Get fit, eat better: Keep new year's resolutions without breaking the bank

It is natural for people to see a bigger, better version of themselves over the next 12 months. Here are some suggestions for keeping the most common promises while maintaining the budget.

Buying food in bulk, using GroupOn among the ways to save money

If your resolution for 2017 is to eat better, get fit or read more, there are ways to keep expenses in check. (CBC)

With the dawn of a new year, it's natural for people to see a bigger, better version of themselves over the next 12 months. But some of the most common promises we make can be costly. Here is how to keep them without breaking the bank:

Eat healthier:

While food prices have been falling recently, they're expected to swing up again in 2017, which could make it more expensive to maintain a healthy diet.

But it's possible to eat well on a budget, says Leanne Brown, author of a cookbook called Good and Cheap.

"The No. 1 thing you can do is really begin to embrace cooking," she says, encouraging the use of raw ingredients over processed ones as the latter tend to cost more.

Other tips include buying items that can be used in multiple recipes, such as canned tomatoes; buying in bulk if possible; and slowly building a pantry full of staples like spices.

She suggests purchasing produce that's in season and always having eggs in the fridge, as they're a cheap and easy-to-cook source of protein.

Before heading to the store, Brown recommends checking what produce is left in the house and figuring out a way to use leftovers, even if they're slightly wilted, to reduce waste.


Boost net worth:

Canadians continue to rack up record amounts of debt, so it shouldn't be surprising that some may want to pay back their creditors or stash away a nest egg for the future.

A do-it-yourself approach that doesn't require shelling out for a financial adviser or planner can work.

"It doesn't have to be that complicated," says Shannon Lee Simmons, founder of the New School of Finance, a Toronto-based business that offers fee-only planning and personal finance e-courses. "You could do this all yourself with just an Excel spreadsheet."

For those looking for something more advanced, and willing to spend some money, Simmons says there are plenty of online courses that guide students through financial literacy basics or target specific life stages, like planning for a baby or house purchase.


Get fit:

Boutique gym memberships, personal trainers and high-tech equipment can cost a bundle, but working out can be effective on any budget.

There's a plethora of free or inexpensive exercise videos on the Internet people can follow along with at home, says Simmons. For people who want to learn from a personal trainer before starting to work out at home, Simmons recommends finding an expert willing to barter.

Those wanting the camaraderie of a fitness class can scour coupon sites like GroupOn for deals or buy a pass like ClassPass that allows users to sample a wide range of gyms, she says.

She urges people considering a big piece of equipment for the home, like an elliptical machine, to form a habit of exercising lest it become an expensive clothes rack — much like hers did.


Read more:

It's not necessary to have a shiny, new e-reader and shelves of the latest books to be well-read. There are plenty of free or inexpensive options for stocking up on literature.

Ask friends and family to swap or borrow books — also a good way to stumble into new genres — or shop in second-hand stores rather than buying new.

Visit the local library. They also often lend e- and audio-books and passes to local attractions.

Check to see if there are any so-called little free libraries in the neighbourhood — they come in the form of little wooden boxes often outside a home, filled with books for passersby to "take a book, return a book," according to the Little Free Library, an American non-profit organization that promotes literacy. The organization says there are more than 50,000 such libraries in over 70 countries, including Canada, registered with them as of this past November.