Les balancing on a log

How to Prioritize Healthy Living on a Budget

This is a sponsored post from guest blogger Les Alfred from www.balancedblackgirl.com.

Maintaining healthy habits doesn't have to be expensive or a luxury. In fact, living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a sensible budget can easily go hand-in-hand.

My love for wellness began the summer between my junior and senior year of college. During my first corporate internship, I noticed a correlation between sitting at a desk all day and feeling tired and sluggish. I started to implement healthier habits to have more energy, exercise regularly, and improve my diet. Because I was still a college student, I was on a tight budget and learned how to implement healthier habits without having much money to spend on fancy products and gym memberships. Though I graduated from college many years ago, I have maintained many of these same habits and have been able to keep a modest budget. Here are my best tips for prioritizing healthy living while spending less.

Set a Clear Budget

Before diving in and outlining how much you want to spend on wellness activities, it is important to understand where you are financially, and how much room you realistically have in your budget. Doing a Financial Health Check with a BECU Financial Health Check Specialist is a great way to review your finances and determine how much you can spend on wellness-related activities each month. I did one at the beginning of 2019 and it completely reshaped how I look at my finances. I saw more opportunities to optimize my budget, and felt empowered to take control of my spending. BECU's better budgeting webinars are also a great resource to help you improve your money management skills.

From there, it is a good idea to establish spending categories in your budget tracker. I use the BECU Money Manager tool to help me track my spending and stay within budget.

Healthy Eating on a Budget

When it comes to eating well while spending less, try to have home-cooked meals as often as you can. Home-cooked meals are often far healthier than restaurant meals or takeout. When you make the food yourself, you are able to control the quality of ingredients and portion size. Studies suggest people who eat at home more often have healthier diets overall than those who frequently eat out.

Les after a workout

In addition to being a healthier choice, eating at home is a more spending-friendly choice. When you break down the cost per serving, eating home-cooked meals can equate to nearly half the cost of restaurant food or takeout (though if you are going out to eat, here are 7 tips for dining out on a budget). When making budget-friendly food options, try your best to focus on meals made from whole, unprocessed ingredients that can be found in the perimeter of the grocery store. Focusing on fresh produce (frozen produce can also be a great budget-friendly option if you need your produce to stay fresh longer), simple protein sources, and fewer foods that come in excessive packaging can be a great way to trim your splurges as these foods are often less expensive.

Consuming organic produce is becoming increasingly popular due to concerns about pesticides and the quality of conventional produce. However, buying organic can often be more expensive. To stay within my budget and consume as much organic food as possible, I like to use the Dirty Dozen vs. Clean Fifteen rating system. Each year, the Environmental Working Group determines which produce items are more likely to be contaminated with pesticides, also known as the Dirty Dozen, and which are more likely to contain fewer pesticides, also known as the Clean Fifteen. I often try to buy organic if consuming an item that is listed on the Dirty Dozen list, and buy conventional if I'm eating an item that is on the Clean Fifteen list. I personally aim to grocery shop once per week, but you can find a groove that works best for your family and budget.

Additionally, options such as local farmer's markets and CSA subscriptions (CSA stands for Community-supported agriculture where you can get fresh local product on your doorstep) can be a great way to get local, healthy foods for budget-friendly prices.

How to Stay Fit on a Budget

If expensive gym memberships or boutique fitness options aren't in your budget at full-price, there are plenty of ways to stay active that won't break the bank! Through the Passport program, offered for free to BECU members, there are several wellness-related discounts on services such as gym fees, yoga classes, spa services, fitness equipment, and more. Learn more about the program benefits here.

You can also find ways to stay active that don't involve paid services. Many local communities have meet up groups that go on regular runs, or perform group workouts in local parks. These can be incredible resources for getting in shape when watching your spending. Additionally, there are countless free fitness resources available online that offer routines that can be completed at home with little to no equipment.

Les crossing the street

With planning and intention, feeling great and prioritizing your health can truly be done on a budget using resources like Passport discounts. Plus, careful spending through the Money Manager tool can help you get there.

Les posing on a log

About Les

Les is a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and podcast host. On her website and podcast Balanced Black Girl, she shares wellness content and advice from diverse perspectives, with the hopes of making wellness feel more inclusive and accessible. Learn more at www.balancedblackgirl.com.