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Are You Eating Yourself Into Debt?

in Do What You Love, People & Products

This is a guest post by Matt Gartland. In his own words, Matt is a healthy lifestyle geek extraordinaire, blogger, world traveler, lifestyle entrepreneur, coffee fanatic, web techie, and more. He writes at Healthy Lifestyle Design (HLD), where he unleashes his passion for remarkable and unconventional living propelled by amazing health. Follow Matt on Twitter and join the HLD Tribe on Facebook.

Imagine eating yourself into an abyss of debt. It’s possible. And it’s not a pretty picture.

This tragedy befalls many unknowingly. How? Because many lack an adequate education about food and food products. Many don’t respect the profound lifelong impacts of their food choices. Many are short-sighted about the cost-relationship between food and money. And many believe there is no meaningful correlation between literal health and financial health.

So let’s get something straight - food is like money, in every way.

Food is a currency – actually, a collection of currencies. Different foods have different values (qualities) as currencies do. Thus, they have different exchange rates – some foods yield greater returns (lifestyle benefits) than others. And like smart investment decisions, smart food choices are wonderful long-term growth vehicles for your financial and literal health.

Hence, savvy food choices are way serious. So the need for dietary responsibility (like fiscal responsibility) is paramount. You have to make smart, conscious decisions to better your overall situation. If you don’t and instead allow yourself to make apathetic and nonchalant choices then you risk going way deep into debt.

Sadly, this allegory isn’t enough to assuage the danger. Many (perhaps you) will still fall victim to the veiled and pernicious sources of food-incited debt. So I think it’s high time that they be fully exposed and put into perspective.

1. Dining-Out Debts

We all know (or should) that dining out is (by far) more expensive than cooking meals yourself. We also (should) know that dining out is usually not a healthy affair – what with all the hidden additives, high processing, environmental contaminants, etc. Fast food joints are the obvious villains. But (sadly) many mainstream “high-end” restaurants (e.g. The Cheesecake Factory) offer meals riddled with hidden calories and unnatural ingredients.

Such overindulgence in dining out easily reeks havoc on your well-laid budget (you do have one, right?!). And costs are rising as the food industry ecosystem is waylaid by mounting economic pressures (transportation costs, raw material prices, etc.).

Overall, doesn’t sound like you’re getting a positive ROI on your dining out investments.

2. Excessive Alcohol & Alcohol-Related Debts

I know many that go wild at the bars and similar establishments. I’m sure you know the type. Okay, you may label these “entertainment” costs in your ledger, but I don’t. They involve alcohol (a food product), and lots of it. They involve nibbles, and lots of them too. You can fancy it up however you like – these expenses are still food choices that drive financial debt.

It gets worse because excessive alcohol debts are a double whammy. First, you get socked with the pricey bills in the present. Second, your health corrodes in the future, which triggers greater health care costs (more on that soon).

3. Food Waste Debts

Many don’t fully comprehend the gravity and magnitude of food waste.

What is food waste? Any and every food or food product that ends up in the rubbish bin. It could be fresh vegetables that have gone bad. It could be canned food items past their expiration date. It could be those leftovers from your last dining out venture.

You paid good money for all these things. And you’re chucking it away – usually without a second thought. The cliché “flushing money down the toilet” comes to mind. It’s criminal, and damn expensive!

4. Food Label Debts

I’m a healthy lifestyle geek, don’t get me wrong. But you don’t need to buy everything “healthy”.

What is “healthy”?

It’s a noble ideal that’s been bastardized by the modern food industry for insidious marketing. Classic culprits include “all natural”, “certified humane”, “free range”, and “grass fed” labels. These terms have been poorly defined by the USDA and are thusly near-impossible to regulate. Nevertheless, despite inconsistent health benefits (at best), food manufacturers will gladly sell you these wonder products for a pretty penny.

Organics deserve special mention. I do eat organics, absolutely! But only those products that yield the greatest nutritional (quality) returns. Keep in mind that all organics are NOT created equal

No need to take my word for it. The Internet has a wealth of good information for your perusal. Here are two to get you started:

5. Supplement Debts

Supplements are like double-taxation. First, they’re bloody expensive. Second, they propogate a nutritionally inadequate base diet, thus fueling the need for more supplements. This is a vicious cycle – eat poorly and thus you need supplements; take more supplements and you convince yourself you can “get away” with eating poorly. Rinse and repeat.

Worse yet, many supplements are shams. Oodles of folks buy miracle protein powders, detox diet pills, dangerous metabolic accelerators, weird tropical extracts, and more. Crap, crap, and more crap. The lot of this stuff is nothing but snake oil and pixie dust.

I’ll give that some quality supplements (multi-vitamins, probiotics, omega-3, etc.) are good, even necessary if you have an abysmal diet or genuine medical condition. But if you’re of average health most supplements are pure nonsense. They certainly won’t turn you into Brad Pitt. But you’ll certainly be spending like a Hollywood star.

6. Health Care Debts

Health care debts are the worst travesty of all. They’re astronomically high. And their financial impacts are heart-breaking, horrid, and unacceptable. I’ve written about these inconvenient truths before. It’s important that some be re-shared now.

  • The US ranks 1st in health care costs as percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – 16.2% in 2007, projected 20.3% in 2018 (1)
  • US health care costs will average $8,160 in 2009 for every man, woman, and child (1)
  • US health care costs are estimated to be $13,100 in 2018 for every man, woman, and child (1)
  • 1.5 million US families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs (2)
  • 62 percent of all US bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Of those who filed for bankruptcy, nearly 80 percent had health insurance (2)
  • 178,000 US small business jobs will be lost by 2018 as a result of health care costs (2)
  • $834 billion in US small business wages will be lost due to high health care costs over the next ten years (2)
  • US small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years in health care costs for their workers (2)

Granted, not all health care costs pertain to your eating habits. But many do. The metastasizing obesity epidemic is proof of that. Consider this – obesity is a leading cause of the following (3):

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

The Bottom Line

Any good financial report has a bottom line. Here’s mine:

The food you eat has profound affects on the financial and literal health of your life.

This is a great bottom line! Why? Because it proves that you are in total control of a major factor in your financial life. If you exercise smart and sensible dietary responsibility you’ll reap a wonderful ROI – both financially and health-wise.

And a final word of warning – don’t get shortsighted.

Yes, healthier food choices will surely increase your net food spend upfront. But think big picture. An investment today in healthy food choices will payout massive dividends down the road. Think of all the supplements you can stop taking. Imagine drastically lower health care costs. Couple those with an optimized food management philosophy that reduces waste and eliminates senseless indulgences and you have a kick-ass plan live fantastically healthy and debt-free!

Sources:

  1. Health Care Costs to Top $8,000 Per Person – ABC News
  2. Health Care Facts: Costs – National Coalition on Health Care
  3. Health Consequences – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Baker’s Note: I’m super impressed with Matt’s surge onto the blogging scene.  This was one of the most well-written and professional guest post submissions I’ve ever received (his article, the e-mail, his passion).  Do me a favor and check out Healthy Lifestyle Design, you’ll be able to say you were there before it was HUGE.  :-)

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean Sarauer May 10, 2010 at 10:27 AM

I totally agree that most of us would benefit massively by managing our food and other health-related lifestyle choices. That said, I’ve often wondered what would become of our economy if the majority of people no longer purchased expensive medical treatments, drugs, ridiculous weight-loss plans and supplements, etc.

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 11:21 AM

Hi Jean!

Great thought-starter about the economy. To me, I think the economy would self-correct. If we (as a society) weren’t spending as much on “traditional” medical treatments, drugs, supplements, etc. I believe we’d use that disposable income on more pleasurable experiences (e.g. travel) and meaningful pursuits (e.g. learning to scuba dive).

I actually would argue that this would STIMULATE our economy, because more positive activities and enjoyments will spark new and further investments. Happiness begets happiness! ;)

Thanks for the comment!

Cheers!
Matt

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RJ Weiss May 10, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Matt – Really liked your post and looking forward to checking out your blog.

I always think about optimizing instead of minimizing food costs. I agree that it’s extremely short sighted to minimize your food budget at all costs. The food is usually cheap because it’s subsidized and processed. Not what you want to put in your body.

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM

Hey RJ-

Optimizing versus minimizing is a great approach! It may not be a panacea to everything, but it can help out a lot – be it with nutrition, exercise, general wellness, finances, investments, etc.

Cheap food is just a ridiculously bad investment. No positive ROI! :)

I look forward to you joining the HLD community too! Thanks!

Matt

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Thisiswhyubroke! May 10, 2010 at 11:06 AM

This is a great post! I find it intriguing how so many people who claim to be wealthy or knowledgable in finance, are basically clueless when it comes to their health. Like you’ve described, the correlation between health and wealth is IMMENSE.

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Hey JP-

Awesome comment. Thanks! It is indeed tragic how few people fully comprehend the correlation between health and wealth. Sometimes I think our society promotes this – what with all the fast food marketing, get-rich-quick schemes, big food manufacturing lobbying Washington, etc.

There must be a Tipping Point somewhere. And I’m trying to find it :)

Cheers!
Matt

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Betsy Talbot May 10, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Hi, Matt. I read recently that both overspending and overeating are borrowing from the future. Who wants to enjoy the fries now if it means a shorter life? They really aren’t that good when you look at it in that light.

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Hi Betsy-

I couldn’t agree more! Overspending and overeating are two sides of the same insidious coin. You loose either way. I’ll take an extra few years over fries any day!

Great comment. Thanks!

Matt

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Carmen May 10, 2010 at 12:51 PM

Great article. I am definitely guilty of spending money dining out. As a mom (currently single mom while we travel) of three I simply get tired of cooking and planning meals at times and just want to go out to free myself of the planning/cooking/cleaning cycle if only for one meal. We don’t eat fast food and I try to be healthy. This, however, means that dining out is a bit more costly.

One thing I have been struck by in this year of traveling has been that in countries such as Mexico and Brazil, eating healthily is actually cheaper than eating unhealthily. Fruits and vegetables in markets are much cheaper than fast food or processed. How did we ever become so backward about prices in the US? I grew up in a poor neighborhood in the US and it was almost impossible to find fresh foods in the grocery store. The stores were full of junk because that was the cheapest thing for poor people to buy. This makes no sense! Also, in Brazil we found that organic foods were no more expensive than non-organic. What a great surprise!

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Wow Carmen! Great comment!

Dining out is perfectly fine so long as you (1) do so healthfully, (2) do it sparingly and withing your budget, and (3) minimize any waste. From an optimization standpoint, dining out (to me) regularly just isn’t optimally healthy and convenient.

Your other points are really interesting. I haven’t (yet) traveled within South America. Though I shouldn’t be surprised. Our economy is rooted heavily on “BIG” businesses – food manufacturing included. I haven’t researched this, but I’d guess there are some hefty subsidies in place to help them out (which lowers costs). It’d be fascinating to correlate obesity statistics with “healthy” food prices per country (maybe someone has already done this).

Thanks again!
Matt

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Nancy L. May 10, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Very interesting and thought-provoking post. As a very “challenged” eater (I’m a ‘supertaster’ with some allergies thrown into the mix), I can’t always tolerate the foods that would be healthiest for me. I do try to eat as few processed foods as possible (save for bacon!!!!), and I try to make sure I eat a mix of fruits and veggies, but it’s hard to branch out and keep my diet varied. The cost of the things I *can* eat, along with the tendency of things like berries to have a relatively short shelf life both affect my budget for sure!

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Hi Nancy-

Thanks for the kind words! I have a few food allergies myself and have a history of IBS. I’ve found that processed foods actually exacerbate my IBS symptoms. Go figure! :)

The best thing is to make the healthiest choices you can per your unique biochemistry. Generally speaking, if you listen to your body you can’t go wrong.

All the best!
Matt

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soultravelers3 May 10, 2010 at 2:14 PM

Great post! We’re a family that has been traveling the world non-stop since 2006 on just 23 dollars a day per person. Just as we have found out that it is cheaper to travel the world than live at home in the USA, we have also found that it is much cheaper to eat healthy than it is too eat junk.

I love it that Jamie Oliver is helping to make more people aware how very important our food choices are. Glad to hear that you are bringing more attention to this important area. Thank you!

It really is all about education and making good choices and so very important to raise our kids with this discipline and common sense!

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Hi Soul Travelers!

I’m thrilled that you’re traveling the world! I’ve always wanted to do that – I’m a HUGE world vagabonding fan! Australia, Scotland, and Greece are my three favorites so far.

I’m not surprised that it’s cheaper to eat healthy foods than junk foods in other nations. Our economy (sadly) isn’t setup the same way. Food manufacturing is BIG BUSINESS in the US. I don’t think it’s coincidental that our countries junk food prices are so low and our obesity rates are so high.

Jamie Oliver knows all this MUCH better than me. He’s a genuine inspiration and more people need to know about him. I’m glad you’re a fan too!

Safe and healthy travels!
Matt

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Nick Lowery May 10, 2010 at 2:43 PM

I have always struggled with pursuing an efficient and healthy diet because buck doubles at Burger King and taquitos at 7-11 are so cheap and delicious. Additionally I never really understood all the commotion. After reading your post though, I see it as a very logical process, logic I get. Thank you for this reference, I hope to use it regularly in my efforts to stay healthy.

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Hi Nick-

I’m a big logic guy too. I’m glad this resonated with you and will help you design a healthier lifestyle!

Concerning health (in general), there’s lots of misnomers out there that make the whole “health conversation” confusing. The truth really is logical. You just have to dig beneath the surface a bit.

Thanks for the great comment!
Matt

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Eric Normand May 10, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Hey Matt!

Eating out, and overeating are probably the biggest of the money sinkholes. People eat way too much and don’t realize how easy, healthy, and quick preparing meals at home can be.

In addition to cooking 90+% of our meals, my girlfriend and I also share a plate whenever we go to a restaurant. Most places give way too much food. We have noticed a good difference in our waistline and in our finances once we started that.

Thanks
Eric

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 4:35 PM

Hey Eric-

I love the whole “share a plate” idea. I do that too. American restaurant establishments offer MASSIVE portions (yet another link obesity!). There’s no need to eat the entire platter. So take home half (you can actually ask your server to doggie-bag 1/2 your meal at the beginning!) or share.

Thanks for sharing your great tip!

Matt

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Meredith May 10, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Hi Matt – great comparison of food and finances…

One of the smartest (wealthiest) people that I know managed her finances in part by packing healthy (& efficient) lunches for her family…. every Sunday. She made sandwiches for everyone, stuck them in the freezer, bagged up carrots and snap peas and left fruit out… everyone would grab their own pre-made lunches on their way out the door. Everyday… not that her lunch habits did it alone – but over 20 some years – by living this way – she’s been able to buy ~10 investment properties cash. I always admired her for her conscientious ways…

There’s no doubt that successful management of the caloric aspects of your life spills over into the financial aspects of your life…. Thanks for the post!

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 8:27 PM

Hi Meredith-

Thanks for the kind words! Sounds like you have a wise (and healthy!) friend. I’m a lunch packer myself – and not always in a “brown bag”. I think many people believe “brown bagging it” is boring. Not so. It can be quite diverse and delicious! It’s also quite easy once you get the hang of it – just like your friend. And the health (and financial) dividends are tremendous.

Thanks for sharing your story! Great comment!

Cheers!
Matt

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South Texas May 10, 2010 at 5:27 PM

I am a nurse and work in the hospital setting. It seems to me that 80% of the patients I take care of could have prevented their illness by practicing a healthy lifestyle. I often find myself wondering “would this patient even be here if they ate right and exercized?”

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Matt Gartland May 10, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Hi South TX-

Thank you very much for sharing your story. While it’s not a happy one, it’s a vitally important one. More people need to understand that their food and health choices matter, BIG TIME. Sadly, I know quite a few people eating their lives short.

This just doesn’t have to happen. It simply doesn’t. We all need more people like you to share the grim realities, but believing otherwise doesn’t help any of us get healthier.

Thank you again!

Matt

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Mike Roosa May 10, 2010 at 8:17 PM

Eating out is so ridiculously expensive these days and the quality really isn’t that great. We do 90% of our eating at home and I just started using coupons and shopping smarter. Never knew how much I could save at the grocery stores.

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Matt Gartland May 11, 2010 at 9:29 AM

Hi Mike-

It definitely does seem that dining out has become even more expensive than the recent past. I guess (haven’t researched) that the overall economy, escalating transportation costs, etc. have contributed. So, as you say, even more reason to restrict habitual eating out and just cook delicious, healthy meals at home.

Thanks for the comment!

Cheers!
Matt

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Matt May 10, 2010 at 8:37 PM

Matt…I think this is spot on. One of my biggest challenges as a parent is to overcome the incessant marketing to my kids of unhealthy food choices. I am doing my best to teach my kids at an early age to eat good healthy foods. It’s a lesson that I hope will stay with them the rest of their lives.

On the weekends we hit the local farmers market for local organic produce. Sure it’s more expensive but as you pointed out there is clearly a long term health and financial benefit to spending a bit more upfront and reaping the rewards on the back end. Actually there is an immediate benefit as well…better tasting food that makes you feel good.

I think for the most part your analysis of supplements is fair although I would argue that a vitamin D3 supplement would be beneficial for most people, especially those here in Oregon where the sun doesn’t shine very often.

I’ll definitely be following your blog.

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Matt Gartland May 11, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Hi Matt-

Fabulous comment! The dangers of insidious marketing to kids is very real. I have a post on HLD that touches on this (What a 5-Year Old Can Teach You About Living Healthy – http://bit.ly/dizCuv). To me, the trick is to use the marketing gimmicks against the big companies that deploy them. Not always easy I know, but it can work.

And well done about attending local farmer’s market. I LOVE those! Sadly, I don’t get to enough, nor are there a lot in my current area. But they are undeniably one of the best places for high-quality, delicious, financially-friendly, and healthy foods.

I’m glad you’ll be joining the HLD tribe! It’s a lot of fun. Keep sharing your ideas and suggestions!

Cheers!
Matt

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ChrisFM May 11, 2010 at 7:13 AM

Matt,

Great post! You presented some compelling evidence, we can only hope it sinks in for a few readers. I’ve been on a sugar and dairy-free(!) diet challenge for three weeks, and I’ll be the first to say that the things are labeled “all natural”, “organic”, ect., are usually bogus. Eating a ton of garbage will absolutely put you on the fast track to financial ruin.

Best,
Chris

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Matt Gartland May 11, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Hey Chris-

Congrats on your recent diet challenge! I’ve gone completely added-sugar free (only natural sugars from fruits and vegetables). I’m “mostly” diary free and have been wanting to try going completely free. The more I read about it the more it makes sense.

And as the saying goes – “garbage in, garbage out”. If you eat garbage you’ll get a garbage-laden life. Doesn’t sound fun, healthy or economically-viable to me!

Thanks for the great comment!

Cheers!
Matt

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Petunia October 25, 2012 at 11:26 PM

Food is already the biggest part of the budget, so it’s no surprise that saving on food is the biggest way to save. I’ve found one of the best ways to save is to grow your own food wherever possible. Homegrown food tastes better, too. And you know exactly where it came from and there was no processing.

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Suzanne May 11, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Matt – Loved this post and your blog!
I try to engage my family in a healthy lifestyle; we don’t eat out often, my kids eat yogurt, fruit, and nuts for snacks, and I pack everyone’s lunch so I can control portions and hopefully ward off bad choices-and BONUS-save money in the process! I plan to share this as it is a well-written depiction between food and debt. Great job!
Suzanne
Social Media Specialist
CareOne Debt relief Services
http://twitter.com/BlendedFinances

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Matt Gartland May 11, 2010 at 2:57 PM

Hi Suzanne-

Sounds like you and the family are doing quite well with your healthy lifestyles. Great job! Portion control is a big deal. Too many people dismiss that and instead count calories. Calorie counting really isn’t all that helpful (believe me, I’ve been WAY deep into it before). As long as you eat healthy and balanced (fats, proteins, carbs) meals with proper portions then you’re set! And as you’ve discovered, it’s a cash cow too! ;)

I’m thrilled you liked the article and my site! Welcome to the HLD tribe! And thank you very much for sharing the article onwards.

Cheers!
Matt

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Elisa Rodriguez May 12, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Hi Matt,

Awesome post with great information! It is always nice to see a savvy businessman, such as yourself, considering the implications of food on health and finances. As a dietitian, with a plant-based focus, I see a lot of confused individuals puzzled by these concepts. I will certainly be linking to this post, to provide strong financial incentives from a unique perspective.

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Matt Gartland May 12, 2010 at 12:42 PM

Hi Elisa-

Thanks for the sweet comment – especially coming from a dietitian! :)

I agree with the proliferation of confusion concerning natural health and food impacts. Living healthy and happy really doesn’t have to be (nor should be!) complicated. Less is more! Simple is best!!

Thanks again for the comment and for passing the good word forward!

Cheers!
Matt

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Jonathan Wondrusch | Grokkery May 12, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Thank you for this amazing article!

The one thing that wasn’t put out there [and maybe because the author is a coffee drinker ;)] is how much you can easily spend on coffee’s, mochas, latte’s, etc. I cut out Starbuck’s and caffeine and now I’ve got an extra $100 a month in my pocket. Maybe that’s an extreme case, but still something to seriously consider.

I’d love to see something related to fitness along these same lines, but have no idea where that would go.

Thanks for the great article Matt! And thank you for sharing it Baker!

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Matt Gartland May 12, 2010 at 3:58 PM

Hi Jonathan!

Brilliant point about coffee! LOL ;) Yes, I’m a coffee fanatic, but have gotten myself down to one 16oz a day. And I brew my own (as much as possible) so that I avoid the coffee shop markups. That said, as an entrepreneur, I do have occasion to work out of a coffee shop and enjoy supporting the local establishments (not Starbucks).

All that said, you’re dead on. The $5 venti-capa-whacha-ma-call-its with extra whip are insane! And for those with this habit, it does put a serious dent (or crack) in their budgets. For me, I’m a straight coffee guy, plain and simple. No $5 frills for me!

A final point, though it’s not in direct argument to yours. When someone can get reasonably efficient with their health opportunity costs (reduce/eliminate health care costs, medications, food waste, etc.) that will create a sizable surplus of unspent income. So, they would be well within reason to have a little indulgence. Just don’t blow that whole savings! My indulgence is coffee – about $25-30/mo.

Thanks again Jonathan!!! ;)

Cheers!
Matt

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Early May 14, 2010 at 4:56 AM

Your are amazing…we are always thinking how to earn extra money to settle our debt. But by way of controlling our lifestyle it actually would same money and get an extra money from that. Thanks Baker

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Matt Gartland May 14, 2010 at 9:27 AM

Hi Early-

Thanks for the kind comment! I’m glad this article is helping provide you more creative ways to conquer your debt! Good luck and let me know if I can help further.

Cheers!
Matt

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Live for Improvement May 14, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Also, if your monthly expenses are anything like mine, food is my second biggest expense besides mortgage. According to Mint.com, I spend about the same on food as all other expense combined (excluding Mortgage). This is even being super frugal, and eating healthy. I shutter to think how much gluttonous people spend on food.

Note: Any minor change to you food budget can have a major impacts on your personal finance, much more than other expenses.
.

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Matt Gartland May 15, 2010 at 11:39 AM

My food expenses are the same way – but that’s by design. I consider my healthy eating a profound investment in my quality of my life long-term. Also, this investment has enabled me to keep other potential budget derailers low (if non-existent) like health care costs, supplements, etc.

Thanks for the comment!!

Matt

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basicmoneytips.com May 15, 2010 at 9:04 AM

Eating out can be expensive but there are certainly ways to save too. While I know it is not healthy, you can eat off a dollar meal almost as cheap as food from a grocery store, especially if you are single.

However, I agree with the point of the article. Eating out can be expensive and also lead to all sorts of unhealthy side effects.

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Elisa Rodriguez May 16, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Eating off the dollar menu may save money short term, but if you get into that sort of habit, you are bound to suffer health consequences and astronomical medical bills in the years to come. Instead, go to a local farmer’s market where you can buy cheap produce and support your local economy. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables: wash, cut, and enjoy a much fresher meal with overwhelming health benefits and long term savings.

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Matt Gartland May 17, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Hi Elisa-

I agree! Eating off the dollar menu at fast food and restaurant chains typically means you’re eating much lower-grade food. While this can certainly be a short-term budget tactic, I believe it ingrains the long nutrition behaviors for the long-term.

You can’t go wrong with farmer’s markets! Great recommendation. Fun, easy, cheap, and oh-so delicious!

Thanks for the comment!
Matt

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Matt Gartland May 16, 2010 at 6:45 PM

Yes, there are of course a spectrum of frugal eating-out tactics you can use to lower your budget impact. But many more times than not you’re simply not getting the nutritional ROI from dining out as you can from preparing your own healthy meals.

Thanks for the comment!
Matt

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Glenn Ferguson May 15, 2010 at 7:57 PM

Interesting post and site. I really like your name “Man vs Debt”

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Matt Gartland May 16, 2010 at 6:43 PM

I give Adam Baker (this site’s creator) all the credit :)

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Mike May 17, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Great post and provides a lot to consider. I think all to often we only weigh the financial aspects of eating out. However, if our first wealth is health, we really need to consider how not paying attention to other factors (like our health) are affected. Alcohol, has a triple whammy…health, money and time lost.

Great post.

Mike

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Matt Gartland May 17, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Hi Mike-

Thanks! I definitely agree about the “triple” whammy of alcohol consumption. The ultimate price is time lost. Time, after all, is our most precious non-renewable resource. Sacrificing my time (now and in the future) just isn’t worth it.

Cheers!
Matt

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Elisa Rodriguez May 19, 2010 at 10:37 AM

I’d really like to reply to Stephen’s question, but I am unable to locate it. So here it is, copied from my email:

“great post, and some of the comments hit right on where my problems are. I love dollar menu items, and i usually spend only 2$ on a lunch when i do go to a fast food restaurant. Since this is very cheap,(most likely cheaper than homemade), and im only eating 2 items, is this really unhealthy? The numbers on the nutrition labels seem to suggest that getting only 2 items, burger and fries, isnt actually bad for you. What do you think?”

Hi Stephen – I hear what you are saying: fast food is cheap and cleverly marketed to appear “healthy.” As a Registered Dietitian, I can assure you that there is nothing healthy about a burger and fries served at a fast food joint. Those two measly food items alone will easily meet or exceed half your daily caloric needs. One quarter pounder with cheese = 530 calories, 1 medium fries = 380 calories, 1 – 12 oz. soda = 150 calories, total calories = 1060 calories!!! Not to mention that these “foods” are loaded with the worst ingredients imaginable: saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol – all promoters of heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, diabetes, obesity, and the list goes on… Consume that one meal each day for a year and you will have some serious health problems sooner than later leading to medical appointments, prescription drugs, expensive procedures, a decreased quality of life and a lot of wasted time. A $2 meal may appear to be convenient now, but you have to think about your vitality 30 years from now. It is much wiser to invest time and energy into selecting quality ingredients and food preparation – a valuable set of skills. It will keep your medical bills low, you can eat double the amount of REAL food, feel ten times better, and enjoy life to its fullest rather than being hampered by disease. Despite what many people think, American’s do not have to fall prey to diseases of affluence fed by fast food habits.

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Matt Gartland May 19, 2010 at 8:51 PM

Hi Elisa-

Thanks for posting this on Stephen’s behalf. I had noticed the same anomaly; don’t know why Stephen’s original comment didn’t appear.

Regarding the economic attraction to fast food, I agree with Elisa that such food (not really food, but food products) catalyze disasterous long-term health problems. Such problems (e.g.heart disease, hypertension, obesity, etc.) will surely skyrocket your health care costs.

I submit that the long-view is needed here. I’ll gladly invest 1.5x, 2x, even occasionally 4x today on credible, wholesome food choices that will payout (rather save-out) 100x+ later in life. To me, that’s a jackpot ROI!

A final point for consideration. Fast food isn’t a one-dimensional choice with one-dimensional consequences. My gravest concern with fast food is not the food itself but the dangerous behavior patterns they perpetuate. Quick, cheap, easy, mindless eating is a behavior (philosophy almost) that is rapidly expanding our nation’s waistline and driving us into deeper darkness (emotionally, financially, you name it).

This is an important conversation to have. So let’s keep it going!

Cheers!
Matt

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Elisa Rodriguez May 20, 2010 at 8:02 AM

Matt – Well said! I agree entirely and it is refreshing to discuss this with someone who really gets it ;0) I could not concur more with your ending point. Food is not one-dimensional; it affects every facet of our lives: health, well being, finances, economy, environment, and our future generations. It is the only ‘medicine’ we all take three times a day. We should carefully consider what foods our forks vote for on a daily basis. It is that which we demand that increases in number, becomes mass produced, and ultimately more affordable (in the short-term). In the long-term, many of these vices are interlaced with greed, corruption, ill-health, and an unsustainable lifestyle/economy/environment. If we all pushed for fresh, local organic produce and stopped relinquishing our votes to drive-thru windows; we would see a positive shift in our paradigm, our economy, and our health as a nation. Unfortunately, convenience often gets the vote, but I believe people who know the facts and are educated will make the right choices.

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Slackerjo May 26, 2010 at 1:32 PM

I read an article years ago that during WWII life expectancy in England went up due and rationing. That may seem like a strange thing but if you excluded civilian deaths by bombs, people were generally healthier. Due to fuel rationing, people were more active (biking, walking, taking the tube) and also because food was severely rationed in England, they ate less food, smoked fewer cigarettes, drank less alcohol and took advantage of the fresh produce they grew in the gardens. People on average lost 25lbs during the war.

I sort of live on my own personal rationing. Not as severe as during the war, but I don’t stock up on food (this creates a temptation to snack or overeat) and I seldom eat out.I cook from scratch which saves money and is generally healthier than prepackaged food. I do groceries every other Friday (payday) and buy 14 days worth of food. Not only does this help me budget, it helps me control my weight. By doing this, my general health remains excellent, thus reducing health care expenses. I don’t have to upgrade my wardrobe very often because I gained weight and my clothes don’t fit anymore. I don’t feel as if I missing out on anything by my self imposed rationing.

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Matt Gartland May 27, 2010 at 9:38 AM

Hey Slackerjo-

Your WWII reference is great! It has a lot of parallels with Intermittent Fasting (IF) – where you take strategic 24 hour fasts once or (most) twice a week. There is some scientific evidence that suggests such “rationing” does improve body functions and thereby improves overall health. This also seems to extend one’s life expectancy.

Congrats on your own personal success with this! It sounds like you’re doing great. Keep it up.

Cheers!
Matt

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Dolla Thug July 24, 2010 at 11:33 AM

Thanks for this post! FOOD is actually one of my most untamed monthly expenses! Whether it’s eating at my job’s reasonably-overpriced cafeteria everyday (and never feeling like packing a lunch) or it’s the Restaurant Week invitation from friends to spend at least $35 on some overpriced meal because everyone in New York City is doing it. Food is EXPENSIVE! I will definitely try to work on this vice in the future…I’m eating my budget away!

Latest post from Dolla Thug: http://www.dollarthug.com/personal-finance/the-personal-finance-revelation/

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Matt Gartland July 24, 2010 at 6:17 PM

Hey Dolla Thug-

Food is indeed expensive – especially those inner city meals for sure! But there are so many ways that food can “bite” you in the end, so be savvy!

Cheers!
Matt

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Carol July 28, 2010 at 12:14 PM

It always amazes me how much better I feel if I eat less portions. Start to lose weight and start to feel better – a really good reason to save money by getting rid of junk food.

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Matt Gartland July 29, 2010 at 7:17 AM

Hi Carol-

I agree with the amazing inverse relationship between healthy eating and overall vibrance! And it’s certainly nice that it contributes to a healthy financial plan too! :)

Cheers!
Matt

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Moneyedup August 1, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Eating out can really add up, especially if it is every day for lunch. I have started to make my own lunches again, after eating out too much for awhile and spending way to much on subs and salads as lunchtime. Making lunches involves saving leftovers and buying things that are easily packable and it can save you a bundle.

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Matt Gartland August 24, 2010 at 3:31 PM

Hi Moneyedup-

Congrats for returning to your own lunches again! It’s such an important (yet often ignored) component of both fiscal and literal health. Kudos!

Matt

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money babe August 23, 2010 at 8:45 PM

Nice correlation you got there Matt. Food supplements are highly advertised. I’m already convinced of their health benefits once the ad say’s “No Approved Therapeutic Claims” or something like that. But I buy anyway, just in case it will work for me. I do have a poor eating habit that’s why I buy them to somewhat make up for my mistake. Also, tablets are easily taken rather than preparing for my own meals. I save time but waste my body. I buy preprocessed food to lower down food costs to make way for supplements. Thanks for your article, I will cook healthy meals forego supplements and go for bigger ROI.

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Matt Gartland August 24, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Hi Money Babe-

Thanks for the kind words about the correlation. As true with financial management, healthy lifestyles have no single solution. Those that really survive and thrive take stock of their own situations and advance the ball on their own terms. Sounds like you’re headed in a good direction. Keep it up and good luck!

Matt

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Felicia May 8, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Through education we are learning it is financially advantageous and much better for our health to prepare our meals at home. The only challenge here in the mid-west is finding high quality organic food. Looking into gardening ideas.

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