How to Prioritize Your Health When You Don't Have Much Money to Spare
It’s still January, so I’m pretty sure new years resolutions or 2020 goals are on your mind. Last week, I wrote about paying down credit card debt. This week, I want to talk about another goal that is usually top of mind for folks: health. And by health, I mean whatever health means to you, not just what diet culture says it is. The trouble is, a lot of us feel like we can’t afford to put our health first. But in truth, you don’t have to have a ton of expendable income to prioritize your health in whichever way you see fit. Here are some ways to get started.
And by health, I mean whatever health means to you, not just what diet culture says it is.
Get Clear On Your Health Goals
One of the problems with diet culture (and there are many) is that we feel pressured to adhere to the goals of other people. And the standards of other people. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and then don’t even end up with what we actually want. So I want you to get clear on what actually matters to you, and only you.
Do you want to lose weight?
Do you want to feel stronger?
Do you want to get your cholesterol down?
Do you want to lower your blood sugar?
Do you want to improve your mental health
Do you want to sleep better?
Do you want to be less irritable?
(Hey, those are all my goals!) The point is: figure out what you’re actually hoping to achieve. Don’t just say “I want to be healthier” because that will be different for everyone. And once you pick your goals, make sure that you make them measurable so that you know when you’re meeting them. Plus, you’re allowed to revisit and alter your goals if you realize you aren’t getting what you thought you wanted.
Choose a Fitness Routine That You Actually Enjoy
If exercise is part of your health goals, great! But it’s important to choose a fitness routine that you actually enjoy. You don’t have to suffer through running outside (no thanks) if it makes you miserable and causes you pain. You don’t have to go to a dance class that makes you feel foolish and embarrassed (does anyone else know how to actually do zumba?). If you choose something you enjoy, you’re much more likely to actually stick to it and have it become a habit. For me, I have a few things I enjoy. I like slow, relaxing yoga. I like body pump classes. I like guided workouts on the stationary bike. I like lifting weights. I’m not going to do all of those things every time I go to the gym, but I’ll do at least one of them! And I’m much more likely to follow through with them than I would be if I promised myself I would go for a run or go to power yoga. What’s your favorite way to move your body?
Find An Affordable Way to Work Out
Once you’ve figured out what kind of exercise you most enjoy, you have to find a way to actually do it. If your favorite exercise is walking, perfect! Walking is free. You just have to find the best routes to take to get the most out of it. But if you’ve chosen other things that require a gym or a teacher, it can get a little trickier. Luckily, with technology, we have many options to choose from. There are tons of Youtube channels out there with free yoga classes and other forms of exercise. You could even search for what you’re looking for on Pinterest and find videos or illustrations that outline specific workout routines.
There are also lots of apps out there that can provide guided workouts. I use the app associated with my gym to give me guided exercises whenever I’m on the stationary bike, treadmill, or elliptical. There are also guided weightlifting options. That way, I know that I’m working harder. You can also try to find an affordable gym in your area, if you think you’d prefer that. Planet Fitness is notoriously affordable. Washington Sports Club was only $20 a month when I used it. Now, I used Gold’s Gym, which is $50 a month, which can be too expensive for some, but that includes the associated app I mentioned. It’s all about what you can afford and that you’ll use.
Find An Accountability Buddy
Studies show that we are much more likely to reach out goals if we have some kind of accountability. That’s why it’s so important to find someone to be along with you on your health journey, whatever it might look like! This person can be a coach, a trainer, a friend, a spouse, a family member, a co-worker, etc. Between the two of you, or the group of you, decide what this system should look like. Will you have regular check-ins? What’s most likely to keep the other person motivated? Pro-tip: make sure your buddy is someone who will encourage you in a loving and positive way, not someone who will make you feel like garbage!
Stop Going Out to Eat
This one is a win-win. Whether you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or blood sugar, or save money, reducing how often you go out to eat will help you get there. Eating at home is cheaper and healthier, most of the time. This is especially true if you do a little bit of meal planning. And I don’t mean you have to meal prep all day on Sundays. It could be as simple as looking at the week ahead and deciding what you’re going to eat for dinner each evening. Write those meals on a piece of paper or a chalkboard in your kitchen. Pro-tip: make meals that will have leftovers so you automatically have lunch ready for the next day.
Use Your Health Benefits to Your Advantage
If you have employer-provided health insurance, you might be entitled to more than immediately meets the eye. When I was employed, our benefits included a $500 annual wellness credit. That money would more than cover my gym membership at Washington Sports Club. A friend of mine gets free health coaching through her insurance. Ask your benefits person if there are any additional wellness benefits that you get through work. You’d be shocked at how many things can get left on the table if you don’t know about them!
Plus, if one of your health goals is to work on your mental health, find out if your insurance mostly covers mental health services. If you get an HSA or FSA through your insurance, make sure to use your pre-tax money to pay for things like co-pays, medications, eye glasses, and more.
What are your health goals this year? Share in the comments!