Living healthy and saving money. It is a good formula that everyone can adopt.

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