Saving more and spending less is a central theme for financial management. Living a frugal life can have many more rewards than living a frivolous one. The economic crisis really showed people the importance of saving, and the dangers of spending on credit. However, that doesn’t mean that being frugal is always a good thing. Eating right, exercise, and overall healthcare can come at a cost that many consumers aren’t willing to incur anymore. There truly is nothing more important than your health, and you need to take care of your body because you only get one.
Eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself. According to a recent survey done by the United States Department of Agriculture, the average weekly cost of feeding a family of four is $226. Now consider the number of pizza chains that offer pies for $5. I love pizza, most people do, it’s easy, tastes great, it can feed a number of people, and most importantly it’s cheap. But I certainly wouldn’t call pizza a healthy meal, rather a guilty pleasure. Most fast food chains have increased their low price offerings. Wendy’s commercials tout their 99 cent Everyday Value Menu, while Burger King has increased their dollar menu to 11 different items. Bottom line, it’s easy to eat cheap, but this is one area of your life that doesn’t pay to be frugal.
Exercise is another area that is vital in maintaining a healthy body. Many companies offer their employees discounted gym memberships because they recognize the importance of having healthy workers. Likewise, many gyms are aware that consumers have become more cost conscious the last couple years and their discounted prices reflect this. The days of having to pay upfront fees and high monthly membership fees are behind us. I can still remember paying $400 upfront for an annual membership to Powerhouse when I was 20 years old. Now it’s 10 years later and I’m paying $20 a month for my Powerhouse membership, no annual contracts, and no upfront fees. I can’t think of many other goods and services that have become cheaper a decade later. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate your fees. I liken a gym membership to buying a car, there is always wiggle room and a rock bottom price they are willing to accept. I know many of you are thinking “hey I can workout at home, or jog around the neighborhood for free”, which is very true, but most people don’t actually follow through with it. When you associate a cost with something, people become more vested in using it.
The economic crisis drove unemployment to record highs, and while we have seen some recovery, there are still many people without jobs. There is a strong correlation between unemployment and those without any healthcare. Nearly 46 million Americans are currently without any form of healthcare insurance. Either their companies used to provide health coverage, or they had an income to pay for their own. I genuinely feel for people in this situation, but this is one expense I consider to be absolutely necessary. Often times single, young, low income workers feel this is an area they can save money on. I remember when I was 25 years old and chose the healthcare coverage with the lowest monthly premiums. I figured I was too young to have any health issues that would justify paying more for health insurance, and for the most part that was true. However, shortly after I found I had a hernia that required surgery to repair. This was a simple outpatient surgery that came with a hefty $10,000 bill! I was thankful that my insurance covered $7,000, however, had I paid a few more dollars a month my insurance would have covered the entire cost. I think back now and wonder what I would have done without any insurance, how would I have been able to afford a $10,000 hospital bill on my own. Long before you think about buying a home, whether to get satellite or cable tv, how much you should invest in your 401k or IRA, make sure you have more than adequate healthcare coverage…you’ll never make a more important investment than that!
I sincerely hope all of you enjoy a lifetime of good health, but as the old adage goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You know my motto, money is the root of all things good, but it means nothing if you aren’t happy and healthy enough to enjoy it!