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Monday, April 7, 2008

50 Tiny Health Habits that Can Save You Big Money (And Add Years)

Ditching Bad Habits

Put a stop to these harmful bad habits, which are both costly and detrimental to your health.

  1. Smoking: Everyone knows that smoking kills. Ditch those nasty cigarettes once and for all, and you'll reduce your chances of getting cancer while helping improve your respiratory system and allergies. Plus, you'll save a lot of the money you once spent on cigarettes.
  2. Drinking: Drinking alcohol in excess takes a serious toll on your body, and it puts a strain on your bank account. Liver damage, chronic dehydration, a weak immune system, psychological problems and weight gain are all unhealthy side effects of alcohol.
  3. Unhealthy Snacking: Junk food is okay once in a while, but if you're constantly noshing on greasy hamburgers and milkshakes, you will probably gain weight and may even increase your chances of getting diabetes. Unhealthy snackers may also have dental problems and acne issues.
  4. Don't sleep around: Promiscuity isn't just frowned upon morally: it's also a quick and easy way to get diseases. Practice safe sex and make sure you understand your partner's sexual history before jumping in the sack.
  5. Stop tanning: Tanning, especially in a tanning bed, is extremely harmful. CBS News reports that "women who visit tanning salons more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma, and the risk more than doubles for women in their 20s who frequent tanning parlors." If you're desperate for some color, grab a bottle of fake tanner, which is better for your skin and more forgiving on your wallet.
  6. Nail biting: Keep your dirty, germ-y hands away from your mouth by kicking this nasty, impolite habit. If you catch a cold or a virus, you may have to miss work, go on a pharmacy shopping spree or pay for the doctor.
  7. Drug abuse: Quitting drugs isn't exactly a "tiny" health habit, but it's extremely important. Drug abusers can go into debt trying to find money for their next fix, and their families' bank accounts can suffer the costs of addiction and rehab, too.
  8. Starbucks addiction: Buying several cups of coffee each day is expensive, and the extra caffeine affects your digestion, dental health, stress levels and ability to rest.
  9. Being a couch potato: Wean yourself away from the TV or computer to reduce eye strain, headaches and the unhealthy effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Turning off the TV will also save you money on your electricity bill.
  10. Eating on the go: Even if you're proud of your chaotic lifestyle, try to sit down and eat your meals a little more gracefully. You'll cut down on acid reflux and digestion problems, which are remedied with pricey prescriptions.
Starting Good Habits

Pick up these good health habits, and your budget and body will start seeing results immediately.

  1. Take vitamins: If you know that you don't consume enough iron each day, take iron supplements to ward off anemia. If you think you need extra calcium, take a calcium supplement. Taking a vitamin each day can help you avoid certain disorders that can end up being costly and painful down the road.
  2. Drink more water: Water (from the tap) is cheaper than guzzling sodas, and it's more healthy. Your skin will look better, and you'll have more energy and a faster metabolism.
  3. Getting a good night's sleep: The Washington Posts reports that "failing to get enough sleep or sleeping at odd hours heightens the risk for a variety of major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity." Make sure you turn off the TV and get a good 7 hours of sleep each night.
  4. Exercise: You don't have to go to the gym each day to reap the benefits of exercise. Staying active by climbing the stairs, going for a walk or doing some cardio helps circulation, metabolism, mental health and more.
  5. Avoid secondhand smoke: Even if you're not a smoker, you may still be vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke. Avoid especially smoky bars and restaurants, and encourage your family and friends to stop smoking.
  6. Eat breakfast: Eating breakfast doesn't just give your metabolism a jump start, it also increases your likelihood of eating more vitamins and minerals each day. Eating a meal early in the day also prevents midday bingeing and boosts energy naturally.
  7. An apple a day...: There's some truth to the old saying that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Eating lots of fruits and vegetables boosts your immune system so that you're less likely to go to the doctor for colds and pesky bacterial infections.
  8. Wear sunscreen: A bottle of sunscreen and a bottle of aloe vera gel may be about the same price, but the damage your skin receives from a sunburn far outweighs the aesthetics of a good tan. Decrease your chances of getting skin cancer and blisters by wearing sunscreen whenever you go out.
  9. Wear comfortable shoes: Uncomfortable shoes don't just cause blisters. They can lead to chronic back pain, bunions, bad posture and even injury.
  10. Stretch: Stretching out your muscles before exercising can lower your risk of injury. Even if you don't exercise, stretching improves circulation, balance, posture and your mood.
  11. Floss: Flossing your teeth prevents cavities and gum disease, which lead to necessary, expensive, and sometimes painful procedures.

Taking a few minutes each day to de-stress will not only improve your mood and focus, it will help your mind and body stick to a healthier schedule and lifestyle.

  1. Adjust your posture: If you're always walking or sitting with your shoulders hunched over, you can expect major back pain in the years to come. Check in with yourself each day to evaluate your posture.
  2. Relax your jaw: Many people hold tension in their jaw when they feel stressed, and it can quickly become a bad habit. Relaxing your jaw will also lessen the number of headaches you get each day and will relieve pressure on your teeth.
  3. Get some sun: Getting sun boosts your mood and increases the body's production of Vitamin D. Some also claim that moderate exposure to sunlight clears up acne. Just make sure to wear sunscreen!
  4. Meditate: Close your eyes and give yourself a few minutes to relax your muscles and breathe deeply.
  5. Eat slowly: This guide reveals that "abdominal distress associated with cramps, gas, diarrhea and bloating are common signs of stress." Eat more slowly and healthfully to reduce or eliminate these symptoms.
  6. Take a break: Get up and stretch your legs or take a walk to the lobby to get away from your computer, relax your eyes and muscles and get some perspective.
Avoiding Disease

Simple acts like washing your hands and drinking milk can arm your body against disease.

  1. Wash your hands: Washing your hands is of course recommended during all seasons, but it is especially important during cold and flu season. Wash with soap and water to rid yourself of nasty airborne germs.
  2. Drink green tea: Green tea helps skin combat skin inflammation and aging, and it's also said to help prevent cancer. Drinking green tea regularly can also help keep irritating urinary tract infections at bay.
  3. Eat fish and other omega-3 fatty acids: Fish and other foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids -- like eggs and soybeans -- can reduce your chances of getting heart disease, a costly and sometimes fatal disease.
  4. Drink milk: The calcium found in non-soy milk promotes strong teeth and bones, helps individuals lose weight and helps prevent kidney stones, heart disease, high blood pressure and colon cancer, all of which carry a hefty price tag at the hospital and over the counter.
  5. Use a tongue scraper: Using a tongue scraper only takes a few seconds out of your day and prevents bad breath and promotes general oral health.
  6. Add fiber to your diet: Eating more fiber helps you stay full longer, so you're less likely to snack in between meals. Fiber also helps your colon, decreases your chance of getting heart disease and may even lower your cholesterol.
  7. Wash toys, pacifiers and other "kiddie" items: Children and babies carry a lot of extra germs that they pick up at school, on the floor and everywhere else. By washing their toys, pacifiers, bottles and other items, you'll lower the chance of catching something yourself.
  8. Change sheets and towels frequently: Don't give germs the chance to spread and multiply by living on your sheets and towels. Wash them in hot water every few days, and more frequently if the person using them is sick.
  9. Throw away kitchen sponges: Hanging on to old kitchen sponges or dirty washcloths spreads harmful bacteria around your kitchen very quickly. Throw out old sponges and change out washcloths often.
Little Investments

Sometimes it pays off in the end to make little investments which keep you healthy day to day.

  1. Get tested: Getting tested for STDs or getting screened for cancer are smart moves. If you do have a disease, it's best to find out sooner than later.
  2. Go to the dentist: Skipping the dentist too many times can backfire. Without regular teeth cleanings and periodic X-rays, your dental health can deteriorate into a painful, expensive state.
  3. Replenish beauty and skin care products: Don't hang on to the last drop of moisturizer or concealer just because you don't want to spend money on a replacement. Dr. Leslie Baumann writes that "past its prime, the makeup that you love can actually cause acne and skin irritation," which will cost you more money and frustration than new products.
  4. Buy generic: Just because some prescriptions cost a lot doesn't mean you should ignore your doctor's advice and try to get better all on your own. Ask about generic medications that work just as well as brand name meds but cost less.
  5. Get a flu shot: If you work in a school, airport or health care facility, getting a flu shot is a wise investment. Check to see if you're eligible for a free shot before shelling out your cash.
  6. Never share toothbrushes, razors or other personal items: Sharing personal items like razors can be very dangerous. Buy your own to avoid catching diseases like HIV and bacteria or infections like staph infections.
  7. Set up a savings account: No matter what your current financial situation is, set up a savings account just for unexpected health costs. Depositing as little as $20 a month can help out when you need over the counter drugs, a premium on a health insurance plan extra funds for a co-pay.
  8. Healthy food: Healthy food like fresh vegetables often costs more than packaged junk food, but it pays off in the long run. You'll feel better physically and mentally, and will be giving your body the essential vitamins and minerals you can't get from a bag of Doritos.
  9. Join a gym or take a class: If you hate running but want to exercise, go ahead and spend the money for a gym membership, dance class or exercise machine. Long term exercise helps your body in numerous ways, and the little investment you made early on will save you from paying a lot of unnecessary health care bills.
Personal Habits

Here are a few more extras that will make all the difference.

  1. Know your health history: Understanding your family's medical history as well as your own health background can help you better communicate with doctors and may allow you to avoid certain costly tests.
  2. Embrace your age: Blogger Anne Kreamer discusses how embracing your age and connecting with the aging process can actually lead to a longer life. Plus, women who are happy with the way they age are less likely to spend lots of money on Botox and other anti-aging treatments.
  3. Cook for yourself: You're more likely to eat healthier if you cook for yourself, because you'll be more aware of the ingredients you use. Eating out at restaurants too often can also strain your budget.
  4. Get a partner: Make your decision to eat healthy, lose weight, exercise or just stay healthy easier to stick to when you enlist the help of a partner. The two of you can keep each other motivated enough to save up money by taking care of yourself.
  5. Challenge yourself each day: Don't fall into a health plan rut by forgetting to set up new challenges for yourself. Even if you exercise regularly, take the stairs instead of the elevator to mix things up. Add new fruits and vegetables to your recipes to spice things up and keep you interested. Challenging yourself means that you're constantly engaged in your efforts to stay healthy, and you're more likely to keep up your clean -- and economical -- lifestyle.

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