Investing in Our Health Requires a Mindset (and Budget) Adjustment
There’s this thing I do when I’m anxious about finances. I make a budget. That may seem like a smart and responsible thing to do, but I don’t just do it one time. I fill up pages of a notebook writing and re-writing the same budget, each time hoping that I’ll find extra income or an expense I can eliminate.
Last year, pre-pandemic, I hardly ever wrote a budget. Each month, I checked it. Maybe I even checked it twice, but the obsessive budgeting didn’t happen.
But then 2020 happened. COVID-19 happened. Book signings were cancelled, causing a significant blow to my annual income. Platforms I write on made adjustments to pay scales for writers with little to no explanation for why they would do that during a pandemic when creators were already struggling. I saw my income start to fall, but something else curious was happening:
I began overspending.
At first, I was shopping online to avoid going into stores. Later, it became a form of retail therapy as I made one comfort purchase after another. A towel warmer. A new set of sheets. Home décor. Supplies for my garden. Purchases added up, and my income went down. The budgeting notebook came out with a vengeance.
I would hazard a guess that most of us are suffering this year. It’s been challenging in so many ways that finances can seem like the least among them. But our financial stability (or instability, as it were) can create a sense of growing unease or outright panic.
I want to talk about how to invest in our health even under these circumstances without minimizing the stress, severity, or circumstances of this year. I understand that some families and individuals are seeing far greater struggle than my own, but changing our mindset about investing in our health can help us prioritize our spending. It may help us now, or it may help us later when things — hopefully — become more stable.
In tight financial situations, it can be easy to categorize health expenses as luxury purchases rather than investments in our wellness. In fact, gym memberships can sometimes be the first to go when we’re trying to trim our budgets. While cutting back expenses can help us feel less stressed, eliminating health expenses first could have the opposite impact.
I should also elaborate here to say that health and wellness doesn’t have to come with a price tag. There are so many free and low-cost activities. We can jump rope. We can go for a run (although this involves investing in a good pair of running shoes). We can stretch or do an exercise program on YouTube. But for those that come with a price tag, we may have to adjust our mindsets to see it as an investment in our health rather than a luxury expenditure.
If we add up all of our “extra” expenses, we’d probably be shocked about how much we spend on coffee or snacks or ordering takeout. All those little expenses, seemingly minor, can add up. It might even surprise you to know that the money you need to invest in your health might be tied up in an expense you don’t even care that much about.
I have made three large investments in my health. The first was my paddleboard, which I purchased used and on sale from money I had saved. Since I bought it, I’ve been out on the lake countless times. It’s increased how often I exercise because I enjoy it so much, but it’s also given me more time outside in nature.
The second purchase I made that was significant was my bicycle. After borrowing a bicycle during the pandemic, I decided to purchase my own. I’d previously hated riding — citing discomfort as the primary reason I didn’t enjoy it. But after purchasing a bicycle made for women, I found that I actually loved cycling. Even though it was a risky purchase mid-pandemic, I found that I used it consistently enough to make it worth the investment.
The last purchase was the only one I made on credit with monthly payments. I invested in a Peloton bike. While it won’t arrive for several weeks and the expense is large enough to send me breathing into a paper bag, I’m choosing to focus on the benefits.
As a single parent, school breaks can make working from home while parenting a challenge. I’ll be able to use the bike on those days as well on days when there’s inclement weather. It won’t take away from cycling outdoors or paddling, but it will add another layer to my fitness plan, which also helps me manage my mental health.
While it could be argued that I could take advantage of one of the numerous free online exercise classes or invest in much more affordable exercise equipment, there’s a moneyback guarantee that will let me try it out to make sure it works for me. It’s a heavier investment than I usually make, but it will help me continue to make fitness a priority in my life.
There are so many ways we can invest in fitness:
- Purchasing good shoes for walking, running, or hiking
- Joining a gym and maintaining the membership
- Taking yoga classes
- Taking dance or aerobic classes
- Investing in activewear for workouts
- Purchasing a subscription to a fitness app
- Booking a session with a dietician or nutritionist
- Signing up for a fun run or marathon
- Purchasing at-home exercise equipment
- Investing in a state and/or national park pass to take advantage of all they have to offer
- Seeing a therapist to address our mental health
- Purchasing self-help books
When I review my budget, I don’t automatically start slashing the expenses that benefit my physical or mental health. These days, I need all the help I can get when it comes to managing my stress. But I do take a hard look at the other ways in which I spend my money.
I know I could probably trim back my budget for eating out, and if I take a closer look at the way I grocery shop, I’m sure there are a few impulse buys I could live without and not feel deprived. I’ve cut back on my streaming services — finally asking myself if I really have the time to watch them all.
By making small adjustments in my budget, it’s easier to free up a little room for an investment in my health without adding an additional strain during a fragile economic period.
While I used to freak out about any additional expenses, I can now see that investing in my health isn’t additional at all. It’s just taken a mindset and budget adjustment.
We wouldn’t drive our cars without ever getting an oil change. Why wouldn’t we take the same care with our health by making sure we get what we need on a regular basis?
This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Not all information will be accurate. Consult a financial professional before making any significant financial decisions.