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Smart Ways to Invest in Your Health

Jon Lal

Gym memberships and super foods are expensive, but being healthy does not have to cost you your wealth. With the weather warming up, there are many frugal ways to be active and enjoy nutritional foods on the cheap.

Nice weather makes it easier to go outdoors, where exercise is free, not to mention more practical than when the temperature was lower. Who wants to be outside when you can see your breath? But during warm weather, it can be a real treat to enjoy the fresh air.

With a pair of shoes and a road or a trail for walking or running, anyone can get active without spending a penny on a fitness class, a treadmill or a gym membership. Raising your heart rate does not have to lower the amount in your bank account. And unlike gyms, roads and trails are open all hours of the day, each day of the week without a limitation on use of cardio equipment, not to mention the absence of fees.

In addition to being able to walk and run, other outdoor fitness activities are also accessible and affordable. Sports such as soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball, football and more can be played outdoors for free. Grab a ball and any necessary sporting equipment and head to your nearest park for a complimentary and enjoyable workout.

If you need to invest in sneakers, fitness clothing or sporting equipment, be resourceful. Rather than pay full-price, find what you need at a discount. Look on sites such as freecycle.org, where you can locate nearby items you want at no charge to you, or Craigslist.org for low-cost or no-cost goods in your area. Second-hand sporting goods stores and thrift shops might have affordable and gently-used equipment such as racquets, balls and more. When in need of new or specialty items that may be hard to find second-hand, shop smart. Make your purchase during sales and always look for a coupon to use.

Fun activities like hop scotch and jump rope can also burn calories without costing dollars. Look around for activities with items you already own. A swing set to play on, a tree to climb, a pool to swim in or a trampoline to jump on can be enjoyable and frugal active pursuits.

Beyond healthy activities to participate in during your spare time, consider modifying your daily transportation mode. Walking or biking instead of driving or using public transportation can save you money in addition to helping you achieve your goals or health and wellness. Evaluate your savings by calculating the cost of gas, tolls, parking or public transportation and comparing that to any expenses such as purchasing a bike or utilizing a membership program to borrow one in your community.

Now that you're fit and active while being frugal, fill your plate with healthy foods for less. Warm weather brings the opportunity to grow your own fruits and vegetables. The monetary cost is minimal, but gardening does take time. Weigh the option of investing the time to do it yourself or purchasing the produce of your choice.

Farmers' markets can be a great place to buy low cost fruits and vegetables. Often grown nearby by local people in your community, produce found at farmers markets will likely fit into even the tightest budget.

Your local supermarket can be another place to purchase produce at a low price. Not all fruits and vegetables will be affordable, but there are some tasty bargains to be found. Review the weekly sales flyer to identify which items are on sale. When in doubt, compare the cost of purchasing loose fruits and vegetables, which may be sold by the pound or priced in a per piece basis such as two tomatoes for $3, to buying a larger package which can yield a lower price per unit.

At both farmers markets and local grocery stores, selecting seasonal produce can yield a lower price tag. Buying what's being grown near you usually has lower expenses associated with it, since transportation and storage costs less.

For healthy foods that are not grown from trees and do not come from the ground, buying in bulk can help you save. Purchasing larger quantities can lower the cost per serving. Though many bulk stores have membership fees, there are often special days when nonmembers can enjoy the deals.

With a kitchen full of healthy foods, you'll be fueled up for more active and frugal activities.

Jon Lal is the founder of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 3,000 stores.

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