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6 Tips to Save on Healthcare and Fitness in the New Year

6 Tips to Save on Healthcare and Fitness in the New Year

Feeling good, looking good, and living the lifestyle you want are just a few of the well-known benefits that come from improving your physical fitness. But did you know that getting in shape can also boost your finances?

Here are six ways to get fit and save on healthcare in the New Year:

1. Use a Health Savings Account (HSA)

Surveys continue to show that too few Americans take advantage of health savings accounts, or “HSAs.” Either they just don’t know that they exist or they underestimate how much they save on healthcare.

You’re eligible to contribute to an HSA when you’re covered by a high deductible health plan. High deductible plans are becoming more popular because they’re more affordable. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium will be.

The beauty of an HSA is that as long as you spend it on qualified medial expenses, the funds are never taxed. Contributions to an HSA, other than those from an employer, are deductible on your tax return, no matter if you itemize deductions or not.

That means that if your average income tax rate is 25%, you get an immediate 25% discount on all your out-of-pocket medical expenses. That’s huge!

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You can take distributions from the account to pay for medical expenses—such as doctor co-pays, prescriptions, and supplies—before your deductible is satisfied and your health benefits kick in. But if you spend money in an HSA on non-qualified expenses, the amount you withdraw will be subject to income tax, plus a 20% penalty.

You can also use HSA funds for a long list of other types of expenses, even if you don’t have insurance for them, such as going to a dentist, ophthalmologist, chiropractor, or psychologist. One of my favorite ways to use HSA money is to get new pair of prescription sunglasses every couple of years.

Another benefit of an HSA is that you don’t have to take any distributions each year; you can let the savings accumulate indefinitely without penalty.

Find out if your health insurance qualifies as a high deductible plan. If so, open up an HSA and begin funding it as soon as possible so you can get a tax break on your next medical expense. For 2017, you can contribute up to $3,400 if you have individual coverage or $6,650 for a family plan.

2. Use a Health Flexible Savings Arrangement (FSA)

Flexible spending arrangements have some similarities to HSAs, but are only offered by employers. An FSA allows you or your employer to make contributions on a pre-tax basis, usually through payroll deductions. For 2017, eligible employees can contribute up to $2,600.

As long as you spend FSA funds on qualified medical expenses, they’re never taxed. So, just like with an HSA, you save an amount equal to the income taxes you would have paid on the money.

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But unlike an HSA, an FSA is a “use-it-or-lose-it” plan. That means you generally must empty the account every year or else only carry over a small amount, while funds in an HSA can roll over from year to year without penalty.

3. Get Healthcare Subsidies 

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, mandates every American to have health insurance. Even if Obamacare is eventually repealed, you’re required to have it until changes are officially made. If you can afford heath insurance but choose not to buy it, you’ll be subject to a tax penalty.

Depending on your income, the state where you live, and the number of people in your household, you may be eligible for financial assistance to save on healthcare. In most states, if you earn less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, you can get a healthcare subsidy, which reduces your monthly health insurance premium.

The open enrollment period to get health insurance for 2017 began on November 1, 2016 and ends January 31, 2017. So if you remain uninsured, don’t miss the opportunity to get the coverage you need to protect your health and your finances. Use the Obamacare Subsidy Calculator to estimate your monthly health insurance costs.

4. Max Out Your Health Insurance Benefits

Health insurance benefits, such as free preventative checkups and deductibles, are tied to an annual schedule. That means you need to pay attention to the calendar in order to max out your benefits.

For instance, if you burn through your health deductible and need a medical procedure, make sure to get it before the end of the year. If you wait until the following year, you could end up paying more than you have to.

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In other words, take advantage of the time each year after you reach your deductible so you can get your insurance company to pay for as much of your medical expenses as possible.

If there are capped benefits, like a certain number of therapy sessions or an allowable amount of dental work, get part completed in December and the rest in January, in order to take advantage of 2 years’ worth of benefits.

And don’t skimp on the free preventative appointments, like annual physicals, well-woman visits, mammograms, prostate screenings, dental cleanings, and eye exams.

5. Claim Medical Tax Deductions

The IRS allows you to save money by claiming medical expenses as deductions on your tax return. However, the catch is that you must itemize deductions, instead of taking the standard deduction for your tax filing status.

When you itemize, you can claim medical expenses paid for yourself, your spouse, and dependents, unless they’re already excluded from your taxable income, paid for using your HSA or FSA, or were reimbursed to you. In other words, you can’t double dip and get a tax deduction twice.

Another important point with medical deductions is that you can only claim amounts that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. For example, let’s say your AGI is $50,000 and your medical expenses for the tax year are $6,000. You could deduct the amount over $5,000, or $1,000. If your medical expenses are less than 10% of your income, then you can’t deduct any of them.

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There’s a long list of expenses that qualify for a tax deduction, and some of them, such as acupuncture, weight-loss programs, and transportation, may surprise you. You can even claim the cost of your health insurance premiums if you pay them as an individual—but not if they’re paid on a pre-tax basis from your paycheck at work.

I encourage your to take a look at the full list of deductible costs found on IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses. There are probably many medical expenses that you might not realize are deductible.

6. Review Your Medical Bills Carefully

My last tip to save money on healthcare and fitness is to review your medical bills carefully. If you don’t understand a charge, don’t pay it until the medical provider and your insurance company can explain why you owe it.

If you believe that a health insurance claim has been denied in error, perhaps because of an administrative or coding error, fight for your rights and file an appeal if necessary.

Laura Adams is a personal finance expert, award-winning author, and host of the top-rated Money Girl Podcast. To learn more and connect, click here.

Featured photo credit: Little Perfect Stock via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

Ever had those moments where you really wanted to eat something delicious and healthy but didn’t have the financials means to do so? Whether you’re a student or parent, this compilation of 40 great, healthy, and inexpensive recipes will make every night special and help you get fit! No more meals where you have to force the food down! It’s time to make that budget your best friend and turn it into great recipes. Enjoy!

1. Fish Tacos in Crunchy Shells ($3.56 per serving)

Is there a better way to end the day than a Fish Taco dinner filled with protein and nutrients and is easy on the wallet? This recipe calls for a boys’ or girls’ night in front of a good movie or game.

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    2. Mini-Meatball Noodle Soup ($3.43 per serving)

    We’ve heard of the delicious spaghetti and meatballs recipes, but imagine having that same meatball goodness in a soup? It’s like Christmas in a bowl. Healthy, warm, and only $3.43 per serving.

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      3. Spaghetti and (Vegan) Meatballs ($2.13 per serving)

      Now it’s time to look at the traditional spaghetti and meatballs recipe, but with a little twist: vegan meatballs. This way, you can enjoy the Italian tradition without adding on the extra calories. I’m sold!

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        4. Kabocha Squash and Lentils ($3.12 per serving)

        Absolutely delicious way to end the day with a Kabocha Squash and lentils dinner. The beauty of this recipe is that you can actually make many other things from the mixture, from dips to full-on meals. All under $5 per serving.

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          5. Baked Coconut Lentils ($0.91 per serving)

          Coconuts are always a good idea, but it doesn’t have to be eaten only for dessert or breakfast. With this great recipe, you can now eat a lunch or dinner filled proteins and a coconut twist. Yum!

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            6. Easy Marinated Roasted Chicken ($3.40 per serving)

            We love chicken and at less than $5 per serving, we are in heaven with this recipe. Add some vegetables and rice on the side and you’ve got yourself a full meal!

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              7. Organic Greens and Goat Cheese Gratin ($2.36 per serving)

              This is absolutely divine. You get in your healthy greens and your fat macros with this great recipe. Takes only a few minutes to make and it’s easy on the wallet. Bon Appetite!

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                8. Beef Pot Roast ($3.22 per serving)

                One word: perfect. This meal will warm your insides and fill you up with the high protein content.

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                  9. Fajita-Style Quesadillas ($0.43 per serving)

                  If you want to eat Mexican tonight but want to stay in your budget, this Quesadilla recipe is your best friend. It’s tasty and filled with healthy ingredients for less than a dollar per serving.

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                    10. Fish Tostadas with Chili Lime Cream ($2.82 per serving)

                    Another great lunch idea for the busy days ahead. Prep this in the morning or the night before and you’ve got yourself a healthy and cheap lunch meal!

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                      11. Beef and Black Bean Chili ($1.36 per serving)

                      Might not look like much, but this amazing chili is actually extremely healthy for you. The protein from the beef and the carbs from the black beans will fill you up in no time, and keep you full for a long period of time. Delicious and warm, just right for the winter!

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                        12. Crispy Fish and Peppers ($2.18 per serving)

                        Amazing recipe for anyone looking to change up their meals while keeping their macros in check and not going overboard on spending. Satisfies your crunch tooth (see what I did there?) and gives you all the protein you need to stay full and lean.

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                          13. Vegetarian Gumbo ($1.50 per serving)

                          You have the perfect macro mix here with the carbs, fats, and proteins. At less than $5 per serving, you’ve got yourself a meal that will last for the whole week!

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                            14. Mexican White Bean Soup ($0.99 per serving)

                            With the cold weather creeping in, it’s not a surprise that soups are coming back in style. This great Mexican White Bean Soup dish will keep you warm for winter without making a hole in your pocket.

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                              15. Black Beans with Mango & Cilantro ($0.38 per serving)

                              Mangoes make every dish a little bit sweeter, which is why we absolutely love this recipe. A normal rice and bean dish might be a little meh, but add the sugary taste of mangoes and you’ve got yourself a party!

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                                16. Bean Burritos ($0.71 per serving)

                                If you’re having people over tonight and don’t want to spend too much time or money on food, this dish is a great option! You can even cut up the burritos into pieces and make finger foods while everyone’s watching the game or gossiping.

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                                  17. Five-Spice Beef Kabobs ($2.43 per serving)

                                  The spices in this recipes add a delicious twist to the beef kabobs, which is definitely worth trying!

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                                    18. Cornmeal Crusted Pork ($1.92 per serving)

                                    If you like the fried crunch but want to opt for a healthier alternative, cornmeal is your man. This healthy recipe will satisfy all your fried desires without making you pop open your pant’s button.

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                                      19. Chicken, Tomato & Cucumber Dinner Salad ($2.57 per serving)

                                      Easy to do, extremely healthy, and super delicious. A must-try!

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                                        20. Lentil Soup with Beef and Red Pepper ($1.90 per serving)

                                        I can’t believe how cheap this meal is, especially for all the nutrients it contains. You can make a big pot on Sunday night and divide it into small portions to last you a whole week.

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                                          21. Smoky Mushroom Stroganoff ($1.90 per serving)

                                          Craving pasta but not sure what to top it off with? How about smoky mushrooms with a twist?

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                                            22. White Bean Tuna Salad ($1.36 per serving)

                                            You can add this White Bean Tuna Salad in your sandwich or just eat it as-is for a quick lunch on a busy day.

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                                              23. Sausage Eggwiches ($0.80 per serving)

                                              Who says you have to eat fast food to get an eggwich? This delicious recipe will give you an amazingly healthy eggwich for less than a dollar per portion. Can you say Breakfast?

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                                                24. Baja-Cali Black Bean Salad ($1.17 per serving)

                                                Great snack to add to a movie-night with friends. You don’t have to use chemically-processed salsas anymore, you can now use this homemade salad for your chip dips.

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                                                  25. Gnocchi, Sweet Corn & Arugula in Cream Sauce ($2.24 per serving)

                                                  Italians always knew how to make carbs look good! This delicious Gnocchi recipe will give your lunch a whole new meaning. Easy to make and only $2.24 per serving.

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                                                    26. Vegetable Lasagna ($1.73 per serving)

                                                    If you were looking for a healthy lasagna, you’ve just found it. At under $5 per serving, you can fill yourself up right away without putting on the extra calories.

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                                                      27. Fajita-Ranch Chicken Wraps ($2.05 per serving)

                                                      Don’t know what to make for lunch this week? How about delicious chicken wraps with a healthy ranch? This recipe will make all your lunches, even the quick ones, healthy and colorful.

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                                                        28. Quinoa with Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($1.24 per serving)

                                                        A dish that has quinoa and brussel sprouts can’t be unhealthy, it just can’t, which is why this dish is one to keep in the books. Easy to make, healthy, and will keep you full for a long period of time.

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                                                          29. Butternut Squash Chili ($1.04 per serving)

                                                          You don’t need meat to make chili now that you have this recipe! It’s 100% healthy, filling, and smells absolutely delicious.

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                                                            30. Fast Shrimp Bisque ($2.03 per serving)

                                                            Seafood doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to do it right, and this fast shrimp bisque is a great recipe to try if you’re in the mood for some seafood!

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                                                              31. Chicken-Noodle Casserole ($0.98 per serving)

                                                              Looks divine doesn’t it? This super easy to make dish will satisfy all your taste buds without burning a hole in your wallet or adding a few extra numbers on the scale.

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                                                                32. Burrito Cups ($1.18 per serving)

                                                                Entertaining someone tonight and don’t know what to make as appetizers? These burrito cups are a great alternative to chips or other greasy finger foods. All you need to enjoy it is a spoon and a cup.

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                                                                  33. Lemon-Dill Shrimp & Pasta ($2.45 per serving)

                                                                  Another impressive shrimp recipe under $5 per serving. The lemon-dill twist adds a great taste to the dish.

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                                                                    34. Potato Frittata ($0.87 per serving)

                                                                    If you want to eat potatoes for breakfast but still want it to be healthy, this is the recipe for you. At under a dollar per serving, this potato frittata will make you see potatoes in a whole new light.

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                                                                      35. Grilled Pork and Pineapple ($2.67 per serving)

                                                                      Meat and fruits? Oh, yes. The juiciness of the pork mixed with the liquid sugar in the pineapple will make you wish you knew about it sooner.

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                                                                        36. Greek Honey-Lemon Pork Chops ($2.15 per serving)

                                                                        Another splendid recipe mixing sweet and salty for a healthy meal. Easy to make and absolutely mouthwatering.

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                                                                          37. Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry ($2 per serving)

                                                                          You can add this healthy stir-fry to any dish as a side or amply enjoy it as-is for lunch or dinner. You can even make a wrap sandwich out of it if you’re in a rush to eat.

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                                                                            38. Herbed Salmon ($2.49 per serving)

                                                                            Salmon contains a healthy dose of fats that will boost your metabolism, lower inflammation, and make you happier. At under $5 per serving, need I say more?

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                                                                              39. Five-Spice Pork Kabobs ($1.96 per serving)

                                                                              Exquisite recipe under $5 per serving that will most definitely awe everyone at your dinner party.

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                                                                                40. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Mango-Black Bean Salsa ($1.24 per serving)

                                                                                You don’t have to eat sweet potatoes alone anymore with this flavorful recipe.

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                                                                                  Featured photo credit: Featured Photo Credit: 5 Dollar Dinners via 5dollardinners.com

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