Cut Stress, Save Money with Small Steps to Health and Wealth

AMES, Iowa — The approaching holiday season doesn’t have to mean extra stress, expense and calories. With a few small changes, Iowans can be on their way to healthier lives and financial security, says Jan Monahan, a family finance specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Even simplifying a recipe — making green beans with a touch of olive oil rather than green bean casserole — could cut some calories, save a little money and ease a lot of stress. When guests offer to bring something to your holiday gathering, take them up on their offer. Be ready with a list of dishes they could bring or rolls from the bakery or some type of beverage,” Monahan said.

“Cutting back on discretionary expenses — those expenses that you can control — can add up over time as well,” Monahan continued. “Small steps can improve your overall health and financial picture. But you have to take action. Health and wealth are strongly related and changes in one area can have positive effects upon the other.”

In today’s economy many people wonder how they can afford to save more for retirement. According to Monahan, taking some small steps can make a big difference.

“Take a look at your discretionary spending,” Monahan said. “By ‘stepping down’ the expenses you can control, you can use that money to ‘ramp up’ your savings.”

Monahan suggests calculating the potential weekly and annual financial savings of improving some health behaviors. For example, eating two fewer meals away from home each week could save $10 per week or $520 per year. Saving $3 per day, rather than spending the money on fast food or alcohol, yields $21 per week — more than $1,000 per year. Quitting a pack-a-day smoking habit would save at least $35 per week or more than $1,800 in a year.

“Seeing the numbers that are possible may be just the right incentive to make positive changes,” she said.

Money Tip$Additional money-saving ideas are available from the ISU Extension and Outreach MoneyTip$ blog, Consumers also can contact their county ISU Extension and Outreach office for information about Small Steps to Health and Wealth classes.

ISU Extension and Outreach specialists in family finance and nutrition and health deliver the Small Steps to Health and Wealth curriculum as part of workplace wellness programs and at community sites. The program highlights nutrition and financial steps to behavior change and is an example of ISU Extension and Outreach efforts that are committed to improving Iowans’ health and wellbeing.

One participant set up an auto bill pay and each month started to pay herself 10 percent of her salary. Another participant choose to save her pay raise for her retirement years and continue to live on the amount that she had previously lived on. Another person started to walk during TV commercial breaks, adding up to 15 minutes a day, Monahan noted.

“Small Steps to Health and Wealth made a personal impact for these individuals,” Monahan said.

ISU Extension and Outreach efforts, such as Small Steps to Health and Wealth, support the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. Individuals, families, businesses, faith-based organizations, not-for-profits and the public sector are working together in community-focused efforts to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.