From working out at the gym and eating right to spending less and budgeting more effectively, millions of people set New Year’s resolutions each year with the goal of improving their fitness and finances. In 2018, why not commit to a resolution that can improve both your health and your wealth?
Here’s a list of eight habits that might just make a difference in both your wallet and your waistline.
#1 – Get out your bike
The bicycle is a health- and wealth-optimizing machine. Where else can you burn 500 calories while saving $10 an hour1?
Imagine your hard-core self passing others up as you dash down the street to get to the post office or library as others parade around in their gas guzzling, racing cages.
A British study of 263,450 subjects took a comprehensive look at the health benefits of bicycle commuting, and the results were staggering. Over the course of the study, the subjects who rode bikes had a 41 percent lower chance of early death on average than those who didn’t.2
“Cycle commuters had a 52 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 40 percent lower risk of dying from cancer. They also had a 46 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 45 percent lower risk of developing cancer at all,” the study’s authors wrote.
If there were a pill out there that cut our risk of these horrible diseases by nearly half, we’d be all over it. And yet many of us have bikes in garages doing nothing but collecting dust.
Need more proof that cycling is good for you? Consider the case of Jean Louise Calment of Arles, France.3 She lived until age 122—despite her indulgences in smoking, port wine and chocolate consumption—and
is on record as the longest living person ever. One of her longevity secrets was cycling, an activity she pursued until she was 100.
#2 – Cut the cable cord
Want instant savings on a big monthly fee? Cut off your cable. You could reduce your annual expenses by $2,000, not including energy costs. In addition, people who forego traditional TV see at least 10,000 fewer ads each year—ads which subtly nudge consumers back to the store to buy more stuff4—resulting in lower spending.
In the Men’s Fitness article, “Watching TV All Day Is Pretty Much Gonna Kill You (If It Doesn’t Rot Your Brain First),” the author cited that “alarming new research suggests that couch potatoes don’t just have to worry about obesity, heart disease, and cancer (which we knew about already). Tuning in for hours at a time also increases the danger that you’ll die from even more diseases, many of which are among the leading causes of death in the U.S.—things like diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, Parkinson's disease, and liver disease.”5
As an even bigger bonus, non-TV watchers naturally burn more calories with alternative activities. A New York Times article reported on a study that confirmed a group who “watched less television moved more, burning an average of 120 calories more a day than the control group.”6
#3 – Stay in for lunch
Not only is going out for lunch every day a huge time waster, it’s also a real crunch on your wallet and your waistline.
From a monetary standpoint, a single lunch can set you back as much as $20 once you factor in the cost of restaurant food plus gas. Bringing your own lunch is significantly cheaper.
Plus, when making a lunch to take to work, you’re more likely to choose healthy food items like salads or meat and vegetable leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.
In a restaurant, it’s often hard to resist pizza or a hamburger, not to mention a side of fries. One way to ensure healthy-eating habits stick is to cook an extra serving at dinner that you can use for the next day’s lunch.
In the past, one of my colleagues used to cook a large batch of his favorite chili recipe once a month. This allowed him to eat lunches practically free for the next 30 days. Another option is to stock up on pre-made salads, soups, or veggie wraps from your local grocery store.
#4 – Cook at home
You can also improve your body and your bank account by cooking at home more often and eating out only on special occasions. When you cook for yourself, you tend to take nutrition more seriously. Consider working up a meal plan that allows you to choose more veggies, limit meat and bread, avoid convenience foods, and minimize sugar.
Challenge your creativity and internet research skills to come up with 10 new favorite recipes that pump up your nutrition and relieve your grocery budget. Websites like http://www.5dollardinners.com/ or http://www.frugallivingmom.com have hundreds of ideas to share.
#5 – Get in touch with nature
Make nature your primary source of recreation and peace. As author and naturalist John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Whether it’s walking the nearest canyon or hiking a trail, local communities offer dozens of free nature opportunities. When the kids are begging you to hit Legoland, plan a trek instead.
Most city parks also have playgrounds that provide an excellent free resource to families and help develop childrens’ social skills.
Some national parks are free and others charge a fee depending on what your plan is. The fee isn’t much compared to what you gain from venturing around our beautiful landscapes and enjoying Mother Nature.
#6 – Tackle your own tasks
Our society has grown more service oriented since the 1950s. The casualties of our convenience culture are the calories once burned mowing the grass or cleaning the house. A great deal of money can be saved by clipping your own hedges and folding your own laundry. Unsure of how to get started on doing your own household tasks? Turn to YouTube for millions of “how to” videos from mopping the floor to cutting the hedges.
#7 – Walk to work
Reinvent your commute by walking the final mile. Whether it’s finding the furthest parking spot in your company lot or parking a mile before you get to work, there are many ways to add walking to your daily routine.
If you really want to step it up, buy a fitness tracker to measure how this subtle change increases your steps, then work on stepping it up each week. For every couple of miles walked, you burn 200 calories and save about $2. If $2 doesn’t sound like much to you, consider the compounding effect of $2 a day over 20 years. At an 8% return, that small amount can add up to $36,000.
#8 – Add fitness to your day
Join a fitness class or craze that lights up your day. Even if your program costs $100 a month, the return in fewer sick days and medical bills over your lifetime could well be worth it.
Avid exercise enthusiasts save quite a bit on healthcare. According to an article in Shape, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like walking or mowing your lawn) five days a week, or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like running, swimming, or aerobics) three days a week—or a combination of the two—can save on doctors’ bills.
The surprising result? The study found that people who met these goals saved on average $2,500 in health costs each year.7 As medical costs continue to soar, this savings could make a big difference in your family budget.
Whatever you decide to attempt for 2018, remember that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. So, what’s the best way to get a new habit to stick? Write down your progress on a daily basis. If you can devote just five minutes each day to this activity, you’ll create a habit that delivers big benefits in the coming months.
Here’s to more wealth and health in 2018!
1. Jonathan. (May 8, 2017.) The True Cost of Car Ownership. Retrieved from https://www.choosefi.com/022-true-cost-car-ownership/. (Stat based on $0.53/mile after considering depreciation, gas, maintenance and taxes on a 5-year-old car.)
2. BMJ 2017;357:j1456. (Apr. 19, 2017.) Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456.
3. Newsner. (Oct. 27, 2015.) Jeanne Reached 122 Years. Here Are Her Secrets to Living a Long Life. Retrieved from https://en.newsner.com/family/jeanne-reached-122-years-here-are-her-secrets-to-living-a-long-life/.
4. “Herr, Ph.D, Norman.” (2007.) Television & Health. Retrieved from https://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html.
5. Rodio, Michael. (Dec. 3, 2015.) Watching TV All Day Is Pretty Much Gonna Kill You (If It Doesn’t Rot Your Brain First). Retrieved from https://www.mensfitness.com/life/entertainment/watching-tv-all-day-pretty-much-gonna-kill-you.
6. Parker-Pope, Tara. (Dec. 16, 2009.) How Less TV Changes Your Day. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/how-less-tv-changes-your-day/.
7. Malacoff, Julia. (Sep. 9, 2016.) Working Out Could Save You $2,500 Every Year. Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/working-out-could-save-you-2500-every-year.