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Looking back, it was never my intention to be one of those life-long students- the ones that seem to make a career out of earning degrees and certifications; the ones that love the academia world & always have their nose in a book; and who can’t help themselves but sign up for just one more class before graduation.
Yet here I am, nearing my thirties and with almost ten years of college education under my belt. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have studied at a whopping total of 3 Universities, 2 Community Colleges, and a number of specialty programs as part of study abroad opportunities that spanned over 5 countries on 3 different continents.. phew!
So, to say I know what it’s like to live the poor college-student life is an understatement; it’s been my reality for close to a decade because let’s face it, tuition is expensive!! Though I haven’t always been healthy (forget the Freshman 15, I gained closer to the Freshman 30!), I have always been frugal (which is quite frankly what I credit my current debt-free lifestyle to).
In time, I did adopt much healthier habits, lost the weight, fell in love with weight-lifting, added some curves to my physique in the form of lean muscle, studied to become a personal trainer (because really, what’s one more class?!) and finally found what I’d been looking for- a healthy relationship with food, my body, and my self-esteem!
Throughout that process, my biggest take away may have come from the realization that never having money was never an excuse to not do right by my body- it’s the one investment you’re bound to have your entire life!
I also learned that becoming healthy didn’t mean turning into one of those yoga tottin’, Starbucks sippin’, Lulumon wearin’ Instagram models- though if that’s your desire, more power to you! My point being, healthy doesn’t always have to translate into expensive.
Below are the top 25 tips and tricks that have literally helped me save thousands of dollars and many of which have also proven to be super time-savers for my busy lifestyle! Some of these hacks I’ve only recently uncovered and started implementing into my fit lifestyle ; and others, well, I’ve been enjoying for years!
From gym & grocery savings to thrifty meal-prep & supplement tips, I’ve done my best to include all aspects of the healthy and fit lifestyle. Feel free to add your own advice in the comments below so together we can save even more!
1.Plan your meals in-advance.
It’s all too easy to show up at the grocery store without a list, buy $100 worth of food and yet still leave without enough meals to last the week. It’s just as easy to pull up to the drive thru window mid-week and order off the dollar menu because your fridge is bare (driving you further off budget and off diet!).
The beauty of a meal-plan is it gives you an idea of exactly how much of each item you’ll need for the week while at the same time ensuring you don’t buy duplicates of what’s already on-hand in your fridge or pantry.
While some people enjoy spending hours over a cup of coffee planning their weekly menu, know that it doesn’t have to be that difficult! Pinterest and cooking magazines offer plenty of recipe ideas that can be searched in a matter of minutes. Personally, I enjoy using $5 Meal Plan, a service that delivers weekly meal plans to my inbox, complete with a shopping list for the grocery store. Currently I am subscribed to the company’s Gluten-Free plan, though there are more options available such as vegetarian, paleo, “skimpy” calorie meals, slow-cooker, and more.
2. Consider meal services over restaurant meals
If cooking isn’t your thing, don’t assume you have to rely on restaurant options to keep you fed. Restaurants & take-out may be convenient, but that convenience comes at a price! (making these options least economical 95% of the time).
Not all of us were born with the Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart level homemaking abilities- and that’s alright! Because today, you have options! My favorite choice right now is Hello Fresh. They deliver easy-to-follow recipes with detailed pictured instructions along with pre-measured ingredients directly to my doorstep. Say goodbye to those late night grocery-store runs! With meals for a family of 4 starting at around $9, lots plans to choose from (including vegetarian or kid-friendly options) and free delivery, it’s a surprisingly affordable option for any budget. Not to mention they have a 2017 summer deal going on right now that saves you $40 off your first two boxes!
Stores offer much better deals to their consumers who buy in bulk, which can be downright frustrating to the single individual or small-sized family! Don’t worry, you can still benefit from this advantage without wasting the excess! Just prepare your meals like normal and freeze the rest.
I’ve mentioned these before but I really do love Freshware meal-prep containers for storing extra meals & reducing waste- they’re not only freezer friendly, but I can pop them in the microwave or even the dishwasher without issue. The separate compartments also means I can store multiple foods in a single container without everything meshing into one. Winning!
4. Don’t underestimate frozen produce.
Contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables can be just as, if not more, nutritious than their fresh counterparts. You see, frozen veggies are often picked at peak ripeness and frozen immediately thereafter, preserving the nutrients; whereas fresh produce still has to account for travel time to the store.
What’s really advantageous about buying frozen is the reduced waste. The longer shelf life minimizes the chance of having to throw away food due to spoilage.
5. Buy seasonal
If you’ve ever tried to buy sweet corn in the winter months or squash in the spring, you know that prices soar for out-of-season fruits and veggies. You’re paying for the added travel cost as retailers secure these items from destinations further away. Stick to what’s in season for the best deals and steals.
6. Check out your local Farmer’s Markets
Another option is to scout your local farmer’s markets for great-tasting, money-saving foods. Many times you can find cheaper prices as these venues cut out the middle man. As a farm girl myself, I tend to appreciate consumers who buy direct. It tends to be a win-win for everyone!
7. Re-purpose fruit and veggies near their expiration
While the wilted lettuce may not be the most appetizing thing to put in your salad, consider using your near-expiring produce to make smoothies or soups; thus, extending the shelf life and eliminating waste! Though smoothies may only last an additional day in the refrigerator, soups can be cooked, stored and frozen for quite some time before they spoil.
8. Swap Ingredients
Don’t be afraid to get creative and substitute a few items in your weekly menu for similar yet less costly options. For example, protein is a staple in any diet and our bodies require it to function properly. But have you considered all your options to get in that daily nutritional requirement? Meat is great, however, it can get pricey fast. Instead try adding eggs, tofu, dried beans, canned fish or even yogurt to a few of your meals to get the same quality nutrition but at a lesser cost.
9. Shop one & done!
Impulse buys will get you every time and can add costly expenses to even the most dedicated list-users. It’s like when I enter Target, despite my good intentions, the odds are forever against me that I’m only going to leave the store with the three items I went in there for! It’s more likely that I’ll be $150 poorer and still forget to buy the paper towels that I needed in the first place.
Try to limit the number of trips you make to the store in a week to reduce the cost incurred from unnecessary expenses.
10. Buy Store Brand
Compared to national brands, stocking up on store-brand staples can save you on average 15-30 percent. That’s huge! Just be sure to check the ingredient list to ensure you’re getting a product of similar quality and value.
11. Use Thrive to find lesser-priced National Brands
Being brand loyal isn’t always a bad thing; there are a few products that I just refuse to buy in generic in order to save a few bucks. And that’s okay if it’s something you really love because odds are that it won’t ever go to waste. But my advice to you is be smart about where you purchase your favorite must-haves. Thrive Marketplace is an online site that carries over 4,000 Organic & Non-GMO brand products which they offer to you at 25-50 percent discount and ship directly to your door. It’s not just food either- plenty of products for household cleaning, pet-care, baby needs and beauty buys!
12. Get Rebate Savvy on Your Purchased Groceries
I love coupons but I have a bad habit of forgetting them on the kitchen counter during a grocery haul. So instead of the fuss and frustration, I’ve since switched to Ibotta, an easy to use free app that saves me money on items already purchased. It’s as simple as clicking on the rebates you want and uploading a picture of your receipt into the app. Receive a $10 bonus just for signing up! I even use this app to save money on Uber fares, restaurant bills, and bar tabs (because healthy means enjoying everything in moderation!).
It goes without saying that water is cheap and easily accessible- much more than sugar-filled sodas or those expensive juice drinks that are popular today. It also comes with many more health benefits, for chugging water increases energy, promotes weight loss, improves skin complexion, flushes out toxins from the body, helps give your immune system a boost, acts as a natural headache remedy, and much more!
Carry a water bottle with you at work or when you’re out and about, so you’ll remember to keep swigging. I love the Brita water bottles that have their own filter so you can refill practically anywhere. And I also can’t get enough of my RTIC Cooler Thermos , it’s the only water bottle I’ve ever owned that kept ice for the entire day! Very refreshing!
14. Skip the Gym, Not the Workout
While the weather’s nice, consider freezing your gym membership and take your workouts outside. Bike, jog, swim! Anything to get your heart rate up while enjoying the fresh air. I love incorporating kettle bells and resistance bands into my at-home workouts to really sculpt and tone!
Many gyms these days offer the chance to put your membership on hold; you can resume paying your monthly dues at another time without having to pay any additional fees typically incurred at start-up. It’s cheaper than canceling your membership and opening a new account at another time.
15. Don’t be Afraid to Downgrade.
Do you really use all the amenities that you are paying for? I recently downgraded my current plan to a lesser one once I realized I was paying extra for the option to use the tanning beds ( I use sunless tanning mousse to keep my year-round bronzed look). It cut my monthly expense nearly in half! To get the most out of your dollar, always be aware of exactly what you are paying for!
16. Buy Gym Memberships during peak sign-up weeks
Everyone resolves to get fitter and lose weight as the new year begins and the holidays wind down. Most gyms compensate for the surge in new cliental by offering great deals and incentives. Consider seeking out these offers if you’re in the market for a new gym membership during these times. However, don’t use it as an excuse to put off your fitness and health goals even more if you happen to be searching much earlier in the year.
17. Use the Buddy System
What better incentive to actually use your gym membership than having your best friend tag along? It’s becoming more common for gyms to allow their members to bring guests each time they workout. So split the cost of one membership and bring the same friend each time you want to workout! Just be sure to set ground rules on how often you both decide to workout and at what times so that no one feels left out or frustrated from not having access to the gym.
18. Be a pal, Refer a Friend
Smaller, locally owned gyms especially like to use their current cliental to spread the word to the rest of the community about the services that they offer. Many times the gym will reciprocate the favor of these referrals by offering discounts to whomever referred the new customer.
What better way to stay motivated than seeing people you know while you work out? In my experience, most people don’t use this perk to its full advantage. Instead, they take notice of it when they sign their contract but don’t give it a second thought after the fact.
19. Buy Brand Name Gear at a Discount
I don’t know how I ever online shopped before Ebates. I literally earn cashback on every purchase I make, and I’m still shopping at the same stores I normally would online! My most recent shopping trip scored me 10 percent cash back on my entire Nike store purchase.
Some of my other favorite stores to shop that all earn me cash back include Lucy Activewear, New Balance, eVitamins, Beachbody, Muscle Egg, Fitbit, Weight Watchers, GNC- plus there’s so many more options available. Ebates is free to use; and they give you a $10 welcome bonus just for signing up with your email. If you’re not using Ebates, you’re just leaving money on the table!
20. Recycle Old Clothes into New Workout Gear
Forget spending money on expensive and often uncomfortable workout tops; instead, turn that stack of t-shirts you have sitting in your dresser drawers into cute and convenient cut-offs! YouTube is full of video tutorials demonstrating just how simple the process is. All you need is a pair of scissors to get started! If you’re lacking in the t-shirt department, visit a local Goodwill or other thrift shop to find some great deals on retro tops that can easily be converted to gym gear!
21. If you don’t know, ask someone that does!
As a personal trainer and an affiliate of 1st Phorm (supplements), I’ve seen time and time again people not get the most from their diet and exercise regime (and actually end up spending more!) because they didn’t fully understand the process’s at hand. It’s alright not to know, but don’t let that prevent you from asking someone that does.
My favorite example is informing clients about proper post workout nutrition. Most of us grab a protein shake after an intense workout and call it good; they’re unaware that there is a better way to do it. You see, while you are busy breaking a sweat, your glycogen (aka energy) stores are being depleted. And the very FIRST thing your body wants to do after the gym is refill those stores. So if the only thing in your shaker is protein powder- that protein isn’t going to repairing the muscle tissue you just worked so hard to break down but rather it’s getting converted into glucose to replenish the glycogen you used up. You’re not getting your money’s worth out of your protein powder if it’s not getting used for muscle repair!
By adding a carb source (especially a fast acting carb source) like Ignition, you’re delivering to your body the glucose it needs to refill those energy stores that you depleted, allowing your protein to do it’s intended job- repair muscle tissue!
22. Don’t Cheat Your Supplement Dosage
I’ll admit it, I’ve been guilty of this bad habit a time or two when I first began my fitness journey. To be honest, I thought adding supplements to my regime would help me get the results that I wanted faster, however, I was a bit surprised by the price tag on some of these items. To make my stash last longer, I’d halve the dosage thinking some was better than none. Don’t do this!
Would you only take half the recommended dosage of a prescription that your doctor gave you? Or how about half of an OTC pain killer in order to make the bottle last longer? Probably not, so stop doing that with your supplements!
Supplements like any other medicine or drug we ingest is designed to work best when the body has a proper concentration of the product’s ingredients in our bodies. We may think we are doing ourselves a favor by extending the life of the supplement bottle, however, think of it this way- with only half of the dosage, you’ll only receive half of the results, and end up taking twice the product in order to obtain the same desired end results.
23. Invest in Quality over Quantity
In the same way you don’t want to cheat your dosage, you don’t want your supplement company to cheat you! The fitness world is a billion dollar industry, largely unregulated by the FDA so it’s easy to get duped by marketing ploys and sales tactics. Invest in a company you trust so you know that their products will do more than just drain your wallet! I love 1st Phorm because they offer amazing customer support and stand behind everything they sell by promising a 110% money back guarantee should you be dissatisfied for any reason!
24. Group Class Alternatives
Group fitness classes are wildly popular these days, and you can find a class on just about anything- yoga, bootcamp, pole fitness, Zumba, hip-hop…
The price of these classes can add up fast, but consider checking out your local University or Community center for discounts on student-led classes. Many institutions allow senior students to lead group taught classes as a way to practice prior to their certification (typically a professional/certified instructor will still oversee the class). As a thank-you for participating, these places offer the class at a discount. Sometimes these classes may even be offered for free!
25. Head to Your Local Library
Do you know just how many free resources your library offers? Take, for instance, health publications. I love to flip through a good fitness magazine every now and then for inspiration and new recipe ideas, but it’s another sneaky way to spend big dollars if you’re not careful. Most libraries offer their patrons access to many of the most popular health and fitness magazines in the industry. The bonus is you get to return them after a week and forgo adding to that endless pile of old magazines that seems to collect beneath your coffee table or beside your sofa.
Some libraries offer even more resources beyond this. I know that during the warmer months, our community library allows people to check out bikes for day use. It’s especially nice that the city’s bike path is so close, making it the perfect outdoor activity with practically zero cost!
Let me hear some of your other most favorite ways to save both time and money in the comments below!
And since we’re talking about savings, don’t miss your chance to get (free) access to my entire library of fitness resources! Just enter your email below to get started.