Staying fit can benefit more than just your waistline. Good health can also bring more wealth your way by helping you save money.
“Getting personally and financially fit are really similar,” says JT, a pseudonym for the founder of Just Making Cents, a personal finance blog. “Your calorie intake is like your spending. Eat fewer calories than you use, and you lose weight. Spend less money than you make, and you save.”
Making certain lifestyle changes that will save you money could be a smart move if you’re working toward a financial goal, like saving up for retirement, planning for a large purchase, building up your emergency fund or cutting back on spending. You can set aside any extra cash you save from getting healthy for the future.
But does that mean you have to completely overhaul your daily routine? Nope. Not at all. Here are five ways to save money without drastically changing your lifestyle:
1. Get moving
Exercising can lead to better health, and it’s one of the easiest lifestyle changes to make if you want to save more money.
Kelan Kline, who co-founded The Savvy Couple personal finance blog with his wife Brittany, set a goal in the fall of 2016 to lose 40 pounds by the beginning of the following summer. To merge his passion for frugality with a desire to stay fit, he aimed to lose weight while spending as little money as possible.
Instead of paying for a monthly gym membership at a private club, he and his wife got a yearly membership to the gym at their local college for just $45. They also turned to the great outdoors for exercise, choosing to bike, swim, hike and walk to stay active.
“The beauty of working out is you can literally do it anywhere,” Kline says, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
“Getting personally and financially fit are really similar. Your calorie intake is like your spending. Eat fewer calories than you use, and you lose weight. Spend less money than you make, and you save.”
2. Ditch one bad habit
When you’re looking for ways to save money without drastically changing your lifestyle, try getting rid of one thing that may be hurting your health and your wallet.
Michelle Clardie, founder of Savings and Sangria, a personal finance blog focused on helping young women hone their money management skills, says smokers might consider kicking the habit. This is a great example of a lifestyle change that will save you money.
Assume you spend $7 a day on cigarettes. By going cold turkey, you could save $2,555 a year, Clardie says. And, if your insurance costs were to decrease by $100 a month as a result, you could add another $1,200 to your savings. With that money alone, you’d be more than halfway to fully funding an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for the year. For 2017 and 2018, the annual contribution limit for both traditional and Roth IRAs is $5,500, with an extra $1,000 allowed for savers 50 and older.
Other lifestyle changes to make if you want to save more money might include cutting out soda and alcohol, or dialing back on how often you consume them. Both could make you healthier while also leaving you more money to add to your savings.
3. Skip dinner out
Eating out can be a serious budget buster. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Expenditure Survey, Americans spent nearly 44 percent of their total food budget on dining out in 2016. Aside from draining your wallet, it’s easy to pack on the pounds if you’re not mindful of what you’re eating at your favorite restaurants.
Anna Dunn Tabke, principal at Alpha Capital Management based in Atlanta, recommends meal planning when making lifestyle changes that will save you money. It can take some getting used to, she says, but it’s worth it—both for your health and your finances.
“When we started meal planning, it would take us over an hour on Sunday to go through cookbooks and pick meals,” she says. “Now that we’ve been doing it for a few months, it only takes us 10 to 20 minutes and has saved us about 10 percent off our monthly grocery bill.”
If you’re spending $200 a month eating out, cooking at home can be a great way to save money without drastically changing your lifestyle. If you were to eliminate such spending entirely, you would have another $2,400 a year that you could funnel into a retirement account, emergency fund or high-yield savings account, for example. Even if you were to cut back on meals by a third, that would free up $800 a year for your savings.
4. Eat fresh
Cooking at home is a lifestyle change that will save you money, but to reap the most health benefits, it’s important to choose the right ingredients. That means steering clear of processed foods in favor of fresh alternatives. The assumption that going organic means going broke is not necessarily the case.
“A lot of people think that eating healthy costs a bunch of money,” Kline says. “The reality is you can eat well on a budget.”
A 2015 Consumer Reports study, for example, found that while some organic items may be more expensive, others may be priced the same or less than their non-organic counterparts. It all hinges on what you buy, where you shop and what’s on sale at any given time.
Clardie says if you’re looking for a healthy lifestyle change that will save you money, it’s all about choices. That might mean splurging for organic versions of the “dirty dozen”—produce that can be heavy with chemicals when grown conventionally. This list includes celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, cherries and grapes. You can opt to purchase non-organic (and less expensive) versions of the “clean 15″—produce with little or no trace of pesticides and therefore safe to consume even when not grown organically. This list includes onions, avocados, mangos, cabbage, eggplant and grapefruit.
Eating fresh—and tracking your calories while you’re at it—are two relatively low-key lifestyle changes that will save you money and give your health a boost.
“A lot of people think that eating healthy costs a bunch of money. The reality is you can eat well on a budget.”
5. Take advantage of employee health benefits
Other ways to save money without drastically changing your lifestyle might be right under your nose if you have certain health benefits through your job. A health and wellness program, for example, could help you slim down and spend less.
Wellness programs are designed to offer workers incentives to get and stay healthy. Yours might feature benefits like a discounted gym membership, rewards for reaching certain health goals and programs to help you quit smoking or lose weight.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is another benefit you don’t want to overlook if you’re considering lifestyle changes to make if you want to save more money. These accounts, which are linked to high-deductible health insurance plans, allow you to save money for future health care expenses in a tax-advantaged way.
For 2018, for example, you can save up to $3,450 in an HSA if you have individual coverage, or up to $6,900 if you have family coverage. You can then use those funds to pay for medical expenses as the need arises and, unlike a Flexible Spending Account, the money rolls over from year to year. Your contributions are also tax-deductible, which reduces your taxable income for the year, potentially reducing your tax bill or boosting your refund.
If your lifestyle changes keep you healthy, your HSA can double as a retirement account down the line. After age 65 or Medicare eligibility, you can tap this money without penalty for any reason. You’ll just pay income tax on withdrawals that aren’t used for health care.
Start small when making lifestyle changes that will save you money
Knowing what lifestyle changes to make if you want to save more money is important if you’re working toward a financial goal. You don’t necessarily have to make all the changes outlined here, however. Adopting just one or two of these lifestyle changes that will save you money could make a positive difference in your physical and financial health over the long term.