Is reaching for your wallet making you fat? It's possible that your slim wallet is to blame for your thickening waistline. If you're saddled with debt and a few extra pounds, then update your budget spreadsheet and download this workout log to get a grip on these five spending habits that cost calories and can make you fat.
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1. Buying food with coupons. The grocery coupon clippers are a determined lot. They clip, collect, stack, trade, barter, double up, and share coupons to save a buck or two on the family food bill. But take a good look at the food you're buying before clipping a deal. Many "foods" boasting deep discounts are convenience products and heavily processed snacks stuffed with pound-packing sugars and fats. And many grocery coupons can lure you into spending valuable food dollars on products you otherwise wouldn't buy, enticing you away from the non-packaged or generic items which may be healthier and less expensive than the brand name coupon offerings.
When stacked and collected, not all grocery coupons are cut from the same pound-packing cloth. Be on the lookout for deals on whole foods (fruits, veggies, lean meats), pantry staples (rice, flour, beans), and personal or kitchen supplies (aluminum foil, toothpaste, soap). These everyday items are a steal when clipped on sale, and shouldn't pile on the pounds. When in doubt, always use a grocery shopping list to keep costs down and nutrition high. Also see 5 Ways to Cut the Fat from Your Grocery Bill for more ways to trim your food budget.
2. Buying a home in a cul-de-sac. If you've been packing on the pounds since your last move, your dream home located on a quaint cul-de-sac could be to blame. The Harvard Business Review says that "residents in areas with the most interconnected streets travel 26 percent fewer vehicle miles than those in areas with many cul-de-sacs." The report further links obesity with cul-de-sac owners by showing that as a neighborhood’s walkability increases, so does the amount of walking and biking -- while air pollution and body mass index decrease.
Packing up and moving to a more walkable neighborhood may not be the best path to losing weight, especially if you risk a mortgage meltdown. But doing your best to get some daily exercise could help counter these fattening statistics.
3. Watching television. How much money are you spending to sit and stare at an electronic box? On average, American cable and satellite viewers pay $71 per month, which adds up to a staggering $852 a year. The money spent on sitcoms and reality shows is nothing compared to the actual time spent sitting in front of the tube though. A Nielsen report finds that the average American watches 35 hours of TV each week -- that's 1,820 hours a year!
Sure, paying the cable bill costs good money, but there's another steep price to be paid for being a couch potato -- you're not getting much exercise. It takes a determined person to cancel the cable, so consider downsizing your programming package to pad your budget. Besides, taking a TV break and spending that time doing frugal activities like: playing with your kids, making a kite, or learning how to garden can help burn those extra sofa-surfing calories.
4. Buying a gym membership. Your unused gym membership isn't doing much to tone your tush, especially if the only thing you're sweating over is the $50 monthly payment. Save some serious cash by cancelling that gym pass and going outside for a walk, hike, swim, or bike ride. Starting a walking exercise plan is free, and many of these everyday activities do more to burn extra calories than that expensive pass sitting in your wallet. If you can't live without your club, try these 10 Ways to Cut Your Fitness Membership Costs for some money saving ideas.
5. Paying at the pump. Fueling up your automobile can cost thousands a year. If you're driving daily, your travel habits may be putting more waddle in your walk since you're not burning any calories to get around. To pay less at the pump, consider putting a cap on how much you'll spend on fuel each week, and opt to ride your bike to get to your destination. Walking to the bus stop and buying a ticket to ride burns more calories than driving.
Kerry K. Taylor writes at Squawkfox.com, a blog where personal finance and frugal living are sexy, delicious, and fun. Kerry is the author of 397 Ways To Save Money: Spend Smarter & Live Well on Less.