There’s an obvious connection between your health and your money, and it comes in the purchase and use of healthcare. But what if there was a connection between healthcare and saving money?
It’s common to budget for food, fitness and medical expenses separately, each working independently to satisfy a need. We think of our grocery and dining-out budget as very different from medical expenses, but are they really all that different? What if you thought of medical, food, and fitness expenses as a unit? Let’s consider blurring the lines between categories in order to save money, while ultimately improving our health.
When flexibility is employed, budgeting is at its best. Hard and fast rules are actually unnecessary as long as you are spending less than you make. But there are ideal percentages to spend on each category of your budget, if you are looking for guidance.
An ideal budget would set aside 5 percent of your take-home pay for medical expenses and fitness and 12 percent for groceries and dining—and it’s easy for these two categories to get maxed out quickly. For example, if your monthly take-home is $3,000, that leaves $150 for medical and fitness (doesn’t include your health insurance provided by your employer) and $360 for food. Are you using that $510 efficiently? If you learn to connect the dots between your health and your habits, you can combine categories as a way to creatively save money.
There is an undeniable relationship between eating healthy and overall health. Same goes for exercising. Yet one of the most common excuses used to avoid eating healthy and exercising is the cost. And it’s true, eating healthy and exercising will cost you. A gym membership is upwards of $50 a month and produce, especially fresh, organic produce, can cause your grocery bill to spike. But the long term benefits of starting and maintaining these behaviors can potentially save you hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars in medical expenses.
So let’s look at some specific examples. Having fresh produce delivered to your home on a weekly basis will cost you about $35 a week. That’s 40 percent of your individual food budget, but only about 27 percent of your newly combined medical, food and fitness budget. It may be hard for you to justify spending 40 percent of your food budget on one thing, but spending 27 percent of a budget not only sounds better, it leaves plenty of room for other necessary expenses.
A gym membership sounds expensive when it’s a third of your medical budget, but at only 10 percent of your overall medical and food budget, springing for a gym membership is a no-brainer. You should eat healthy and exercise for the health benefits—and simply creating room for it in your budget may just be the added motivation you need.
Combining food, fitness and medical expenses is in no way an attempt to downplay the importance of visiting a doctor and having health insurance. Instead, combining these categories gives you the freedom to spend money on your health in whatever form is important to you. If exercising at a gym is your preferred way to improve your health, then there is no reason it shouldn’t fit under the “health” umbrella. If visiting a nutritionist and developing a clean eating plan is how you plan to prevent illness, there is no reason it shouldn’t also fit under that same umbrella. There is always room for smart choices in a budget.
As humans continue to live longer and healthcare costs continue to rise, choosing to spend money on preventative measures is an excellent investment. Combining your food, fitness and medical expenses in your budget won’t be enough; you will also need to combine these categories in your mind. The correlation between them must be seen and felt in your life for true change to stick.
Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award-winning financial mind who has authored five books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show and travels around the country offering financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. For more from Peter, visit www.petetheplanner.com.
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