Choosing Long-Term Health

The big difference between “frugal” and “cheap” is long-term vs. short-term. Many things are “cheap” right now, but end up costing more later.  Although I love to save money, I don’t want to purchase the “cheapest” option at the expense of my health. These are my personal values and priorities. Others may have different priorities and choices. Here are a few examples of how yours truly opts for long-term health over short-term savings.

1. Food

            Nutrition is a vigorously debated, but I think most of us agree that eating natural, nutrient dense foods is a major benefit to health. We choose organic foods where it makes sense and try to limit our consumption of processed, chemical-filled food. We also try to visit restaurants that use local, natural ingredients. It usually tastes better too! We still definitely eat unhealthy foods on occasion (and enjoy them). Life is all about balance right?

            Eating a healthy diet is attributed to the prevention of most chronic diseases. While it may cost a bit more to shop the perimeter at the grocery store, the lifetime of health benefits is still a frugal choice.   

            Healthy food still doesn’t need to be a budget buster though! A lot of coupons are for processed junk food, but natural food manufacturers are publishing coupons on their websites and most tried and true grocery saving strategies (shopping sales, stockpiling, menu planning, cooking from scratch) still work. Some healthy eating habits will even save money right away:

  • 1. Drink water instead of soda or juice
  • 2. Buy frozen fruit and veggies when fresh options are not in-season
  • 3. Start a garden or U-pick
  • 4. Pack lunches with baggies of carrots, grapes and crackers instead of single-serve convenience foods
  • 5. Choose salads and nutrient -dense sides (sweet potatoes, brown rice) to accompany smaller portions of meat

2. Exercise

            Its possible to exercise for free (walking outside, using exercise videos from the library), but I’ve found that most people must spend at least a modest amount on exercise. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise helps prevent many chronic diseases, reduces stress and releases mood-boosting endorphins.

            Whether it’s a gym membership, home gym equipment or just buying a quality pair of running shoes, find out what works for you and make it a regular habit. Paying for a gym membership that goes unused is just wasted money.

Other healthy behaviors are win/win frugal choices that save money right away. Hello, stop smoking already!

3. Safety

            While this is also debatable, purchasing quality products that are highly rated for safety is another health-related priority that makes sense for us. The big things that come to mind are cars and baby-products.

            Newer cars tend to have more safety features (airbags, ABS, spin-control and the list goes on) and it makes sense to consider safety when purchasing a vehicle. We all want to protect our families, but I’m not suggesting you go into debt to buy a new car just because of safety features. With some research, its possible to buy a safe, used car too. My husband still drives a car without airbags, so when the time comes (and the savings is there) to buy a new-to-us car, we will definitely consider safety features and safety ratings.

            Since we don’t have a family yet, I have yet to dive into the baby product world. However, I do know from friends and family that some baby items may be more expensive, but should be purchased new to ensure safety of little ones.

Ideally, we would all be able to afford the healthiest and safest products. In reality, choices must be made and sometimes there just isn’t room in the budget or time in the day to research and make the best decision. Other times, you just have to give in to the cheeseburger craving or take a day off from exercising for mental health reasons.

Healthy options are high on our priority list, so we have reduced spending in other areas (cable, cell phones, clothing, etc) to allow room in our budget for them. No matter how big or small the budget it’s all about prioritizing and each family has different priorities.

I am interested to hear what others think so please comment and share how you prioritize health and safety spending.

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Freebies and Deals

Well lots of great freebies and deals are floating around lately. I don’t always post them here because I find there are many, many other blogs and websites that list these types of things. That being said, here are some of my personal favorites:

- Get a coupon for a free Kashi frozen meal here. These are my favorite frozen meals!

- Click here to get a free sample from Aveda.

- Free Ziploc bag sample from Costco here (you don’t need to be a Costco  member)

Safeway:  If you shop at Safeway, there are $10/ $50 purchase coupons in recent ads and newspapers. They also have a frozen food promo going on this month with a $10 off next purchase coupon printing out for every $25 spent on frozen foods!

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2009 Goals Update

Wow, its hard to believe its already March! After two months, I’m pretty happy with our progress towards our 2009 Goals. Here is where we are at now:

1. Increase Emergency Fund to $15,000 by March 1st

Progress: Done, February 2nd :)

2. Payoff Volvo

Progress: We made the first extra payment of $1,000 today. Yay!

3. Save $5,000 for replacement vehicle for our other car (its 15 years old)

Progress: None yet, we are prioritizing # 2 first

4. Invest in a retirement plan (IRA or 403(b) for my husband

Progress: None yet, he is not eligible to join at his employer until April

5. Move savings into higher interest account

Progress: Done! In February we moved our E-Fund to ING. The rate still isn’t great, but it is a lot better than what we had.

6. Explore taking property taxes and insurance out of mortgage company escrow

Progress: None yet, but I need to get working on this one.

Posting our goals on my blog is really helping me stay accountable. How is everyone else doing on their goals this year?

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Calling Comcast Pays Off

After reading this blog post over at Around the Sun, I was inspired to call Comcast to see if I could lower our monthly bill. We had Verizon for internet and cable, but it was too spendy so we switched to Comcast about six months ago. My husband found a great promotion online so we are getting a pretty good deal already, but I wanted to see if we could get anything better.  I’ve successfully done this in the past so it was a great reminder to try again.

I told the customer service rep that I saw a deal from Verizon for $29.99 and wanted to see if they would match it. Our rate is $46.95 for cable, but it is $33 for cable and another $13.95 for the HD/DVR combo ( I love DVR!). So really it was only a $4 difference, but the guy would not budge. He was pretty unprofessional telling me how great my deal was (they don’t even offer such a good deal anymore) and saying that was the best I could get in a really exasperated tone.

“Well what about our internet then?” I asked. We are paying $36.95 for high speed internet and I quoted a rate I saw recently from Qwest for $24.99. “Can you match that?” No again. Apparently Comcast’s internet is much faster and we are getting a great deal (that they no longer offer) already.

At this point, the guy was getting annoyed with me, but I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to about getting a better rate. He sighed with annoyance saying, “Fine, but they will not give you anything better,” and put me on hold.

After a minute, a much nicer girl picked up and again I asked for a better rate. No, on the cable because this is a better deal than they are even offering now (again!! they certainly have their schpeals down). I mentioned that Verizon Fios is supposedly a better product and she went into her explanation about Comcast offering more On Demand and more HD. Also, she told me that they are based locally, supporting the local economy, while Verizon is on the East Coast.

 “So how about the internet?” I asked. She offered me a lower rate for a much lower speed of internet that I was not interested in, but wait. She could waive the $3/month modem fee for a year. Ok, that is only a few bucks a month, but over a year that is $36 saved!

I pushed one last time, “Well what about the DVR? $13.95 is a lot per month just for the DVR.. can you lower that?” Surprise, yes she can give it to me free for three months! Nice, that’s $41.85 over the next three months.

So, just like that, in about ten minutes on the phone, I saved us $77.85!  I will for sure be calling back in three months to ask them to renew the free DVR and again a few months after that just to see what I can save.

Have you had any success at doing this before? In this economy it seems like companies are willing to negotiate (and Comcast doesn’t have a monopoly anymore).

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Frugal Quote of the Day

Here is a frugal quote from my life today:

A friend scored very high on her LSATs and is debating whether to go to a high ranked law school without a scholarship or to go to a school ranked well, but not as high, that gave her a full ride. I told my husband (who graduated from the full ride law school) about this dilema and he said, “take the full ride, debt sucks.”

He does not beat around the bush and is a tad bitter about his student loan debt.

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Freebies and Deals

There are lots of deals flying around this week:

- Use the code DINE to get 80% off at Restaraunt.com. Just make sure to read the fine print about the restrictions on the gift certificate.

- Print out this coupon for a free 1 oz. lotion at Victorias Secret, thru March 2nd.

- Request a free sample of Crest Whitestrips here.

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Menu-Planning Monday

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Big news this week: I’m skipping all grocery shopping! I stocked up a bit extra last week knowing that I probably would not have time to make it to the store on Sunday to do my weekly shopping (we had a jam-packed long weekend with family in town). So here is my “no-shopping” week menu:

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: scallops (from frozen) and pasta

Wednesday: skillet lasagna

Thursday: turkey burgers

Friday: spaghetti and meatballs, salad

Saturday: steak fajitas

Sunday: pork chops and sweet potatoes

I’ll post an update at the end of the week on how I did with my “no-shopping” week.

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