Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.
Are you guilty of putting your health and wellbeing last? Whether it’s for financial or family reasons, you could be costing yourself more than you think.
Whether it’s down to a lack of time or money, we’re all guilty of neglecting our own health from time to time. This can be especially true during challenging times, like we’re experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
But scrimping on your mental and physical health to save a few dollars is a false economy. Not only does poor health affect those around you, it has serious financial costs of its own.
Poor health has been linked with lower earnings and savings; and higher out-of-pocket medical expenses. Research in the US showed that those in poor health earnt one-third less over their lifetimes than those in good health. They were also able to save and invest less, meaning that by the age of 65, the gap had blown out to $150,000. That’s a hefty price to pay for poor health.
On the flip side, numerous studies have shown the benefits that physical exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep can have on your lifestyle – and life expectancy.
The good news is, taking care of your mental and physical health doesn’t need to cost you the world. Here are five easy ways to improve your quality of life, without draining your wallet.
1. Eating healthy on a budget
If you have a hectic work and home life, ready-meals can sometimes feel like the easiest option. But buying pre-made and processed foods will never be as affordable as fresh food over time.
For example, according to Dieticians Australia’s guide, one serve of fresh potatoes costs around 50 cents, while frozen chips are 70 cents and hot cooked chips are $3.75!
So stock your pantry with a few key essentials like flour, pasta, rice, legumes and potatoes and you’ll be able to cook a range of nutritious low-cost meals for your family. Try to purchase in bulk and on special to amplify the savings. Meal planning and prepping are also a lifesaver when it comes to eating healthy on a budget.
For more budget friendly recipe ideas and practical tips check out this guide.
2. Exercise for free
Getting regular exercise is essential for your health. Luckily, there’s an endless variety of free workout videos on YouTube. Here are a few to try:
Yoga with Adrienne – Down to earth yoga instructor offering free yoga videos for all levels.
Kayla Itsines – In addition to her BBG workouts in the SWEAT app, homegrown success story Kayla Itsines has a range of how-to videos and workouts on her YouTube channel.
Les Mills – The Les Mills channel serves up their signature variety of intense cardio workouts, all set to the latest hit music.
Blogilates – One for pilates fans! Fitness instructor Cassey Ho has been pumping out her unique style of POP Pilates and sculpting workouts for over 10-years.
Exercising outdoors is another free option with boundless health benefits. Try to get outside for a walk or run at least once or twice a week. Why not join a local walking or running groups and make it a social activity? Use the Heart Foundation’s Walking website to find a group near you.
3. Explore health apps
There are loads of health apps available nowadays and most are free or low-cost. Here are some of our favourites:
Fitness: For a huge range of audio-based workouts try Aaptiv. Or for workouts and meal plans give 8fit a go.
Calorie tracker: MyFitnessPal has an extensive food list, is simple to use and links with several other apps.
Running and cycling: Nike Run Club offers GPS run tracking, audio guided runs, customised goals and challenges. Strava is another popular running and cycling app with advanced GPS features, data analysis and it syncs with most devices.
Meditation: Calm is a top-rated app offering guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, stretching exercises and relaxing music. Or you could try Headspace, which teaches you the skills of mindfulness and meditation.
Sleep tracking: SleepScore offers a non-contact sleep tracker, with sleep sounds, smart alarm, sleep cycle analysis and more.
For fun: Use Meetup to find a local event or group that shares your interests.
4. Use support groups and online resources
There’s no doubt we can all use a little extra support from time to time and fortunately, nowadays, it doesn’t need to cost the earth.
You can find a local face-to-face support groups, or if you prefer, there’s a wide range of resources, groups and tools online.
The myCompass tool from the Black Dog Institute is a good place to start if you like to work at your own pace. It’s a free online self-help program for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress. It’s also suitable for anyone looking to build good mental health.
Beyond Blue is another organisation offering a range of free online support services and information. You can chat with others in your situation through an online forum, or find a range of free national helplines and websites.
Apps like Turn2Me and 7 Cups also offer online support groups and low-cost counselling.
5. Get more from your health insurance
With the right health insurance, you could actually save money. Health insurance helps offset the cost of common medical services like dental, optical and physio. So choose wisely and you could enjoy a range of health benefits. Depending on your income, private health insurance can save you money at tax time, by helping you avoid paying the Medicare levy surcharge.
Definitely shop around and compare policies to find the right level of cover for you and your family.