How to stay healthy on a budget

Ronel Jooste offers practical tips for potential savings and how to  stay healthy on a budget.

Medical care is expensive, not only in South Africa but worldwide. The costs are constantly on the rise. The lifestyles people are accustomed to in the modern era, as well as increased stress levels also contribute to more people having to spend more money on medical expenses at a progressively younger age.

Unfortunately, there is not always much that we can do about the costs of medical expenses and the rates medical aids are charging. So, we need to look for alternative ways to save money and make our budget work for us.

Your health is your biggest asset and most people will agree that we need to take care of our health, even if it is at the expense of other things.

Therefore, it’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Taking precautionary measures is always the cheaper option over the long run. We also know that a healthy lifestyle is associated with expense.

Save money on your food bill

So, how can we stay healthy on a budget? Firstly, a healthy lifestyle starts with a balanced diet. Here are some tips to save money on your food bill:

  • Convenience food, restaurants and take away food are expensive and, in most instances, not very health conscious. Get in the habit of preparing your own food and cooking at home. Not everyone is a great chef but there are loads of healthy recipes available on the internet, and investing in a cooking course will also save money in the long run.
  • Buying produce that are in-season is more cost effective.
  • Plan your menu in advance and prepare a shopping list. This will assist in not wasting money on items that go off and going to the shops unnecessarily.
  • Keep to a shopping list when going to the shops to avoid buying items that you don’t need.
  • Buying food in bulk often seems cheaper but this might not always be true. It is important to know your prices. Use the price per unit that is indicated on the price label and compare different items, different volumes and different brands by using a consistent basis. Also shop around at other stores that might offer better prices on certain items. But, keep into account the time and petrol you spend when driving from shop to shop. Quite often the time and petrol spent on driving to another shop is not worth the saving on the food.
  • Growing your own produce is also a great cost-saving idea. Not only will you save money but you are guaranteed to eat fresh produce that are free from chemicals and other preservatives.
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol are also culprits impacting negatively on both your health and budget.


Exercise is equally important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are plenty of exercises you can do on a budget. Walk your dog around your neighbourhood, running, hiking or cycling.

If you are a gym member who hardly ever goes to gym, you might have to reconsider if it isn’t more cost effective to cancel your gym membership and use the money to buy a treadmill or stationary bike to exercise in the comfort of your own home, at a time that is convenient for you.

Tips to stay within your budget

These cost-saving tips can help you to pay less for medical expenses and stick within your budget:

  • Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if there are other alternatives to your prescribed medication. Buying generic medicine can be a lot cheaper than buying the brand name medicine. But, get advice from an expert before making this decision.
  • In South Africa buying medicine online might not yet be as popular, freely available and well-regulated as in other countries. It’s, however, worthwhile to explore the option of buying medicine online. Many service providers in South Africa do already offer legitimate online shops with cheaper prices than buying in-store.
  • Negotiate with your pharmacist for cheaper prices on prescription medicine. There are pharmacists who will be happy to match lower prices if you discuss it with them.
  • Make use of pharmacies or stores that offer loyalty reward programmes and discounts. You can save a significant amount when making use of these rewards and discounts.

It is worthwhile to adopt a savings mind-set and constantly look out for potential savings. Even small savings will add up and can quickly put more money back into your pocket. Take proper care of your health and be money savvy.


Ronel Jooste is a director at FinanciallyFiT Group (Pty) Ltd, a company specialising in financial consulting and training for businesses and individuals. She developed online financial courses and employee financial wellness programmes. She is a chartered accountant, speaker and the author of the award-wining book Financially Fit and Wealth, a guide to achieve financial success.

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