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Why You Should Care About Your Wallet and Your Waistline

This article was written by in Featured, Health. 19 comments.

This is a guest article by Philip Taylor, the owner of the blog PT Money. Philip created PT Money to share his own experiences with successfully managing his money.

It’s no secret that our money and our health are connected. More people want to excel with these two things for their lives more than any other two things combined. Year after year, two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and save money. In fact, if you go to 43 Things right now, a website where over 3 million visitors share their goals, you’ll see that these are trending in the most popular resolutions section of their site. For many people, including myself, the path to happiness involves having a healthy body and a healthy financial life.

Money and health are also connected in their elusiveness. A few of us are lucky to be born with the ability to print money or with a superior metabolism, but the majority of us have to make a real effort to maintain good health and the proper financial situation. It doesn’t come easy. Let’s take a look some other ways that money and health are connected in our lives.

Hidden costs of poor health

When I left the corporate world earlier this year I had to get my own health insurance, unlike Flexo who chose COBRA coverage. I quickly discovered that my excess weight would cost me hundreds of dollars more each year in individual health insurance premiums than I would pay had I been in a more ideal weight range. I’m simply more of a risk to the insurance companies, so they need to charge me more for the increased risk. Life insurance premiums are handled in the same way. The more you weigh, the more you pay.

A recent study on the costs of being obese in America reported, “The overall, tangible, annual costs of being obese are $4,879 for an obese woman and $2,646 for an obese man. The overall annual costs of being overweight are $524 and $432 for women and men, respectively.”

The expenses adding to the costs included direct medical costs, absenteeism, and employer costs, as well as personal costs such as clothing, daily needs, gasoline, and others. The big difference between women and men is due to the connection between obesity and lower wages in women. Basically, obese women face much more wage discrimination.

Dining out “double-up”

Eating outside of my home has easily been the biggest culprit in my efforts to reduce unecessary spending in my monthly budget. It’s also been a big part of the reason I’m carrying around a few extra pounds. I believe that too much dining out will leave you fat and broke. The problem is that the portions at today’s restaurants are just too big. Most dinner plates I see easily contain two times the recommended caloric intake for a meal. Not only are you paying for the convenience of having someone prepare the meal for you, you are paying for more meal than you actually need.

One of my goals for 2011 is to eat more meals at home. These meals generally cost less and I can control the portions and calories (without resorting to doggie bags, as I do at most restaurants). Also, contrary to popular belief, meals at home take less of your time. Time is money.

The health benefits of wealth

While poor health choices seem to create a negative financial situation, there is also evidence that as your wealth increases, your health tends to improve. When your finances are in order, it will likely mean that you can afford to do several things to improve your health: afford a gym or trainer, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, afford more preventative healthcare, eat better when you do eat outside of the home, and afford more vacation and recovery time. Improved finances aren’t a guarantee of health, but they definitely help.

Using money as a good health motivator

Because we desire both health and money, we can use one to help influence the other. My very frugal wife once told me that back in her early 20s she used to sign up for marathons and 5Ks well in advance of race day. Not only did she do this to pay a lower price for registering in advance, she liked how it put her on the hook financially. The last thing this girl on a teacher’s salary wanted to do was show up unprepared for the event and feel like she was wasting the money she had invested. So, more often than not, she showed up properly trained and ready for the race.

Another tactic is to make a bet with some friends regarding your health-improving efforts. The website stickK will help faciliate this financial wager around the goal of your choice. If your goal is to drop a few pounds or quit smoking, you’ll be putting your money at risk for the sake of your health. Sounds like a noble wager to me. One other resource you might want to check out is HealthyWage. It’s a site that will actually pay you or your team members to lose weight.

Inexpensive ways to get healthy

Finally, here are some ways for you to get healthy that won’t empty your wallet:

  1. Walking in your neighborhood, local mall or school gym. Walking is the easiest way for anyone to get started.
  2. Working out in your apartment or condo community center gym. I once trained for a half marathon on a treadmill.
  3. Renting exercise DVDs from the library or using your Netflix subscription. Everyone has time for a 20 minute free workout routine in front of the TV.
  4. Searching for used exercise equipment on craigslist. Dumbbells, resistance bands, jump ropes can all be found online for less than full price.
  5. Making your daily activities a workout. Park further away from your office, take the stairs, or actively play just 30 minutes longer with your kids.

What other connections do you see between money and health? How are you planning on improving both in the new year?

Editor’s note: This is a timely article! I’m working hard to reduce my waistline, one of the few numbers I have not been happy about an increase over the past ten years. I’m working on achieving a 5K but healthier eating is one of my goals, as well. Thank you, Phil, for sharing this article.

Photo: Pink Sherbet

Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published January 10, 2011.

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About the author

Philip Taylor operates the blog, PT Money: Personal Finance. Learn more about taking control of your finances and see a list of the best online checking accounts on his blog. View all articles by .

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 TakeitEZ

This article hit home. I have unsuccessfully attempted to decrease my dining out in order to save money and to better my health. It is amazing how addictive eating out can be and also the types of food that you can typically buy outside the home are full of fats, salt, and other unhealthy ingredients. Unfortunately, once your body gets used to that food it can be very hard to eat healthier alternatives. Food is addiction and once you get hooked to the wrong food it is a hard habit to break like any other addiction.

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avatar 2 Sarah

For me, having more money is actually bad for my weight, in a way. I have a 2 hour commute for my job; by the time I get home I’m exhausted and don’t want to cook or exercise, and end up eating out quite often.

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avatar 3 tbork84

Maybe you could cook a few meals over the weekend and just reheat them when you get home. That worked for me when I was stuck with a long commute for a year or so. Or if you don’t mind a few repeat meals, making an extra large meal Sunday night and having leftovers for the first half of the week.

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avatar 4 Bobka

I concur that most restaurants serve double the amount of food necessary. If I must dine out, I almost always eat only half and have the server provide me with a takeout box for the leftovers.

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avatar 5 Philip Taylor

I try to do the doggie bag thing too. When I’m with my wife it’s easier because we just split the meal right there.

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avatar 6 20andengaged

Thankfully my job offers a free gym membership so I’m using that to my advantage. Also instead of buying those diet drinks, just increasing my water intake. I’m hoping to drop 20 pounds and drop my credit card debt as well. Both are quite intimidating but I’m working on them!

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Hi PT! Thanks for your candid thoughts which quantify how much it costs being overweight and the steps to take to improve.

May I ask if you were always heavier? If not,besides large portion sizes and such, what was it in you that let yourself go.


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avatar 8 Philip Taylor

Things that keep me from being healthier today: sodas, a love for good tasting comfort food, my passion for my online businesses which lead to too much idle time and lack of a proper sleep schedule.

I also think I have some genes working against me.

I’ve battled my weight since high school. Things that have worked: dropping regular sodas, running a lot (I’ve done a few marathons), and hyper-focusing on portion sizes.

As for my high health insurance rates, I’m afraid I will never escape those due to my muscle mass. I played college football and I’m naturally heavy. I’ve been obese by BMI standards since I was a junior in high school, where I was an all-district running back.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

Yeah, sugar is a real silent killer IMO. I think if we can lease. Our sugar intake, we’d be much healthier.

I have a theory that people gain weight simply because it’s enjoyable. We enjoy the tasty food and the lack of exercise more than any downside of weight gain. Otherwise, we wouldn’t gain weight! Furthermore, losing weight is also extremely rewarding as well, so we win both ways! Thoughts?

I wrote a recent post entitled “The Weight Loss Tip To Die For” which prevented me from gaining more than four pounds in the pas 10 years. Check it out, and let me know if it makes sense. It very well could slim you down for the rest of your life!

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avatar 10 Sandy @ yesiamcheap

The extra cost per year from being overweight is the gym membership that you sign up for every January that you forget about by February and then regret for the rest of the year. I now from whence I speak. It’s the fat tax.

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avatar 11 tigernicole86

Something cheaper is going to a community center. We have several where I live that have cheap( or happy free) classes for certain workouts like zumba, yoga, pilates, spinning. $2 for a class. I’ll do it!

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avatar 12 phoenix

Another connection between wallet and waistline is that exercise is a great “hack” for boosting one’s mental abilities + health (simply search “brain” and “exercise”, possibly tossing in “mayo” or “scientific american”, for documentation+elaboration). Those effects should go a long way in facilitating wealth building.

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avatar 13 skylog

as others have stated, this is a very timely article for me as well. i too have decided to greatly reduce my eating out….and my wasteline. it has been long overdue, and it is time. it was a tough year for me time-wise, and my broken hand in october just put me “over the top” in getting away from my workout routines.

i look forward to my progress throughout the year, both physically and, um, fiscally.

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avatar 14 eric

I’m almost half way through my couch to 5k program. Plus I’m eating healthy every day at work by brown bagging instead of eating out. I feel pretty good these days!

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avatar 15 gotr31

Eating out is certainly a big factor in our culture that can contribute to weight gain. Try shopping mostly the outer perimeter or your grocery store too. Go for whole foods and avoid most things that come in a box or plastic container.

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avatar 16 Laure

Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight can take a tremendous amount of effort and willpower, whether it’s denying your sweet tooth or finding the energy to cook at home. However, improving one’s own willpower – mind over matter, if you will – can have tremendous financial benefits. In learning to deny myself a cupcake (or whatever) that same new-found strength can be drawn upon to deny myself yet another of the latest gizmo. The self-discipline gained can be truly priceless.

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avatar 17 tigernicole86

I know that usually if I have a system that works for one part of my life, the same process can work decently in another part. I can also deny that piece of candy and those shoes. :)

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avatar 18 Msjbelle

I am trying very hard to eat healthier and save money. The 2 definetly go hand in hand. I will buy healthy things when they are on sale (stock up) and in season produce. I think it’s sad that the cheapest foods are the unhealthiest. You really have to relearn how to eat to get the best value. I had my head in the clouds for so long and picked up so much extra weight. I hate having all these toxins in my body.

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avatar 19 moneymatters

This is one of my big goals for the year, to drop a bunch of weight that I’ve put on over the past 3 years (too much blogging, too little exercise?). In 2007 I was near my ideal weight. Since then I’ve packed on the pounds due to my love of fast food, eating out, a couple of stressful years. It can be hard to eat healthy sometimes when you just aren’t motivated. Now I’m getting motivated, and my wife and I are both working on this now together – which makes it a whole lot easier.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned since starting back on my weight loss journey is that my portion control sucks. I’m used to eating huge portions that are big enough for 2 or more people. I’ve cut that back significantly I’m also more aware of the eating choices I make – choosing the healthier option when there are more than one option for a food. I’m also saving a ton of money on eating out – which is one of our biggest budget problem areas.

Great post PT!

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