Spring Clean Your Finances

Getting your financial house in order is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Trust us when we say your future self will thank you. Since we associate spring with new growth and at least cleaning up the old, we think this is the ideal time to spring clean your finances. Don’t know where to start? That’s ok – we’ve got you covered!

Start Here

We know that no one likes the ‘B’ word but you really can’t get your financial house in order until you have a budget. You have to know how much money you have and how it’s being used. It’s that simple. Americans spend way too much money without thinking or planning and it can get them into trouble.

Budgeting isn’t scary and it doesn’t have to be hard. We’ve written about it in the past and will provide some links in the Resource Guide below. Whether you use an app or old school pen and paper, your goal is to list your income and every expense you can think of including regular bills, annual expenses, walking around money and how much you are saving for the future. If you have kids in school, your summer budget needs to include school supplies and clothes. If you enjoy travel, there needs to be a line item for those expenses too.

Now look at what you have. Are you spending more than you make? Are you saving for a rainy day? Are you trying hard to not look too closely at your credit card bill when it comes? Be honest with yourself. If you have a spending problem and no way to pay for it, now is the time to get help. If you make plenty of money but still can’t seem to save anything, look for what’s holding you back. If you are living paycheck to paycheck and there’s nowhere left to cut, maybe it’s time to increase your income.

Next Steps

  1. Find more money. If your budget is ugly at first, there’s no reason to be ashamed but this is the time to find more money. There are two basic avenues for this. Cut expenses or make more. Cutting expenses is an easy place to start. Call your insurance company and ask them to shop your policy. This alone could save hundreds a year. Are you spending money on a vice or maybe on extras that you don’t care about? Cut that gym membership and start using free online resources or hike a local park. Costs are on the rise but how much food do you throw away out of neglect and poor planning? Most employers are desperate for good workers and are willing to pay more to keep a good employee or to entice someone new to accept a job. Ask for a raise or dust off your resume and find something that’s better for you. Look for things to sell or deliver pizzas a couple of nights a week. Finding money is hard but it can be done!
  2. Pay off credit card debt. Many Americans would be ok if not for the enormous mountain of credit card debt they face each month. Before you do anything else, take control of this debt that’s keeping you awake at night. Use any extra money to pay it off for good and begin using that credit card only when you know you can pay it off.
  3. Save for emergencies. Everyone needs an emergency fund. Emergencies, both large and small, happen every day of the week but if you have no savings to help, even the smallest problem can feel like a catastrophe. Save whatever you can and accumulate as much as you can. Most everyday unexpected expenses are going to come in at less than a thousand dollars so that’s a great savings goal to start with. A long term goal would be three to six months of living expenses. Just remember that you are saving this money for a rainy day so be sure to save it and forget about it until the need is important.
  4. Save for your future. When you’re young, the future sounds so far away. However, time has a way of speeding up as you age and life gets in the way. Get into the habit of saving for your future as young as possible so that you can someday enjoy life as a retiree!
  5. Gather important documents. We all like to think we will live forever and that we will always live independently but life is full of surprises. Gather important documents in one place and make sure your next of kin know where to find it. That means insurance policies, deeds, bank information, investment firm contacts, will and power of attorney. Don’t have a will? Now is the time to have one made.

Spring cleaning your financial house is a chore but it’s an important one and we hope that you will be inspired to start working on these steps. Remember, it doesn’t all have to be done in a day. Begin with the budget and start accumulating a list of opportunities for you to spend more wisely, save more consistently and be prepared for troubles someday.

Resource Guide

Click the links below for more guidance on budgeting and saving money!

Budgeting 101

Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work

Emergency Fund 101

31 Ways To Save Money

Be Organized To Save Money

No Spend Challenge

VCNB Introduces Limited Time $1,000 Closing Cost Credit Special

Is a new home on your wish list? How long have you been waiting? More importantly, why are you waiting? Here are VCNB, we understand that buying a home or building a new home is an intimidating task. It’s also one of the most important investments you’ll make for your future.

That’s why we have people to help you through. Our experienced mortgage and construction lenders understand the excitement and the nerves, the potential and the worry. We understand you need someone to look out for your interests and to guide you through the process of financing your new home.

Whether you’re building your dream home, buying your starter home or downsizing to a tiny home, you’ll find that our lenders will replace the stress and worry with understanding and anticipation of what’s to come. Best of all, VCNB is currently offering a special to make the process that much sweeter!

This special is for $1,000 toward closing costs on real estate purchase or construction applications received from April 1 through June 30, 2022 that result in a closed loan with VCNB by September 30, 2022. *See terms below for complete details.

Ready to get started? There’s no reason to wait! Contact your local branch or call 1.800.542.5004 to make an appointment with a mortgage or construction lender today!

*The $1,000 Closing Cost offer is valid for Real Estate purchase or construction applications received April 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022 that result in a closed loan with VCNB by September 30, 2022. Offer is only available for conventional purchase or construction transactions of an owner-occupied primary residence. Offer is not available on Brokered Loans, Refinances, Home Improvements, Land Purchases, Home Equity loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit. The $1,000 closing cost offer will be in the form of a lender credit and will be applied at the time of closing. Offer cannot be redeemed for cash. All loans are subject to underwriting and property approval. Not all applicants will qualify for this promotional offer. Other terms and conditions may apply. Offer cannot be retroactively applied to previously closed loans or loans currently in process. Offer is subject to change or end without notice at VCNB discretion. NMLS #483350

Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work

There’s a reason why people don’t like to budget or even think about money. That’s because it’s hard work making a spending plan that is reasonable and that you can stick to in your daily life. We’re willing to wager that most people who make a budget plan to stick with it but fail for a handful of reasons.

The Problem:

It’s Unrealistic– Many people write out the budget they think they should have but set unrealistic expectations for themselves by not budgeting fairly for every expense. Be honest. If you spend $10 on lunch every workday, that’s $50 a week. Don’t budget $25 thinking it will force you to change your patterns. It will not.

The Fix– Plan for all of your expenses. That includes your weekend entertainment, school clothes for the kids, birthday gifts and whatever guilty pleasure that makes your life happy. Ignoring these expenses won’t make them go away but you will be unprepared when they pop up.  Also, with the cost of everything on the rise, budget a little high to make sure you have enough.

The Problem:

You’re Not Really Committed – A budget is meant to be your spending plan. Unfortunately, it you’re not committed to actually following through with that plan, it will fail. It’s up to you to put that plan to work by monitoring your spending within each category. You can either adjust your spending or adjust your budget to accommodate your spending. If you make a budget but never open it, you’re not really committed. If family members aren’t aware of the budget or ignore it, their lack of commitment will be a hurdle as well.

The Fix– Factor the budget into your daily life. Every time you want to spend money, ask yourself if it’s in the budget. Check in on the budget every day or every couple of days to make sure you’re on track. Better yet, check in every time you spend money by logging every dollar and dime as you spend it. Talk to your spouse and use it as a teachable moment to help your kids understand how money and spending work when you are running a household.

The Problem:

Poor Budgeting Method – There are numerous methods you can employ to build your budget. Some like pen and paper. Lots of people like to enter the data into spreadsheets and even more seem to appreciate websites and phone apps that can automate the process. If you carry your budget around with you on your phone, it’s easier to track expenses and to remain conscious of how much money you have at your disposal. But if you choose an app when you’re really into something old school, it is harder to be enthusiastic.

The Fix – Don’t be afraid to experiment or to combine methods. A paper budget can be kept in a visible area where you will see it every day but you may benefit from tracking expenses in an app on your phone. Don’t give up! Experiment until you find the right method for your lifestyle.

The Problem:

You’re Short On Money – You can write down anything you like but, if you’re short on funds, it is hard to make a budget where you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Remember, your budget is about money in and money planned to go out.

The Fix –  The solution may not be easy but you need to either lower expenses or increase your income. That could mean refinancing your home, selling a vehicle or buckling down to pay off old debt. It could mean finding a higher income job, taking on a side hustle or selling some things to help you get caught up. If you are accumulating credit card debt because of extravagant purchases or vacations you cannot afford, it’s time to stop those bad spending habits cold turkey. In other words, your budget problems may not be about money so much as changing habits. Most likely, you will need to employ a few strategies to make ends meet.

Do you recognize any of these problems? How will you take control of your finances to build a budget that works for you?

Emergency Fund 101

Let’s face it. Life is full of obstacles, emergencies and trying times that require money. If your furnace blows or you lose your job, do you have cash tucked away to help you through? If the answer is no, this article is for you. That’s because, today, we are talking emergency funds.

What Is An Emergency Fund?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a cash reserve that you set aside for unplanned expenses and emergencies. This might include something minor like a trip to the doctor, a blown tire or an unexpected school expense. It might be for something major like making up for lost income or a catastrophic health diagnosis.

Why Do I Need It?

Even a minor financial shock can set you back and cause debt to accumulate. Debt has a lasting effect and sometimes negative impact on a family or individual’s finances.

How Much Should I Save?

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck or have an erratic pay schedule, setting aside even a few dollars can be challenging. That’s why it’s best to start with your own savings goal. A good aim for that initial goal is $1,000. However, most experts agree that you should ultimately aim for three to six months of expenses. Even if your initial goal is just a couple hundred dollars, having something to fall back on will be helpful.

How Do I Build My Emergency Fund?

There are a few approaches you might take:

  • Save those windfalls. Tax refunds and overtime income make great seed money for an emergency fund.
  • Pay yourself first. Figure out how much you can feasibly save each paycheck and transfer that amount from your checking to savings before you do anything else. Setting up an automatic transfer to take place on payday is a great way to make sure you are saving toward your goal.
  • Take on a side hustle. Cut grass in your neighborhood this summer or deliver pizzas on the weekend, there are a number of ways to pick up a few extra bucks a month.
  • Set aside extras. If the electric bill is lower than you anticipated, save the money – even if it’s just a few bucks!
  • Sell something. A yard sale is a great way to make some money while clearing out clutter. Have an extra car that you don’t need? The proceeds could go a long way toward preparing you for an emergency.

It may take you a while but having some extra money in the bank will help you avoid debt and give you peace of mind. Even if your goals start small, having that savings when you need it will make a difference!

Need more inspiration? We have written about looking for ways to cut costs. Click below to read more on how you can trim expenses to save more money!

Spotting Elder Financial Exploitation

Each year older adults lose billions of dollars to financial exploitation. Defined as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets, elder financial exploitation is a devastating crime that is becoming increasingly common according to the American Bankers Association (ABA).

It not only impacts an elder’s financial situation, but often takes an emotional toll as well. Victims of such abuse frequently experience intense feelings of fear, depression, anger, and humiliation. In turn, abused elders may be at risk of poorer health outcomes and increased mortality relative to their counterparts. Fraudsters prey on elders because as a whole, older adults possess more financial assets than other demographics.

Seniors tend to own their own homes, have accrued savings over their lifetimes, generally have better credit and tend to be more trusting of others relative to younger populations. Consequently, criminals have engineered specific scams, such as the grandparent scam and other impostor scams, to target America’s elderly.

Here are some examples of crimes against the elderly:

Cemetery/Funeral Scams – Criminals read obituaries and call survivors claiming the deceased owed them a debt to extort money from living relatives.

Charity Scams – Con artists reach out and claim to be from an organization with a carefully crafted name. They ask for a donation to obtain access to financial information, such as credit or debit card numbers. They often pop up after disasters. Others falsely state that they fundraise to support veterans.

Check Fraud – Con artists send people money via check, claim they overpaid, and then ask the victim to send part of it back. But, the original check was fraudulent, so the victim ends up sending their own money to the criminal.

Health Insurance/Medicare Scams – Scammers either pose as Medicare or health insurance representatives to obtain personally identifiable information from elders or provide unnecessary services at makeshift clinics and then bill Medicare to ensure they can keep the money.

Homeowner/Mortgage Scams – Scammers may send fake, but professional looking letters to people on behalf of their county offering to reassess their home values for a fee to address their tax burdens.

Imposter Scams – Fraudsters may call or send text messages impersonating government officials to manipulate elders into sharing sensitive information. Alternatively, they may pretend to be family members in an emergency situation and claim they need money right away. Scammers may also pose as technology support representatives to offer to fix non-existent computer issues to capture personal information and have seniors pay for useless services.

Online Fraud – Criminals pose as romantic interests on social media platforms or dating websites to exploit older adults out of their life savings. Elders may receive emails asking them to update or verify their personal information from a seemingly legitimate organization, but if they click the links, they will be providing sensitive information to criminals.

Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams – An older adult may receive a message indicating that they won a foreign or domestic prize or lottery, but are required to pay a fee to access their “winnings.”

Telemarketing/Phone Scams – An elder may receive calls from fraudsters indicating that they found a large sum of money and would split it if the elder would provide or pay a smaller sum of money.

Sadly, while these scams are targeted toward older Americans, nearly anyone can fall prey to criminals who are looking to take their money and identity. Share this information with your friends and family to help them protect themselves.  Follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for infographics and more. Thanks to the ABA for providing VCNB and other member banks with this valuable information.  

Nine Changes To Save On Food

The cost of groceries is on the rise and that’s a tough blow to the budget if you’re not prepared. Some traditional ways to cut costs include shopping sales, couponing and trying generic brands. What else can you do? We have some ideas to help you dig a little deeper into your food shopping habits and save some money.

1. Plan Before You Go. Check online for your favorite store’s weekly sales and plan meals around the bargains. If you know you need seven dinners, seven breakfasts and some leftovers for lunches, make a list of what’s on sale that you like to eat.  For example, if they have rotisserie chicken and potatoes on sale, plan to have chicken with a baked potato and a veggie for dinner that night. A chicken sandwich will keep you full for lunch the next day. For dinner the next night, use up what’s left of that chicken to make soup, chicken pot pie or even add some barbeque sauce for sandwiches. Potato soup is filling, easy and reheats great. Two sale items can be combined with other things and reworked into a few meals with some simple planning.

2. Shop Once. Every trip to the store will cost you more than you think it should. Even if you run in just to pick up a loaf of bread, you’ll end up spending more than planned unless you have better willpower than we have. That’s because stores are designed to make you walk past lots of good stuff to get to the necessities. Before you know it, that $3 loaf of bread is going home with a dozen donuts, some chocolate milk and boxed mac and cheese. Plus you’ll have sticker shock because you spent ten times more than planned.

3. Be Prepared. Keep some quick foods to grab when you’re tempted to hit the drive-thru. We don’t always want to go home and cook, especially when we’re tired from the day, hungry and the drive-thru line is inexplicably short. Keep frozen pizzas or some skillet meals that can be ready in minutes.  Ten dollars in frozen pizzas will be cheaper than $40 worth of take out.

4. Embrace Frozen Produce. We all love having fresh produce around but it isn’t always cost effective. Fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak and flash frozen so many are more delicious than the fresh. Skip the expensive steam in the bag products and experiment with steaming, roasting and air fryer preparation just as you would with fresh vegetables. Frozen fruit is great in smoothies and muffins, can be heated for a delicious pancake topping and is good just to thaw and eat as you need it.

5. Cut Back On Snacks. That bag of Doritos is way more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Try making popcorn, shopping generic brands or even opting for a healthier snack like peanut butter on toast or carrots with dip. Also, avoid waste by finishing one bag of snacks before opening another one. This is especially hard if you have kids in the house so try creating a special snack box just for them.

6. Look For Cheaper Cuts Of Meat. Chicken legs baked in barbeque sauce are delicious. Buy a cheaper cut of steak to cook in the Crockpot with some gravy.  Buy a small ham to slice for sandwiches instead of expensive lunchmeats. Shop the sales and stock up your freezer as your pocketbook allows.

7. Have Breakfast For Dinner. Nothing comes together as quickly, cheaply or deliciously as pancakes and scrambled eggs. Add some frozen berries to those pancakes and you’ll have a meal that’s even pretty to eat.  Plus, when you’re talking dollars per ounce, eggs are a cost effective way to get in some protein!

8. Audit Your Fridge. Saving money on food is about curbing waste as much as it’s about finding the best price. How much food gets thrown away in your house every week? Look through the fridge every couple of days to identify anything that’s at risk. If there’s a lot, put out all those leftovers buffet style. If there’s a little, take it in your lunch. Odds and ends of vegetables and meats go well in soups, omelets and pot pies. Surplus zucchini is great shredded and used as filler in meatballs or in delicious muffins. Google how to use up leftovers and be amazed at what you’re wasting.

9. Be Smart About Drinks. We all like our favorite fizzy drinks, fancy coffee creamers and sugary sports drinks but these costs add up and they have no nutritional value. Drink more water and save the fun drinks as a treat.

As you can see, a big part of saving money on groceries involves thought, planning and simply using what you have. It isn’t hard work and it gets easier to do with experience. You don’t have to adopt all of these changes at once to be successful. Choose one or two to try right now and keep working at making improvements as you can.

How Being Organized Can Save You Money

We tend to think of cost cutting measures as things like clipping coupons or making sacrifices. What if we told you that you could save money simply by being better organized? Here are some traits of organized people and the takeaways that might help you.

Organized people pay their bills on time.

They tend to know how much money they have, what they owe and when it’s due so they are prepared to pay their bills on time. That means they have a budget, keep track of their bills and often use things like Online Bill Pay at VCNB to guarantee they don’t miss anything.   

Organized people know what they own.

Do you ever buy something only to get home and realize you didn’t need it after all? How many bottles of cinnamon do you own? Clean out your closet and take stock of how many black t-shirts you own or how many pairs of jeans are languishing on the shelf because you simply don’t wear them or even know if they fit.

Organized people waste less money on food.

They tend to rotate their stock so that the oldest canned goods are easy to reach in the cupboard. They can see at a glance what’s in the freezer so they don’t forget about the leftover soup they froze and need to use soon because they marked the container and made it easy to find.

Organized people know how to work in batches.

They tend to organize their life so they can run all their errands in one neighborhood at the same time. If they have to drop off their kids for tutoring, they will grab groceries on that side of town and fill up the gas tank while their kids are learning. They avoid driving just to do one thing.

Organized people buy less stuff.

An organized person can tell you that life is easier when you are organizing less. That means they tend not to bring home a lot of extra stuff whether it be planned or on impulse. They remember to pack lunch the night before so they don’t have to eat out or to carry a refillable water bottle so they don’t have to hit the vending machine.

Organized people have more time.

Ok, so this is less about money than quality of life but we believe that’s important too. Batching errands and having less stuff to care for frees up a lot of time to do things you might enjoy more. Besides, what’s that old saying? Time is money.

Pay Off Credit Card Debt And Save For Next Christmas

Did you overspend during the holidays? Let’s talk about how to recover.

If you overspent over the holidays, you are not alone. Surveys show that more than one in three Americans racked up debt buying gifts, plane tickets and party supplies to celebrate this Christmas. After a long season of excess, the decorations are now gone, the wrapping paper thrown away and all that lingers is the massive credit card bill.

So, now what?

The last thing you want to do is just pay the minimum payment on your bill. In fact, when your statement comes, study the section that tells you how long it will take to pay off your balance by paying just the minimum payment. Depending on what you owe, it will be years and maybe decades.

Instead, you need to add up all that you owe and form a plan of attack.

  1. Dedicate yourself to paying off that debt so that it doesn’t snowball into a heaping amount of interest. Get your spouse to buy in to the notion that Christmas pay off needs to be the priority before other spending.
  2. Add up how much you actually owe.
  3. Form a plan of attack to pay it off fast. The longer it lingers on your card, the more you’ll pay in interest.

Well, that sounds easy, right?

It clearly isn’t as easy as 1,2,3. In fact, let’s take a closer look at how to form that plan of attack.

  • Update your budget to reflect Christmas Debt as a new line item. Don’t have a budget? Now is the time to make one. You need a clear picture of how much money comes in, how much goes out and where it goes. Need help? Find links at the bottom of this article to help you get started.
  • If your budget is tight, look for ways to cut costs or to make more money. Most households waste money somewhere. It could be through behavioral choices like eating out too much or letting impulse buys get out of control. It could be on big bills like car insurance. Research these expenses by requesting a new quote from your insurance agent or consider refinancing your home if you feel the mortgage payment is too high. Can’t cut costs? Look for a side hustle to help you bring in some extra bucks and knock out that debt quicker!
  • Stay focused on the reward of knowing you accomplished this goal and that you are about to eliminate that debt.

Once you’ve paid off this Christmas, don’t stop there! Take all that money that you have been applying to your debt to save for next Christmas. Wouldn’t it feel amazing to pay cash for Christmas 2022 this year? Open a VCNB Passbook savings account and set up automatic transfers to guarantee you’ll save the money. When October rolls around and we open our VCNB Christmas Club again, be sure to sign up for this special savings account!

VCNB Resource Guide

Find useful tips and instructions for getting started with your budget and with finding ways to save money!

Budgeting 101  

How To Stick To A Budget  

Finding Money To Save (Even When You Think You Can’t)

31 Ways To Save Money   

Take The No Spend Challenge

Let’s talk spending. More importantly, let’s talk about not spending money.

Did your holiday spending get out of control this year? Maybe you spent more than you planned. Maybe you didn’t have the money at all but knowingly decided to take on the debt and pay it off later.

How often do impulse buys make it into your cart?

Do you know how much disposable income you would have if not for the impulse spending, restaurant meals and credit card debt?

We ask these questions because many American consumers have no idea where their money goes. That’s because they have a habit of mindlessly buying things that are “just a few dollars” or of overspending even when they know they shouldn’t.

If you can relate, you may be a good candidate for a No Spend Challenge.  A No Spend Challenge is exactly as it sounds. You make a game out of not spending extra money for a period of time.

The Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do set a start and end date. Many people aim for a month but you might test the waters with two weeks. If you are ambitious, go for two or three months.  
  • Do pay your bills. That means mortgage, utilities, car payment and all the other regular budgeted bills you pay to keep yourself under roof and your life functioning.
  • Do buy the groceries you need. This means stopping to consider whether you’ll actually eat that celery or if you’re buying it out of habit. Buy the things you need and limit the things you don’t need this month. Instead, eat out of your pantry and freezer to get rid of some things nearing expiration.
  • Do pay for transportation expenses. Whether it’s a tank of gas or a bus pass, you still need to find your way to work and school.
  • Do seek medical care when needed. This challenge isn’t an excuse to skip dental check-ups or to neglect a medical problem.
  • Do take some time to think about all the things you buy in a typical day or week that don’t fit into the above categories.
  • Don’t take on new luxury bills. Now is not the time to sign up for a new streaming service.
  • Don’t buy food you don’t need. Do you already have a cupboard full of cereal at home? You don’t need that box of Lucky Charms.
  • Don’t eat out for fun. This is hard for many but we often eat out because we’re too lazy to cook or because it sounds like a good idea. Put the family to work making a meal together with ingredients you already own. We can’t be the only ones whose mother told them they didn’t need a Happy Meal “because we have food at home!”
  • Don’t buy single serve drinks and snacks at vending machines and gas stations. Remember all that food you have at home? Pack some of it for a snack. It’s way cheaper and you may find some healthier, cheaper alternatives to the pack of gummy bears.
  • Don’t shop for fun or for things you don’t need. That means no new clothes and shoes just because they’re on sale. Did your kid hit a growth spurt? If they need a new pair of shoes, go for it but remember you’re there to buy for your growing child and not for yourself.

See where we are headed with this? If you commit to only buying the necessities for a month or even just a pay period, you will probably be surprised to see how much you have left in the bank at the end.

Personalize It

The best No Spend Challenges are personalized. You may have some rules to bend. For example, there’s no time to cook between work and your college night classes so you grab fast food on the way. Just budget for those allowances and don’t go overboard.

If you have other people living with you, get them involved. Make it a family affair. Your young children may be better at holding you accountable than your spouse because kids often get rules like these better than grown-ups do and they don’t mind shaming you when they catch you red handed.

You may even make it a game and set a goal or a reward. If you hit a savings goal or if you don’t eat out, you get to go to your favorite restaurant at the end.  

Most of all, find ways to help you not feel deprived. Remember the commercial that entices us to buy because “we all deserve nice things?” You don’t have to keep buying to have a good time.  Make brownies and popcorn for a movie marathon with the family one night. Invite friends over for a game night and ask everyone to bring a snack to share. Brush up on a hobby, go for a walk, visit a free museum, hit up the library, hold a photo shoot with your phone or call a relative to chat instead of spending of money.

There are tons of free ways to spend your time. In fact, if you want to reinforce how much extra stuff you own, spend some time cleaning closets and cupboards, purging unneeded and unwanted stuff that you’ve accumulated. It may discourage you from going out and buying more!

Want to do a No Spend Challenge? February is a great time to test the waters since it’s just 28 days. Then again, why not start today?

Get Fit Without Breaking The Bank

Did you meet the year with grand intentions of getting fit? If you think that money could interfere with your health and fitness plans, you need to reconsider what it really takes to improve your diet and get fit. Sure there’s a plethora of options for joining a gym, hiring a trainer, having healthy meal kits delivered and spending a boatload of money on all kinds of weight loss aids.

All of those things sound helpful but are they really necessary? Here are five things to consider as you start down this road.

  1. Free Information. There are all kinds of websites from reliable sources and free apps to help with your journey toward better health. Check out YouTube for free workouts and healthy cooking videos. There are apps that help you count calories and plan meals and others that provide music to keep you going during your run or walk. Free articles help you understand foods that pack a nutritional punch and recipes for putting them to work.  Need inspiration? There are even bloggers who share their inspiring story to help you stay motivated!
  2. Exercise Outside The Gym. If you’re really on a shoestring, try walking or doing body weight exercises. Old fashioned pushups, squats and crunches are just a few of the exercises you can do with nothing more than the sweat on your brow. If you have a few bucks, invest them in a set of hand weights. These things can be done nearly anywhere and the initial investment is just a decent pair of walking shoes and some cheap weights.
  3. Healthy Food Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive. Read that again. Healthy food isn’t necessarily more expensive than junk food. While we all envision health food as lean cuts of fish, colorful fresh salads and all organic ingredients, it doesn’t have to be that way. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and flash frozen at their peak making them an inexpensive substitute for fresh produce. Instead of boneless skinless chicken, go for the bone-in chicken breast but skip the skin and bake it instead of frying it. Vegetable soup and chili can be a nutritious way to stay full while stretching a dollar. Most of all, skip the junk food. Once you stop buying chips, pop, candy and sodium packed frozen meals, you may be surprised at how much more affordable healthier foods seem.
  4. Log Your Water. Water is so good for you! Carry a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated and curb temptation to buy a drink. Sugary beverages including pop and juices should be consumed in moderation or better yet, not at all. Just cutting out these extra drinks will save you dollars too!
  5. Talk To Your Doctor. Talk to your family doctor for medical advice first. They know you and your family medical history as well as any unique risks or needs you may face. They may even be able to set you up with meal plans, tips for starting an exercise regime and other useful information. The expertise of your family physician will be invaluable as you start down this road to a better you!  

Not everyone has the resources to hire a trainer or to only buy organic foods. Luckily, if getting fit is a priority, it’s possible to get fit and improve your health with the most basic resources like water, walking shoes and help from online resources. Have a tip? We would love to hear about it!