8 healthy habits that can save you money

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These healthy living tips are small, easy-to-make changes can give you big health benefits in the long run. Try adopting these health-wise habits to boost wellness without depleting your budget.

1. Fill out a daily food diary

Writing down everything you eat all day can help limit your calorie intake and avoid weight gain, researchers say. All for the cost of a note pad and pen.

2. Take a vacation (in your mind)

Relaxing on a beach might not be in the budget, but going there mentally doesn’t cost a penny. Research has found that imagining something relaxing can have a similar effect to experiencing it. Close your eyes and picture your ideal stress-free location—in detail. How does the breeze feel on your skin? How do the waves sound? Any time you feel your stress mounting, take 30 seconds to recall that place.

3. Declutter frequently

It’s amazing how much lighter you feel with a tidy desk and an organized closet. Keep a shopping bag at the bottom of your closet where you can put your castoffs. When the bag is full, drop it off at a thrift store the next time you’re out running errands. Spend five minutes every day straightening your desk so it never gets out of control.

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4. Breathe from your belly

Most people breathe from the upper chest—which delivers about a teacup of air to the lungs. Making sure your abdomen expands when you breathe helps you deliver eight times the amount of oxygen to your brain—which stimulates the longer, slower brain waves associated with relaxation and a calm state of mind. To teach yourself the technique, lie down and rest one palm on your abdomen just below your belly button. As you inhale, imagine the breath traveling deep into your belly and let the air inflate your abdomen so you feel your hand rise. Allow the air to seep out until you are completely empty, then inhale again to make your hand and belly rise.

5. Phone a friend

Take advantage of your unlimited long-distance phone plan and get chatty with a good friend. Oxytocin, a hormone released when women befriend each other, calms the body and counteracts the effects of stress.

6. Wear a pedometer all day

The inexpensive exercise tool can help you increase the number of steps you take from morning until night. Your goal: 10,000 steps per day.

7. Build a support group

Exercising with a buddy (or two or three) helps you better maintain an exercise program. Ask around your neighborhood to see if friends want to start a cycling or walking group, or put up a note on a community bulletin board at your local house of worship. You also can participate in a walkathon for a favorite charity.

8. Floss every day

Taking care of your pearly whites doesn’t just brighten your smile—it can help fatten your wallet. One study found that cumulative health care costs were about 20 percent higher for patients with severe periodontal disease. Be vigilant about brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing once a day and visiting your dentist for cleanings every six months.