On Jan. 1, you woke up ready to achieve your weight-loss goals. You were excited to get a start on the new you for the new year. You may have even bought a gym membership or some brand new workout gear in preparation. But with only an estimated 12 percent success rate on achieving New Year's resolutions, your spending may have been in vain.
The weight loss industry is a vacuum for American money. In 2013, it was valued at $60.5 billion. We want to lose weight -- and we need to, with 35 percent of American adults obese and 69 percent overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But we don't need to spend hundreds of dollars to do it.
1. Don't splurge on a gym membership, yet.
Your commitment to work out at the gym three days a week might not happen, and facing that truth now could save you considerably. A University of California-Berkeley study of 7,752 health club members over three years found that gym-goers who signed a contract averaged only 4.5 visits to the gym each month. Considering there are more than 50 million gym members across the U.S., and attendance falls dramatically with each passing month, there's a good chance many contracts go unused.
So although that deal your local gym is offering may seem enticing, it's not likely to do you any favors.
Your best bet: Pay per visit. Once you've proven your commitment for a few months, consider signing a monthly contract. But if you fall off the fitness wagon, make sure your gym will allow you to cancel the automatic payments without penalty.
2. Cook more.
Diets are expensive -- especially those that require special foods. It's also tempting to hit up the local health food cafe for your lunch or buy frozen low-calorie meals, but these will lighten your wallet. Instead, start cooking.
Eating out is associated with less weight loss, and cooking gives you the opportunity to control what goes into your food, your portion sizes and how much you spend.
3. Shop the farmers market for local, healthful produce.
If you avoid the farmers market because you're under the impression it's more expensive to shop hyper-local, you're mistaken. You'll typically pay less at the farmers market than you will at the grocery store for conventional produce, and the price difference is even more dramatic when it comes to organics.
Buying local doesn't support only the local economy, but also new healthy eating habits. When you shop the stands at a farmers market, there are no french fries to tempt you, no chips in the center aisles -- it's just homegrown fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices.
4. Use your FSA for weight-loss programs.
If you're considered clinically overweight or obese, or have medical problems related to weight, there's a good chance your doctor backs your weight-loss goals. Flexible spending accounts through your employer allow you to set aside pretax dollars for medical expenses. Many of these plans consider weight-loss efforts an eligible expense when they are recommended by your physician.
Check your plan specifics, and talk to your doctor. Considering that some of these guided weight-loss programs (such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers) cost hundreds of dollars each month, using tax-free money could save you considerably.
5. Budget rewards.
Maybe you've vowed to splurge on a new outfit once you lose the first 5 pounds, or a spa day if you follow through on all your gym commitments for a month. Incentives are a good way to keep yourself motivated and on target. But you may spend more than reasonable under the auspices of "I deserve it!"
Although rewarding yourself isn't necessarily bad, consider setting mini goals with smaller rewards such as a new book or a kitchen gadget. You can also delay the purchase of new workout gear until after you've achieved something, rather than "gearing up" before you even begin.