When Financial Goals and Health Goals Collide

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

When Financial and Health Goals Collide photo

Can you successfully improve your health and your finances simultaneously? Not always. You could actually make one or both worse. Here’s what you should do when your financial goals and health goals collide.

Are you one of the 44% of Americans who resolve to save more money in 2021? Or one of the 48% who want to lose weight in the new year? (Source: statista.com)

If you’re like many people who set New Year’s resolutions, you’re hoping to improve both your finances and your health. Unfortunately, depending on the advice you follow, you might find that in order to reduce your waistline, you might end up increasing your budget.

Gym memberships and healthy eating plans are not always cheap, but in order to save more money in the coming year, you’ll likely have to spend less.

So what can you do when your financial goals and health goals collide?

Set a Priority If Your Financial Health or Physical Health Is at Risk

The first thing you need to do is determine if either your financial future or your health is at risk.

If you’re just hoping to lose 10 pounds to fit back into your favorite pair of jeans while beefing up an already-established savings plan, you probably can achieve both resolutions simultaneously. But if your doctor has told you that you’re at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, or you’re having trouble making your minimum credit card payments each month, you’d be wise to put your resources and efforts toward improving the most critical aspect of your life first.

If you are continually stressed over a rocky financial situation, it will be that much harder to lose weight or improve your health. In fact, a stressful money situation is likely contributing to your health problems. Improving your finances could result in improved health.

And if your health has become critical and you have the financial means, spend what is necessary to get healthy once again. Never risk your health to save money. Once you’ve gotten your health under control, it will be that much easier to focus on your finances.

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Create Some Synergy between Your Financial and Health Resolutions

If you decide to try and achieve both a financial resolution and health resolution simultaneously, you will be most successful if you keep both goals in mind as you create a plan to conquer each. With the right plan, you can actually use one goal to help you stay on track in achieving the other. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or debt, or improve savings or your body mass index, you’ll likely have to do some cutting back, both in dollars and calories. But cutting back for one goal can actually help you cut back on the other. Let’s look at a few examples.

Do you struggle to stay away from unhealthy foods when you’re trying to lose weight? Keeping your savings goal in mind might be just the thing that helps you avoid spending on sweet treats at the grocery store or hitting that fast food drive-thru. And spending less on food means more money for paying down debt or increasing your savings.

You know you can save quite a bit of money by cutting back on the number of streaming services you get on your television, but you’ve never been able to bring yourself to cancel any of them. Instead of spending time watching TV, make a commitment to spend that time exercising. You’ll find it that much easier to cancel those streaming services for awhile and save the money instead, if you don’t have the time to watch them. And spending less time sitting on the couch and more time being active will get you that much closer to your ideal weight.

You Don’t Need to Jeopardize Your Financial Health to Improve Your Physical Fitness

Unless you have some serious health issues, you likely do not need to spend much money to get healthier. Yet much of the health and fitness advice today recommends expensive health foods and supplements and pricey gym memberships and fitness programs. And these foods and tools can be very beneficial if you have the extra cash.

But what if you don’t have or don’t want to spend the extra cash? You can make health improvements even on the tightest budget with these tips:

  • Make small gradual changes to your health habits that you can maintain until you reach your goal. Attempting to stick to a sudden strict diet is just as hard as sticking to an overly tight budget. Most of us cannot stick to either for very long.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough water each day. And it does not need to be pricey bottled water. If you dislike the taste of tap water, keep flavored water drops on hand.
  • Gradually swap the junk food for more fruits and veggies. Produce is not always cheap, but neither is processed packaged foods. If you stick to buying in-season fresh produce and canned and frozen produce, you’ll likely save money on your food bills. And by making this healthy change, you’ll be cutting calories while filling your body with nutrient-dense foods.
  • Watch your food portions. Most of us eat more than we need. Cutting your food portions will in turn cut your food budget. Just don’t cut back too much. Eating too little food can be just as unhealthy as eating too much. Consult your physician if you are unsure how much food is too little or too much.
  • Burn more calories than you consume. Regular exercise can help you achieve this. And it doesn’t require an expensive gym membership. If you don’t live near one of the many gym chains that offer $10/month memberships, you can find hundreds of free fitness classes and videos online.

Whether you’re trying to improve your finances or your health this new year, or both, you’ll likely be more successful in achieving your resolutions if you make small, simple, sustainable changes to your habits. And if you try to improve both simultaneously, make sure the steps you take to achieve each resolution complement one another or you are likely to fail at one, if not both.

Reviewed December 2021

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