15 ways to save on health and fitness

Don't think you can't get lean just because your finances already are

01/19/2009 1:47 AM

01/19/2009 1:50 AM

You aren't cheap, just frugal. You want to stay slim, but your finances are a tad too lean. You seek to maintain your health, but your bank account is lower than Michael Phelps' pulse rate.

What to do?

Follow these 15 ways to save on health and fitness.

GO GENERIC

Use generic prescription and over-the-counter drugs when possible. The Consumer Reports National Research Center says generics are as safe and effective as name brands.

STEP OUTSIDE

Skip the treadmill and the high health-club fees. Go outside and run or walk. It's really not that cold here.

SOCK IT TO 'EM

Can't afford fancy gloves to keep your hands warm? Find your warmest pair of socks and put them on your hands before a run.

LIMIT ER VISITS

Stay out of emergency rooms. If you have an ailment that can wait until morning, let it wait. You'll literally save thousands.

FLEX YOUR OPTIONS

Do bicep curls with milk jugs and heavier cans as you're putting away the groceries. They weigh about the same as health-club barbells.

FLEX YOUR SPENDING, TOO

If your company offers a flexible-spending account option for health care, take it. These are pretax funds squirreled away in an account to pay for office visits, prescriptions and the like. It's a use-it-or-lose-it plan, so you must estimate how much money to set aside for a year. Err on the low side, lest your December be all about finding ways to spend health care money.

BRACE YOURSELF

Buy your own crutches and braces for your appendages. The ones hospitals supply are pricey.

PRESS PLAY

Buy a yoga video (Rodney Yee's "Power Yoga" can be had for $8.99 on Amazon.com) instead of paying $15 for every yoga class. (Plus, you won't have to deal with some creepy guy staring at you while you're executing the downward dog.)

SAMPLE BEFORE BUYING

When your doctor tells you you need to take a new drug, ask her or him for free samples. They usually have a stash on hand.

CASH IF YOU CAN

If you have no insurance and pay cash for your doctor's bill at the time of the appointment, ask if the office gives a discount. Many practices will give cash-paying customers a deal because they don't have to deal with the insurance hassles.

LET STUDENTS FILL IN

Get your dental work done at a dental school. (For information on the University of the Pacific's Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, go to http://dental.pacific.edu.) But be prepared for a long appointment. These are dental pros-in-training.

MIND YOUR PEAS AND CARROTS

Forget those fancy freezable ice bags pro athletes use. If you've got a sprained ankle or a swollen knee, put a bag of frozen peas on it. (You can use one bag for about a year. Don't cook the peas after a year, though. They get kind of smooshed after repeated use.)

ORDER BULK BY MAIL

Try mail-order pharmacies for your prescription drugs. Buying in bulk is cheaper. (Caveat: Do it only for prescriptions you routinely take.)

FACTOR IN THE TAX FACTS

Know your tax tips. The IRS allows you to write off the amount by which your medical care expenses for the year exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

STAY HOME

Eat out less and eat smaller portions. It saves money and shrinks your waistline.

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