Eight ways to lose weight and gain money
A better body and more cash can come hand in hand
By Erin Hicks
Want to lose weight and save money? Is that a dumb question?
The key to feeling lean in the waist and heavy in the wallet is to budget both your calorie intake and spending habits with the same philosophy, says Vivien Schapera, author of “How to Lose Weight and Gain Money: A Program for Putting Your Life in Order.”
“Some people are good with money and they budget their calories the same way. But some people will budget tightly with money and they’ll do the opposite with food, and vice versa,” says Schapera. “It’s not about being thin and rich. It’s about having a healthy mind and healthy body. If you take care of your weight, you will see other benefits to your whole life.”
Here are eight tips on how you can cut back the calories and subsequently see a little more green in your wallet.
Reserve half the food you cook for later
You save: Lunch money
Everyone knows to box up half their meal at the restaurant to save for the next day, but what about boxing up half of the meal you make at home?
“Every night you cook, half of the food you make should go into a container to be taken to work the next day for lunch, says Schapera. The key is to make sure you cook a little extra to account for lunch the next day.”
If you figure the average lunch you’d buy costs $8 to $12, and the average lunch you bring from home costs around $2 (either by packing leftovers or bringing a sandwich) you can save a minimum of $30 per week. That’s $120 a month!
You save: Gas money
In 2009 the average American spent almost $2,000 a year on gas, about 4 percent of their income, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. If you want to drop pounds and save cash, it’s time to think outside the SUV. Fact is, you probably use your car more than is really necessary. In the U.S., 40 percent of all urban trips are 2 miles or less, and 90 percent of those trips are made by car, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If you live reasonably close to work, consider walking or riding your bike to the office instead of driving. Figure out how much money biking to work can save you by checking out this handy calculator — it could be more than $1,000 per year by saving on parking, gas, tolls, and vehicle maintenance. For more motivation, join a team and commit to riding your bike for trips under 2 miles. Through an interactive website, 2milechallenge.com, the CLIF 2 Mile Challenge enables participants to join one of three teams to earn points and prizes for themselves or their team by logging rides.
If you regularly take public transit, ditch your monthly bus or subway pass if you live in the city and walk to work, even if it means leaving a half-hour early.
“Often transport costs are by zones,” says Schapera. “If you get off a zone earlier than your normal stop and walk, you can even save by doing that.”
Meet your friends for a fitness class
You save: The cost of a movie, dinner, and drinks
Instead of arranging yet another lunch date with your friends, schedule a social workout or active outing around town.
“People need to get out of the mindset that they’re not having fun unless there’s food and drinks around,” says Schapera. “People think they’re not enjoying themselves unless they are eating.”
She said some of her clients like to meet friends at the gym and walk and talk on treadmills if the weather is gloomy outside.
“That’s why it’s called a health ‘club’ — you can go meet your friends there. Working out can be a social activity too,” she says.
Drink more water
You save: The cost of soda and alcoholic beverages
Water is free, everything else isn’t. Try swapping out a few caloric beverages a day for a glass of H2O. You’ll save thousands of calories a month and you won’t have to shell out a dime to stay hydrated. It’s the simplest tip that’s bound to make the biggest impact on your waistline and your wallet.
Drop 50 pounds
You save: Healthcare costs
It’s no lie that carrying a huge tire around your middle is a strain on your body — it’s also a huge strain on your wallet.
A 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that obese patients spent an average of $1,429 more for their medical care per year than did those who were within a normal weight range. That means obese people spend, on average, 42 percent more per year.
But doctors’ bills are just the start. Other factors such as employee sick days, extra gas for bigger cars, and even extra seats on airplanes make being overweight fairly expensive. A recent study by George Washington University found that the annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men.
Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time
You save: On impulse food purchases
Create a shopping list before heading to the store of all the ingredients you need to eat for a week. This will help you cut down on food expenses and can save you time and gas money. It can also help prevent you from buying packaged impulse goods you don’t need.
“All it takes is a little bit of planning — don’t buy ingredients because you like them, buy them for the meals you’re going to cook,” says Schapera. “This will also save you time on weeknights when you’re cooking because you won’t have to head to the store.”
Cooking food at home can be quicker and cheaper than eating out at a restaurant if you plan ahead of time, Schapera says. Plus, there are a lot of simple, nutritious dishes you can make to feed a family of four for less than $10 — you’d be lucky to get one restaurant entree for that price.
Planning for snacks can also stop you from purchasing convenience foods on impulse. The cheapest convenience snacks are often unhealthy options like chips and cookies. A healthier prepared snack, such as sliced fruit and cheese, can cost $4 or more at a convenience store or coffee shop. Prepare your own grab-and-go snacks for the week for a fraction of the cost.
Eat from a plate (and make it a meal)
You save: The food you buy lasts longer
Think about it: When you eat standing up you’re usually up to no good. You’re either snacking before a meal, picking at leftovers after one, or mindlessly grazing on snacks you bought with the intention of fueling your body when you’re actually hungry.
The whole notion of “snacking” might be problematic for your waistline and your wallet. A study published in the journal Appetite found that people who thought they were eating a snack filled their plates and ate more calories of less nutritious food than their meal-eating counterparts. If you designate eating sessions for meals instead of snacks, you’re more likely to eat less and make better choices.
“If you eat from a plate you can keep track of how much you’re eating and it takes you time to eat it. The most fatal thing is to sit on the couch with a bag of something next to you and stuff it into your mouth,” says Schapera.
How does this tip help you save money? Many of the calories you consume when you’re standing up eating are calories you don’t need, and you sneak in before or after a meal. Stick with just the meal, and you’ll save money on unnecessary snack foods. Also, if you’re prone to digging into leftovers, you’re cutting in to your lunch the next day.
Hang out with thin people
You save: On expensive restaurant bills
Have a group of friends that always wants to order plates of nachos and mozzarella sticks — on top of your regular entrees? Would your friends scoff if you ordered a salad? Maybe you should rethink your group of buds and hang out with more like-minded people — if you want to lose weight and gain money that is.
“It’s natural that you end up doing what your friends do,” says Schapera. “Because of that, you have to be careful with who you mix with.”
If your buds are hopelessly gluttonous, try to become a positive influence in your social circle.
“You can set yourself apart and help steer people in a good direction by setting a healthy example,” she says. Next time you’re out, suggest hummus or a shrimp cocktail for an appetizer instead of something fried. Also, suggest sharing a dessert instead of everyone ordering their own. Little things like that can add up to make a big caloric — and even financial — difference.