Sometimes it seems like being health conscious is an expensive choice. Organic food and clothing, supplements, appointments, classes, gym memberships – these things add up.
Investing in your health can be an expensive decision – I guess that’s why they call it an investment. And it pays off, big time – even financially – as you need less doctor’s appointments and medicines as you age – if you look after yourself.
Still, it seriously gets on my goat that lots of the ‘healthy alternatives’ in our pre-packaged Western world are so much more expensive than the processed garbage that made us sick in the first place.
So today we’re going to look at the best of both worlds – ways in which you can both save money AND improve your health over time.
1. Clean for free
Disposable cloths, vats of chemicals and spray bottles that need replacing every 10 minutes. You’re literally pouring money down the drain.
Turn to microfibre instead.
Modern cleaning products contain a myriad of industrial chemicals that are known to cause health problems by taxing our liver and disrupting our natural bacterial microflora (i.e. the “good bugs” in our gut and on our skin.)
Some of these chemicals, such as triclosan (an antibacterial agent) have recently been banned from hand soaps by the US FDA, because the manufacturers could not demonstrate safety! http://www.cbsnews.com/news/antibacterial-hand-body-wash-product-sales-halted-by-fda/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab6a&linkId=28371937
Do we really want to get these chemicals on our hands, in our air, or on the benches that we prepare our food on? (The ban is actually not in place yet and isn’t in Australia either – so you might want to ditch that antibacterial soap while you’re at it.)
Let’s do some quick maths: how much do you spend on bench sprays, bathroom cleaners, disinfectant wipes and floor cleaner each year?
For just a few dollars up front you can ditch them all, permanently!
There are various brands around including Enjo and Oates cloths and gloves, but my favourite by far is Norwex. It’s easy to clean (just chuck it in the washing machine), very long lasting and naturally collects bacteria from surfaces without antibacterial chemicals.
Because it doesn’t use chemicals, it also doesn’t create resistant superbugs.
And it’s cheap.
Best of all, if I’ve given you a bum steer and you hate the stuff – they have a 60 day money-back guarantee. For more information, go googling! (You can also feel free to contact me for the name of a good rep.) Oh, norwex also have a great, NON-antibacterial hand soap!
2. Drink water – from your own bottle
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australians spend more than $600 million on bottled water every year and the Australian non-alcoholic beverage industry is worth SEVEN BILLION dollars! (That doesn’t include milk, by the way.)
It doesn’t take long for the cost of purchased beverages to add up – it takes a whole lot less time to get yourself to your local health food store, newsagent or pharmacist to purchase an inexpensive, safe, and, if you like, swanky, stainless steel or glass water bottle.
Heck, you can even buy bottled water in glass at supermarkets if you wish – just make sure that when you finish it, you refill with water from home, rather than tossing it.
I know that sometimes you want to drink something other than water,but if you make it your habit to carry a water bottle with you wherever you go then it’s always easier to drink water than to buy something more expensive and …. Sugary.
Your health will thank you for it. If you’ve got kids, start training them to grab a water bottle on the way out the door. My kids are better at remembering now than I am!
On a side note: plastic water bottles are not a great idea – neither are the aluminium ones which are simply lined with plastic. The chemicals like BPA and it’s new, as-yet-un-vilified replacement, BPS (which could well be worse for you), can leech into your water and not only make it taste bad, but affect your health by mimicking hormones in your body. This is especially the case if you re-use the bottles from purchased bottled water, which are not at all designed for re-use.
Stick with un-lined stainless steel or glass.
3. Perfume is for flowers….
I know I do seem to be banging on about chemicals a bit here, but there’s a reason for that. If you can smell it, you’re breathing it in, and if it’s on your skin, it’s being absorbed – so why, oh why, would we put chemical fragrances on our own bodies?
Because they are considered proprietary technology, artificial fragrances do not have to undergo safety testing, and many if not most of them are endocrine disrupters.
That means that they mimic the actions of natural hormones in our body which, in turn, alters our own hormonal and reproductive function. This goes for aftershave and cologne as well so the men can help out with the family budget too.
As someone who used to suffer from severe chemical sensitivities, let me now speak on behalf of all my fellow human beans who still do: perfumes can make us sick. Really sick. For me, one whiff of perfume meant that I could spend 3 hours leaning over a toilet bowl the next night. It got so bad that I had to tell anyone coming to my home that they weren’t welcome to wear perfume, but this didn’t help me much in public places.
And I cannot begin to tell you how often I cringed when a well-meaning but perfumed friend asked to hold my newborn baby- then handed her back to me smelling like David Jones. (Oh how many extra hair washes my children had!) Now I no longer have any chemical sensitivities (which is a GREAT story – please, ask me to tell you!!) but I still cringe at the smell because I know how hard these chemicals are on our bodies – yours while you wear it, and mine and my children when we breathe them in. So save yourself a few $ – or a few hundred $ if you like the expensive stuff – and ditch it. You smell fine as you are.
4. Stop smoking
This one’s a no-brainer. I’m tempted to not even comment, except to say that one of my patients quit smoking about 3 months ago, and she just reported to me that her little tracker app thingy (how cool) has told her she has now saved $995! Just imagine….
5. Give your liver a rest from alcohol
Due to afore-mentioned chemical sensitivities, I have always had to be fairly protective of my liver – that and 9 straight years of pregnancy or breastfeeding will do wonders for your budget. (Ok, perhaps not so much. I did eat quite a lot of extra camembert when I was breastfeeding. And the pregnancies have, after all, resulted in 3 eating machines, but it’s worth it.)
I have often sat around at social gatherings or restaurants and wondered “just how much money are people spending on this stuff and what could they do with the money if they didn’t?” Now don’t get me wrong, I am not out on an ‘alcohol is evil’ campaign – I enjoy the odd cider and agree that there is some benefit in a glass of organic, preservative free red wine from time to time. But alcohol does deplete B vitamins (so critically lacking in many people today), tax the liver, increase the risk of stomach complaints like reflux and, of course, contribute to traffic and other accidents.
So how about you cut back, take a break for a while and drink from that water bottle you bought earlier instead? I know, I know, you don’t want to stand out from the crowd. Fine then, just ask for a lemon, lime and bitters, or an orange and soda – heck even a rum and coke without the rum! These aren’t TERRIBLY nerdy drinks, are they? (You don’t have to tell anyone that your coke is rumless if you don’t want to – but then again, why not just stand up for the choices you make and not be cowed by peer pressure??? Think on that.)
Perhaps I should add here that I’m not actually endorsing the drinking of coke, by the way. But if you just HAVE to, you know, to fit in, well….
6. Take your lunch to work (uni, school)
Now that the man about our house is working from home, we are spending at least $60 less per week on breakfast and lunches. Yes, our budget for each meal has gone up SLIGHTLY – as we cook for five each night and try to have enough leftovers for everyone’s lunch – but overall the saving is around $50 per week. The health savings are also significant – and hubby is well trained, so he wasn’t buying a burger and fries (usually – he tells me.) I am already noticing he has clearer skin. How much trans-fat, rancid deep-fry vegetable oil, food additives and other…..rubbish… could YOU not eat, if you simply BYO’d?
I always bring my lunch to work, and back at college, when all the other financially struggling students were buying lunch, I sat pretty with my home-brought lunch every single day. My personal favourite: rocket and sauerkraut with olives and a bit of leftover roast meat of some kind, drizzled with olive oil. Add a home-baked muffin or biscuit (healthy, of course), some coconut yoghurt with a few nuts – or a piece of fruit – perfectly adequate for a whole day out. I am very proud of the fact that I literally bought lunch at college zero times. (I may have bought a snack once or twice, I’ll admit. But they weren’t worth it. I can bake better.)
The only question is – what was wrong with us that we didn’t take the initiative to pack my hubby’s lunch each day too? If only we’d known how much we’d save.
7. Have a “leftovers night” instead of a takeaway night
Really there’s not much to be said here that I didn’t just say about taking your lunch. Except leftovers give you more flexibility than BYO lunches as the re-heating options are usually better. It does require some fore-thought – you can either cook double one night of the week, or cook a bit extra every night and then each person can have their favourite on the leftovers night.
This can result in some fighting if everyone likes the same thing – but hey, I’m sure you’re smart enough to work around that and cook more of the favourites.
8. Plant a garden
Organic food can be expensive – there’s no doubt about it. But growing your own is cheaper than buying regular produce, especially if you buy from seed. If you’re a gardening novice it’s definitely worth buying a good permaculture or organic gardening book to guide you – or get an experienced friend to help you come and set up.
Once you’re up and going, this lifestyle change provides a quadruple-whammy:
- Saving money,
- organic food without pesticides,
- exercise and
- sunlight exposure
all at once!
Take some time to soak in the sunlight for vitamin D – 10 minutes without hat or sunscreen in the middle of the day – between 10am and 3pm – provides all the sunlight you need for vitamin D. (Please don’t exceed this amount during this time without covering up!)
In the earlier morning and later afternoon, you can go out for longer without risk of burning, so it’s usually best to do most of your gardening at these times. Sunlight still has many benefits even when it’s not ‘vitamin D time’ such as improving mood and helping to regulate your circadian (day/night) rhythms.
Make gardening an active part of your family life and everyone will benefit. Children love learning about growth cycles and weather patterns and little creatures they find in the garden. If you have very little ones chances are some dirt will get eaten. Just so you know.
9. Buy second hand
So many products that we purchase off the shelves today are treated with all sorts of chemicals which “out-gas” for quite some time after opening. (Out-gassing refers to the leaching of manufacturing chemicals into the air for some time after production.)
This means that when you purchase new clothing, couches, rugs, bedding etc – you are breathing in, and absorbing through your skin, so many toxic chemicals. Things like formaldehyde, nonylphenol ethoxylates (restricted in the western world but widely used in textile factories in Asia, where much of our clothing comes from), flame retardants, bleaches etc etc.
Choice magazine has commented that “Australia lags behind the rest of the world in regulating toxins in our textiles, clothing and footwear;” in other words, government regulations are not protecting us from being poisoned by our clothing.
Of course organic clothing is a great option for reducing chemical exposure from textiles, however the more budget-friendly option is to go op-shopping. Yes, these clothes may have originally been contaminated by the same toxins as you’d have had to deal with if you’d purchased new, but the benefit is that multiple washings, airings and hopefully, time in the sun, will have degraded a large percentage of any problematic chemicals. My personal experience bears this out: I could never wear brand new clothing without becoming ill – second hand was always fine.
Certainly buying second hand (or better still, getting hand-me-downs from a friend) is a great way to save on the clothing budget. I have found some amazing bargains especially on nice dresses for little girls. I will warn you to carefully avoid clothing with mould or ‘mildew’ spots however – these indicate that the clothing is contaminated by mould toxins and they can NOT be washed out, so buyer beware.
Ebay, gumtree and various facebook buy/sell/swap groups are also good sources. If you can’t find what you really need however, and you can’t go organic, at least wash new clothing multiple times (in eco-friendly, hypoallergenic laundry powder) and air well in the sun before you wear. And when your kids grow out of clothes, do someone else a favour and pass them on to a friend who can use them.
For more information on chemicals in clothing, check out Choice’s site here: https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/everyday-shopping/clothing/articles/chemicals-in-clothing
10. Walk or cycle somewhere
Of course ditching the car and saving petrol (and possibly parking) in exchange for a bicycle, or your own two feet, is a great way to save a few dollars while contributing to your health and longevity. And you don’t have to go a great long distance to benefit – a recent Canadian study found that cycling for only one hour a week significantly improved fitness and reduced cardiovascular risk factors (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27096619).
Walking for five hours (per week – a similar distance to the cycling) has the same benefits. One hour’s cycling per week – if you can find a way to ride to work or to take the kids to school, that’s only 12 minutes per day – 6 mins either way – quite achievable for many people.
So if your child’s school, your bus or train station, or best yet, your workplace, is within cycling or walking distance – go for it! It will make an enormous difference to your health, and not cost you a cent.
I know that for many of us work/school/college are simply too far away to do this, but do consider whether you can make that trip to your local shops something you do on foot. Or perhaps you could simply get off the bus a little earlier and walk home a bit further? Incorporating a short walk or cycle daily may seem like a lot of effort at first, but once it’s part of your routine you’ll see the benefits and it’s easy to maintain the habit.
I’m hoping to start riding to work soon myself – or at least walking part of the way. Wish me luck!
How about You?
Have you got some awesome money saving tips for the budget conscious that have the added advantage of helping your health? Let us know in the comments!