One great way to save is to plan your weekly meals in advance.
Studying for an advanced degree often comes with the promise of a greater number of career opportunities and more lucrative salaries upon graduation. Until that point, however, many graduate students will live on a tight budget, particularly if they opt to leave the workforce and return to the classroom full-time. Tuition, rent, commuting, books – it all adds up. Consequently, it can be easy for many graduate students to overlook taking proper care of their health. After all, nutritious foods, gym memberships and exercise classes are additional expenses that many simply can't afford, and that's not to mention the extra time that such efforts can take up.
It's vitally important, however, that graduate students still take steps to remain as healthy as possible throughout their studies. That means eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and refraining from overindulgence in alcohol and junk food. Thankfully, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to ensure maximum health on a tight budget. If you're returning to the classroom with limited funds and are keen to stay fit and healthy, read the seven stellar tips below:
1. Use online coupons
Long gone are the days of spending hours at the kitchen table cutting newspaper coupons. The best deals are now found online. Health.com explained that there are an array of websites that offer money-off coupons at supermarkets and other large stores, meaning that it has never been easier to save money on healthy food. Sign up and start saving.
2. Choose seasonal produce
One of the common excuses that students give for not eating nutritiously is that fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly of the organic variety, are costly. While this may be true to an extent, there are ways to get all the fruits and vegetables you need at a more reasonable price. One effective way to approach this is to buy seasonally. The fruits and vegetables that are in season tend to be cheaper than they otherwise would be at different times throughout the year, lifestyle website Kitchn explained. So, for example, in the winter months opt for dark greens such as asparagus and Brussels sprouts and in the summer consider adding summer squash and peppers to your plate.
3. Give up smoking
Smoking is terrible for your health and your bank account. In addition to the fact that smoking substantially increases your risk of a slew of dangerous conditions, including lung cancer and bronchitis, Smokefee.gov reported that the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in the U.S. is now over $6. This certainly adds up, particularly if you smoke a pack or more a day. If you smoke and want to give it up there are many ways to get started. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained, quitting the habit can dramatically reduce your heightened risk of developing cancer or heart disease.
4. Avoid take-out and convenience food
Not only are take-out and pre-prepared meals typically higher in saturated fat, salt and sugar, they are usually the more expensive options, too. Keep in mind that every time you order that pizza you are paying extra for the convenience. The same is true of meals that are pre-prepared in the supermarket. JJ Virgin, a nutrition expert writing for the The Huffington Post, noted that pre-prepared meals can sometimes cost up to twice as much as homemade meals! Be sensible – buy ingredients and cook at home. You'll notice big savings in the long run.
5. Exercise at home
While joining a gym or taking an exercise class can definitely get you in the best possible shape, it can be an unnecessary expense when you are studying for an advanced degree on a tight budget. That's not an excuse, however, to remain inactive. There are so many easy ways to stay healthy and in shape for free: Find exercise tutorials on YouTube and get moving in your living room, or go for a daily jog or brisk walk. You don't have to exercise strenuously to stay healthy. After all, the CDC explained that most adults only need around two and a half hours of exercise a week to reap health benefits.
6. Plan your meals
One surefire way to maintain a healthy diet and avoid expensive impulse food purchases is to plan your weekly meals in advance, Kitchn detailed. Planning in this way can help save money, as you will head to the store and buy only the ingredients you need for the week ahead. Without prior planning it is easy to become lazy and opt for faster, less healthy and more expensive pre-prepared options. Planning will also help you make the most of the ingredients you buy. For example, you can buy discount meat and then use the leftovers in a variety of ways throughout the week.
7. Drink water
Sugary sodas, creamy coffees and calorie-filled beers are not only bad for your health, they chip away at your budget too, especially in graduate school when the temptation to grab a coffee or glass of wine with friends is high. The key to saving money and protecting your health, therefore, is to avoid these expensive and healthy drinks as much as possible. Make coffee at home, keep the socializing to once a week, and most importantly, drink as much water as you can. Water is incredibly good for you, and best of all, it's free! The CDC advised carrying a reusable bottle around campus with you so you can refill it at water fountains regularly.