There are few things in life more important than your health and well-being. When you take care of yourself, you’re acknowledging that you matter and that your life is a priority. It all translates to a longer and happier life. Even the simplest things can go a long way toward keeping you healthy throughout the year. Give yourself the gift of good health with these budget-friendly improvements to your lifestyle.
Cook at Home
Cooking for yourself has two major benefits: cost savings and better health. Why spend $20 on dining out when you could cook the same meal for under $5? When you buy fresh groceries from the market and eat meals made from scratch, you’re able to avoid additives and processed ingredients that are typically found in restaurants and pre-made food. However, don’t be tricked into thinking that anything at the store is cleaner than a restaurant menu. Packaged food, such as cereal and canned soup, is likely unhealthier than the “soup of the day” or oatmeal at a restaurant.
It’s best to cook with real ingredients such as animal protein, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and olive oil. If it has too many ingredients, then it’s no longer whole. To make your food tastier, season liberally with herbs and spices, and skip the added sugar and salt.
Take a Daily Walk
Exercise comes with a host of physical and mental health benefits, including healthy weight and slower aging, increased energy and moods, and reduced risk of heart attacks, depression, and dementia. If you’re just getting started with exercise, get into the routine of walking every day. Walking is an easily accessible, low-impact activity that anyone can do anywhere at no cost. All you need are feet, comfortable shoes, and ground to walk on. Develop a pattern by choosing the same time each day to go for a walk, such as in the morning before work or in the evenings after dinner. If you can find ways to walk throughout the day, then do it. Every step counts.
Set Up a Home Gym
If you discover that you enjoy walking but want to step up your fitness game, then consider devoting a small section of your property to a home gym. Whether it’s a section of your garage or an unused room, you can set things up with very little stress and money. You can pick up equipment such as free weights and resistance bands for very little money — more so if you opt for secondhand gear. Also, if you want to help spruce up your space a little bit by adding flooring, hiding cords and cables, or installing chin-up bars, you can hire a contractor to tackle some of these smaller jobs for you. In Phoenix, for example, you can hire a contractor for between $138 and $444, though that number will likely depend on what job you require.
Get an Annual Physical
Not all illnesses and diseases have symptoms, and the only way to know if something is wrong is to have a doctor exam you. Preventive care can go a long way in keeping you healthy. Early detection and treatment of medical conditions can also save you money in the long run. Some insurance plans offer a free annual physical exam, which is the best way to be proactive with your health. Find out if your healthcare provider offers this free service, but include the cost in your budget in case it’s not covered.
Visit a Dentist
While a semiannual teeth cleaning is an additional expense, it’s a procedure that can prevent further costly damage and maintain your body’s well-being. In addition to oral health, a visit to the dentist can improve your mental health (if you don’t have insurance, a cleaning generally costs around $127). Mental and dental health are connected in two ways: poor mental health can lead to a drop in oral hygiene, and poor dental health can cause stress and depression. Dental health is a year-round process that can cost very little by practicing good habits: brush your teeth twice daily, floss once daily, and reduce your intake of sweets.
Volunteer with Animals
Can you think of a better way to spend your weekend than with animals? Rescue groups operate mostly with volunteers who dedicate their time caring for animals and helping them find homes. Animals benefit from compassionate humans, but emotional rewards are great for volunteers too. The animal-human bond reduces stress levels, blood pressure, and anxiety. You’ll also get more steps in when rescue dogs need to be walked. Sure, you might have to pick up animal waste and clean cages, but it’s certainly a labor of love. All it costs is your time and attention.
You don’t need to have expendable income to afford a healthy life. What you need is the desire to be healthy and the willingness to achieve it. Your well-being is your responsibility, and nobody else but you can prioritize it for you. Self-care is the greatest gift you can give yourself, but it shouldn’t cost a lot to maintain a healthy lifestyle.