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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Fitness

Folks are spending a fortune on gym memberships, organic specialty foods, and home workout equipment. But being healthy does not have to break your budget -- it's more about the choices you make than what you buy.

An Ounce Of Prevention

It goes without saying that the best way to save money on healthcare is to simply avoid purchasing it -- a well-functioning body doesn't require expensive prescriptions or costly procedures to keep it going. And so much of our health is determined by lifestyle factors -- what we eat, how much exercise we get, whether or not we sleep well at night, and how much stress we carry on our shoulders. So of course, the first step toward simplifying and saving money is making some changes in how you live -- choosing healthy behaviors that will allow you to feel better and spend less money on dealing with illness.

  • buy your food unprepared (some people have the mistaken idea that eating healthy is too expensive, that the only way to make the grocery store affordable is to live off of Hamburger Helper and Ramen Noodles -- if you allow yourself to be taken in by brand names and convenience, then yes, the healthy stuff can cost a lot more -- ready-to-eat meals and bagged salads are more expensive than those you make yourself -- pre-chopped broccoli and individual serving-sized fruit cups will always take a bigger bite out of your budget than straight-up produce by the pound -- and supposedly better-for-you brands like Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice are just a slightly lower-calorie excuse to spend more money than if you bought fresh ingredients and cooked the dish yourself -- I'll return to my earlier example of a frozen "spaghetti bolognese" meal for one which costs about $5, averaging across all brands -- feed a family of four this way and you're looking at $20 for just one meal -- purchasing the individual components for that recipe not only costs half as much at around $10, but the meal ends up a lot healthier when you can control the amounts of sodium and fat, and there are no preservatives or unpronounceable chemicals added -- buy your ingredients as close to raw as possible and you'll find yourself not only saving money on your grocery bill, but also on doctor bills down the road!)
  • buy local and seasonal (a good way to avoid a lot of these worries is to shop from local farm stands and farmers markets, buying from people you know -- when you eat only food that is grown locally, you have a clear picture where it came from and how it was grown -- small farmers tend to use healthier agricultural techniques and often pride themselves on their chemical-free stance -- and since they aren't shipping their products halfway across the world, you don't have to cover their transportation costs -- because you're buying direct from the grower, you also aren't paying the inflated mark-up of some middle-man grocer -- I just bought a week's worth of veggies at a farm stand for about $10, produce which would have cost me 4 times that much at the store -- healthier, less expensive, and everyone wins!)
  • use health food stores sparingly (it's easy to get caught up in the idea that shopping at a "health food" store means the products are better for you, but that's not always the case -- pre-packaged products at these kinds of specialty shops can be just as laden with fat and calories as any others -- just because it's made with whole grains or cane sugar or organic ingredients does not guarantee health -- and nearly everything at these smaller shops is more expensive, partly because they lack economy of scale, but also because they know their clientele will pay a premium for "good health" -- rather than loading up your cart and weighing down your wallet, shop selectively at health stores -- for example, bulk grains and beans and nuts will cost you a lot less than what you'll find at larger groceries because you aren't buying the manufacturer's packaging and branding materials -- I also find that refilling your own containers with bulk spices or honey costs about 1/10 what a replacement bottle will run you -- but if you're using the health food store to buy organic produce, you might find a better deal at a farm stand -- and unusual "foreign" ingredients are often fresher and less expensive at a neighborhood ethnic market)
  • avoid fast food like the plague (I don't know who came up with the idea that it's cheaper to get something off the drive-thru dollar menu than to cook a meal from scratch -- but once you add in a side and drink and possibly a dessert, you're spending much more for the convenience of not having to wash dishes than you might think -- nowadays, fast food has gotten so expensive that even "value meals" end up costing $5 or $6 a person -- not to mention that very little of it is actually "food," and you're getting almost no nutrition from what you're consuming -- fast food is a lot of why our nation is in debt, obese, and dying of coronary disease, when even salads and oatmeal and fruit smoothies cost $3-$4 each, and are overflowing with calories and fat -- do both your cardiovascular system and your budget a favor, and stay away from the drive-thru)
  • lose the gym fees (exercise is an important component of good health, but you don't have to attend aerobics classes to get fit -- oh sure, you had big plans when you signed up for that membership, intending to go to the gym every day after work -- then things got busy, you got out of the habit, and you haven't set foot through the door in months -- the road to debt is paved with good intentions, and a lot of people waste a lot of money on health clubs that they never use, when they could get just as rousing a workout on their own -- take a run or a walk around your neighborhood -- pull out your rollerblades or dust off your bicycle and go for a spin through the park -- hike a trail in the woods -- if you live near a beach or lake, take a vigorous swim each day -- decide to drop the monthly fees and head out into the fresh air, and you'll be more likely to get a good workout)
  • create a gym in your home (if you do really enjoy "aerobics class" style workouts, it's cheaper to buy a few recordings and do them at home -- I've discovered some DVDs from Beachbody that make me feel as though I'm in a class, and that I can do easily in a small space -- the first is P90X, which offers a great selection of weight-training, plyo, and cardio workouts that will challenge you more than even an hour at the gym. -- I'm also very fond of Turbo Jam kickboxing, and Chalene's other exercises like the ab jam and lower body jam are really effective, as well -- choose whatever types of workouts appeal most to you, mirroring the classes you would have been interested in attending at the gym -- however, be cautious about loading up on a bunch of videos you never use -- getting fit is not about spending money, it's about finding a routine that speaks to you -- if you don't enjoy the workout, you won't do it regardless of how much money you've spent -- so find something fun that you can fit into your daily schedule, and enjoy the benefits of a professional fitness instructor in your home any time you want, without ongoing membership or training fees)
  • limit your investment (I've never been a big fan of expensive home exercise equipment -- treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair climbers, all-in-one weight systems -- these are the stuff of late night infomercials and next-day buyer's remorse -- to be fair, those machines look really good when you see Chuck Norris and some sexy young thing with a tight and toned body working out on them -- why is it then that they just end up gathering dust in your basement after about the first week? -- because working out on the same machine day after day after day is boring -- exercise that is so dull you need to watch TV or read a magazine just to make it through 30 minutes a day is not good exercise -- our muscles and our brains cry out for stimulation, for variety -- find a couple of different workouts that engage both your mind and your body at the same time, switch back and forth among them, and you're more likely to stay with it -- but regardless of what form your exercise takes, you shouldn't have to buy a lot of fancy and expensive equipment -- everything your body needs can be done with bands or a single set of adjustable weights -- if you like a bit of specialized exercise, consider a balance ball, step, or heavy bag -- but much more than that will probably go to waste)
  • build exercise into your day (the number one excuse for not exercising is usually, "I don't have time" -- but of course, you don't need to set aside a separate workout period if you build a little fitness into your day -- bicycling to work could replace your spin class -- taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk with friends during lunch can take the place of time on a machine -- doing some sweat-inducing yard work might be the equivalent of squats and lifting weights, especially if you tote a few bags of mulch back and forth -- take advantage of natural opportunities to move your body, especially those that are free!)
  • make a few lifestyle changes (there are things that all of us could do to both save money and live healthier -- canning the television and trading that evening of vegging on the couch for a walk around the block, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol and junk foods, boosting your immune system so you spend fewer of your hard-earned dollars on doctors and cold remedies during the winter, improving nutrition so you can get off a couple of expensive prescriptions, such as those for cholesterol and high blood pressure -- every little bit counts, and anything you can do to become healthier is going to positively impact your bottom line)

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posted on: 8/2/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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