Most of us have at least one health-related New Year’s resolution in mind for 2017, whether it’s losing weight, staying fit—or, uh, getting fit—or cutting back on happy hours. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably also thinking about a money goal or two.
So why not tackle both at the same time?
“People think that doing the right thing for their health or their finances is somehow a sacrifice in other areas of their lives, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Kristen Euretig, a Certified Financial Planner and founder of Brooklyn Plans. “What’s good for your health is often better for your finances, your well-being and even your relationships.”
What a relief, right? Sticking to one resolution is hard enough. But if we can kill two birds with one stone, it’s more likely that we’ll succeed. Here’s how four common resolutions can benefit our body and our bank account.
Nearly 71 percent of American adults are overweight, so it’s no surprise this resolution is a perennial favorite.
While major health benefits may not kick in right way, just trying to lose weight can almost immediately improve your finances: All you have to do is scale back on fatty and high-calorie fast food and take-out meals. “It’s better for you, and you can save money as well,” Euretig says, “especially if you pack leftovers for work instead of purchasing more costly and less healthy lunches.”
Over time, losing weight can drastically improve your health. Even losing 5 percent of your body weight can decrease your risks of chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease. That, in turn, can save you serious money: In addition to paying higher medical and life insurance rates, the CDC estimates that obese people spend, on average, $1,429 more annually on medical costs than people at healthier weights. Over 40 years, that’s more than $57,000 you could put toward savings, retirement—or anything else that’s important to you.
Only 21 percent of us meet the CDC’s recommendation for weekly aerobic exercise and strength training—making this another popular resolution. Although it may take a little time to see a big pay off, there are some immediate health perks, like no longer getting winded on the stairs and sleeping better.
From a financial perspective, exercising more can help you get more value out of things you likely already pay for—a gym membership, workout gear and running shoes—by reducing your “cost per use.” For example, a $100 pair of running shoes used five times in a year equals $20 per run. Wear them three times a week, and the cost drops to 64 cents. You can also trim transportation costs—like gas, cab or Uber rides and subway fare—by riding your bike or walking more.
As with losing weight, the long-term benefits of exercise really add up. In addition to having more energy, you’re likely to have fewer doctor’s appointments, lower insurance premiums and less time away from work due to disease, saving you cash along the way.
If either of these resolutions ring true to you, you’re not alone. There are currently 36.5 million smokers in the U.S., and 23.4 percent of adults 18 and older say they’ve had at least one “heavy drinking day” in the last year.
I used to be a smoker and occasional heavy drinker myself. But a few years ago, I quit both habits and used the money I saved—about $1,000 a year in happy hours and $3,300 in cigarettes—to pay down my student loans, build an emergency fund and open an investment account.
The health benefits were huge: I’m fitter now than I’ve ever been before, able to run 10 miles at a time and get a lot more enjoyment out of life. Over time, ex-smokers like me can also reduce our risk of related diseases to the same levels as non-smokers. But the financial benefits have also been significant. By redirecting the money I wasn’t spending any more on those habits, I now have thousands of dollars in my saving and investment accounts, and I’ve shaved more than $24,000 off of my student loan balance.