I started this article with the intention of comparing debt to food. Terms that myself and others would find much more appealing than fiscal comparisons.
I started with one notion: money is boring. Unless you’re spending it of course.
I laid down the ground rules and compared the amount of money we budget to the allotted calories we should consume on a regular basis and how overspending was similar to stuffing our face with chocolate cake and fried twinkles.
Similar to food the financial world (both in our country and in our homes) has it’s ups and downs, it’s good and bad, it’s healthy and unhealthy.
I feel like most consumers, myself included, only truly enjoy money when it’s in the form of metaphorical chocolate cake, or twinkles, or downright fried snickers bars; the indulgent and sweet form.
When we spend our chocolate cake or drown ourselves in twinkles in extravagant purchases it feels good, tastes sweet.
It is only after after we’ve gorged our impulses and purged our wallets when we start to think about how sweet that cake was and wonder if it was a good idea or not? Maybe we should have stuck to our brussels sprouts and green beans; the metaphorical wise spending and savings we should be living by. The healthy alternative we probably should have chose.
It’s a recipe, pun intended, for disaster.
As for credit, why credit is our tall glass of milk to compliment our meal. You may be thinking, really, milk? Why that’s not so bad for me. And you’d be right, credit is not a horrible thing; when used properly and not abusively credit will help strengthen the bones of your credit report and allow you to grow as a consumer. However, if you try to down an entire gallon in an hour it will no doubt make you sick to your stomach, just like overextending your credit, vomit-palooza.
Our BMI index would be equivalent to our credit score in terms of knowing where we should be health wise for a healthy body and credit score. Granted you want your credit score to rise and your BMI to remain in a healthy range but if you consider you want your credit score to be ideally in the healthy range of Good – Excellent it would compare to a healthy BMI of 18.5–24.9.
And dear readers, what would bankruptcy be equivalent to? Why none other than the almighty debt colonic. That’s right, it’s not going to feel great and you’re probably not going to want to run and tell your friends after it’s over but it sure did clear everything out. But remember, it’s no excuse once cleared out and a few pounds lighter to run and get some of that chocolate cake. That’s what got you in Dr. Debt’s office to begin with.
I came to the conclusion that we should be as wise about our spending as we are about our eating. Then it hit me, as Americans, statistically, we’re NOT responsible with our eating at all.
I started to wonder how this played in to our financial world. Is there a connection between obesity and times of money trouble?
With finances tightening in this country that Americans belts are tightening as many are throwing their health to the wind in order to save money.
According to an article published in the journal BMC Public Health, “the likelihood of being overweight or obese doubled with increasing indebtedness, an association that could not be explained by other socioeconomic or medical factors.” – Source
Speaking from experience, when in financial hardship, I would be much less likely to go to the doctor if something was wrong or if I was sick because I wanted to avoid the medical bills. However, in doing this, I found myself a few months down the line in worse health, having to go to the doctor and an ever higher bill than the original would have been waiting for me in my mailbox.
And when McDonalds introduced their “Dollar Menu” my diet changed for the worse as I packed on the pounds to save a few bucks and refrain from cooking.
With our finances tightening and having to cut back on money our health and well-being is usually the first expense we cut; especially for those with medical bills already looming, adding another can seem like a daunting task. However, with the avoidance of health and caring for yourself it’s no surprise that further down the line you’re more likely than not going to be worse off in the future than now.
If you don’t have enough money to eat well, to take care of your health, live a comfortable and relatively stress-free life, your health is going to be at risk. – Source
I will admit, it is hard at this point in time when a lot of unhealthy food is a lot cheaper than healthy food and sugary drinks cheaper or the same price as bottled water. It’s tempting for those in financial trouble to be enticed by a $1 McDouble or a $0.99 Crispy Chicken Sandwich versus a $4 salad.
The more overweight we become the higher medical risk we are thus the higher our medical bills and debt if we cannot pay said bills. If we could just take care of ourselves in the now, eat a little better and still spend a little less then we’d not only be healthier in the future but better off financially.
What about how our families and children are being affected? I’ve read many accounts of parents that are cutting back on their nutritional needs to still be able to feed their children healthy food. Others, not so much. For those of you with children, feeding your children unhealthy foods and watching them venture into the land of obesity at a young age increases their risk of heart disease in adulthood. This not only puts them at risk with their health but with their finances as well. You could see your monetary decisions in cutting back on quality food affecting their monetary future with health conditions and medical bills. – Source
A 2008 study released in the journal, Obesity, suggests that 86% of Americans will be overweight or obese by the year 2030. 18 years later it’s suspected that all American adults will be overweight or obese. – Source
According to research put out by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity-related illnesses now cost $147 billion each year. That being said it’s also been shown that even with no real spike in health care costs medical care for those that are obese is around 43 percent more expensive than care for a healthy weight patient because there are now more obese people than ever before. The exact statistic is roughly 1 in 4 people are obese when in 1998 it was only 1 in 5. – Source
Now, I’m not trying to harp on obesity here, I’m trying to connect the points that with the fall in our economy obesity is rising. If you’ve met me you know I’m not a health nut or a stickler about weight or anything; I just think that if more people realized with their “money saving” techniques of Dollar and Super Value Menu meals and avoidance of doctors visits they are actually harming not only their future health but also their future bank account.
The American Heart Association conduced a national omnibus survey of 1,000 conducted in March of 2009 that showed
- 57 percent said the economy has affected their ability to take care of their health.
- 32 percent have made a change in the last six months to save money, such as delaying preventive care appointments, not taking medications or skipping the dentist.
- 25 percent of those with gym memberships have cancelled in the previous six months.
- 42 percent plan to make changes in the next six months that may impact their health, such as buying fewer fruits and vegetables.
Even in tough times and while we all cut back, instead of dropping the budget for groceries, why not cut back on extra cable channels or entertainment costs? If the gym membership is outrageously expensive why not drop that monthly expense and walk or run the neighborhood instead?
And just so we’re clear, I’m by no means suggesting that we all should eat perfectly all of the time or completely cut out entertainment in our lives. Everyone should embrace the finer things in life at the appropriate time and there are days when we all just want a huge slice of chocolate cake and to go to the movies. That is ok. Just like in a diet, there should always be some wiggle room.
Interestingly enough employers could be helping this cause too, as well as helping their healthcare costs and employees health. “Employers can save $16 for every $1 they invest on health and wellness. Fitness programs have reduced employer healthcare costs by 20 percent to 55 percent, and reducing one health risk increases productivity by 9 percent and absenteeism by 2 percent.” – Source
The American Heart Association released a fantastic video called “The Economy of Walking” the showcases the importance of everyday exercise and even one company that incorporated walking into their daily routine and reduced medical costs as well as absenteeism. You can view this video below.
What I’m learning now is to put down the double cheeseburger and invest in myself. Invest in my future. Invest in my health while still investing in my finances. After all, there is a direct correlation between my health and my finances. I find that not only are my medical bills less when I am healthy but that I feel better, happier and more confident in my decisions. When I’m happy and confident I’m much less likely to splurge on unnecessary items like a new purse, that box set of DVDs or an impromptu vacation and even, chocolate cake and fried twinkles.