The Frugal Health Plan—Exercise

 

A Sunset Stroll

The frugal health plan is the one you create yourself, not the one the insurance companies sell, though that will be the topic of a future post. Today’s focus will be exercise, one of the cornerstones of a healthy life, and completely under your control 99% of the time. Even if you are bed-ridden you can likely still wiggle around, and that is better than nothing. But the vast majority of us can do much better than that. Exercise does not have to involve expensive equipment. It does take time, but not THAT much. It can take many forms.

Here are a few of the ways we can fit exercise into our daily lives:

Walking—try parking as far from where you are headed as possible. And if you are going to a big walkable city, take public transportation and walk when you get there. You will be doing yourself a favor when it comes to parking too! Or make walking in your neighborhood a daily ritual. Take a sunset walk. Bring the whole family or a friend for a stroll and a chat.

Dancing—this is great fun and great exercise. Many places have free music in the summer, and even if not, getting into a club is not expensive if you stick to water and dance your buns off. If you want to get fancy take salsa or ballroom lessons, but you can also just go and do whatever the music moves you to. I know one man who dances four nights a week and that is his whole program. A woman I know was newly divorced and miserable. She started to gain weight on the Ben and Jerry’s post breakup program, and that made her even more miserable. Then a friend DRAGGED her out dancing. She LOVED it. Soon she was out every night, lost 20 pounds, and met a new man. When you dance anything can happen.

Working Outside—gardening, raking leaves, digging in the dirt. You have to be careful to vary your movements for a full workout, but it still beats sitting by a mile.

Get in the Water—swimming is an amazing low impact full body workout. Just take a gander at the bodies of the Olympic swimmers to see what swimming can do for you. And if getting in the water isn’t for you, try paddling, sailing, or other boating adventures. Remember to put safety first and you will see a side of the outdoors you can’t see any other way. Near me is a Laguna with a huge nesting ground in the middle, accessible best by kayak. Is there something wonderful in your neck of the woods that you can only get to by boat?

Then again, if none of these ideas work for you there is always the gym. Exercise is one thing a frugalista should not mind investing in. Medical bills are much higher than even a gym membership. Not exercising is a known health risk. People who sit too much have a higher mortality rate than those who move. But there are also positive benefits to exercise besides not dying so soon. Many disorders, including depression respond well to exercise. Studies show that exercise is the best natural antidepressant. It’s good for both body and mind. So put on those sneakers and let’s rock!!

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Country or City—Which is the More Frugal Choice?

City?

It costs money to live no matter what, but there are differences in the expenses you will face based on whether you are a country dweller or a city dweller. There are several major needs that will be affected by your choice. Most cost of living indexes claim that the cost of living is higher in urban areas, but this may not be entirely true. These measures always assume that you own a private car that must be parked. But, if you live in a city worthy of the name, you can get around on public transportation or by walking, eliminating the entire automobile expense in the process. You may need to purchase a muni or bus pass to get around, but the cost of a pass pales in comparison to the cost of owning a private car. In the country it is very hard to live without a car, though it can be done.

When it comes to housing, the rural dweller may be ahead of the game. If we leave the higher end of the real estate market out of the mix, and concentrate on share rentals, it is the state and region that influence housing costs the most. That being said, rural areas have a slight edge on really affordable share rentals.

Food is the next great expense. The normal measures of cost of living assume that the urban dweller will avail

Or Country?

themselves of the great variety of restaurants in their city. But, if you are a frugalista most of your meals will be cooked at home from foods obtained at the best price possible. A few years ago, I would have said that even cooking is more expensive in the city, but that has changed in the face of farmer’s markets and community gardens, which are ubiquitous now in big cities. That being said, the country is still the place to cut the expense of food to the bone if you have the skill and the will. Even urban chickens don’t quite even it out.

Clothes don’t actually cost more in the city, but your requirements for more expensive garb will increase in the competitive social and professional atmosphere of the city. Like it or not, humans are visually oriented creatures, and clothing is social shorthand. In the country, after you get some serviceable boots and sunglasses to protect your eyes you are home free.

Those are the three expenses most sensitive to geography. It depends, like most things, on what kind of a life you want to live. If you are willing to endure the inconvenience and loneliness of life on a farm without a car, and you maximize your savings by growing produce and keeping livestock, you can live in the most frugal way possible. But if that is not for you, you can still make it work. Just cultivate friends that belief in voluntary simplicity, keep those urban chickens, and if you must drive get a Zip car, which is a short term rental based on membership.

There is only one bad choice for frugality, and that is the sprawling suburb, the worst of both worlds.

Here are some links to help:

http://www.zipcar.com/

http://urbanchickens.org/

Getting Around the Frugal Way-How to go Car-Free and What to do if you Can’t

The most frugal form of transportation is walking of course, followed by the bicycle. In the developed world the third place is taken by public transportation though in the less industrialized places animal based transportation would tie with public transportation for third place. Scooters and motorcycles are the most frugal of the motorized ways to get around. The private car is the least frugal choice by far, even the newer hybrids. When the electric car becomes common it will be better than any combustion engine, but not as good as walking, cycling, and public transportation.

A Reliable Used Car

But in the world as it is today it is not necessarily practical to walk, and many communities have virtually no public transportation options. Where I live, for instance, the nearest bus is three miles away down a road that is too dangerous to bike or walk. For short trips to town it would be possible to take a motorized scooter, but that being said, without a car I would be housebound. And I am hardly alone in that regard. If we could all work at home it would be less of an issue, but for people that are forcibly frugal that is a luxury that is out of reach. We work wear we are needed, and we have to get there somehow.

If your life has been disrupted and you are planning on moving anyhow, why not move to someplace with a high walkability index? This index is a measure of how many basic functions can be fulfilled within walking distance. Can you buy all of your food? See a movie? Go to a Laundromat? Find work? The more the answer to these questions is yes the higher the walkability index. Most places with a higher index number are big cities, but not all. There are still small towns in this country where it is possible to do all of these things.

If the index is a little lower it may still be possible to remain car-free by getting a bicycle. Some places are a little spread out but have good bike paths. Or if that fails, there may be a world class public transportation system. In big cities all of these options may be open. In smaller towns there may be a decent enough public system. The best thing is too do an online search for public transportation and the name of your region, city, or county if you are unsure. This is a good idea if you are unable to relocate to a place that is easier to get around. Don’t assume you are stuck with the car until you know for sure.

But what if you are stuck in an under-served rural area, or one of the sprawling suburbs? The only choice then is to get something with an engine, which also means maintenance, registration, maybe a smog, and insurance. If you are brave, have great driving skills, and no family to haul around, consider a scooter or motorcycle. Otherwise it has to be a car. Gas mileage should be foremost in your mind as you search for a frugal car.

When I was looking for a car it became quite clear that around $4000.00 was the cut-off for getting something that would run reliably and be safe for a non-mechanic. If you are a mechanic or have one close enough to you both in relationship and distance to do any good, you could go lower, maybe even a lot lower. If you search for a $500.00 car you could end up with something scary. And if your used car is your only means of transportation it is a good idea to get comprehensive insurance even if it is a larger monthly expense. It was probably hard enough to get the money together—you don’t want to lose it.

Here are some links to help get you on your way:

http://www.kbb.com/used-cars Make sure to check before you buy

http://www.kbb.com/othervehicles#zipo=c5a679ba0875f561a6739c04db2194a1 For Motorcycles

http://www.motorscootershopper.com/motor-scooter.asp Scooters!

http://www.walkscore.com/ Walkability Index for any address

http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites The main site for craigslist, the starting point for used cars and bikes. Pick your city and click it.

http://www.amazon.com/Richards-21st-Century-Bicycle-Book/dp/1585671126/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289704557&sr=1-7 Information on bikes

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiots-Guide-Cycling/dp/0028629299/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289704557&sr=1-3 And the Idiot’s Guide

What is Fun, Free, and Very Healthy?-A Nature Walk

Everybody needs to walk to stay healthy, but it can be hard to get motivated. Walking in a mall or other commercial area can be very boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you live in the city, check out the parks. Every big city and most small ones have some parks filled with city wildlife and walkable trails. There may not be large mammals, but there are a never-ending array of birds, small reptile, insects, and other creatures. As well as plants, flowering or otherwise, and many species of tree. Things you might not expect to see living among humans so closely.

Spider Web Pearls

If you live in a suburb or rural area nature is even closer at hand. Strangely, though you make not have to go to an official park, if you live in the country you may have to drive to walk. That is the case where I live. The country road I live on is a back way to get to the nearest town, and is very heavily traveled at times. It is impossible to walk my road, which is two lanes with ditches on both sides. So I drive to the nearest trail where I could walk for miles if I wanted, far from cars, if not people and bikes.

A walk in nature is free entertainment, but you can make it better with a little planning. Find out a little about the plants and animals you are like to encounter, so you’ll know what you are seeing when you get there. Bring water, preferably in a glass container to save the land-fill, a pair of binoculars, and a camera, even if it is just in your phone. The phone itself should be turned off for full benefits to take place. I have seen people power walking and taking a meeting by phone at the same time. I have to ask, what is the point? If you don’t pay attention to where you are you will miss eighty percent of it.

A walk in nature can be wonderful even in winter. Maybe not in the middle of a storm, but right afterwards there are sights that are only seen as the world settles itself after a big disruption. Bundle up and go see what is out there. Whatever the season you will feel so much better afterwards, and so much richer for having opened your senses to the beauty of the natural world.

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