Trying to get rid of student loan debt is a lot like trying to lose weight. Just as with those extra pounds or other unhealthy habits, the student loans you carry didn’t just appear overnight. Making a positive impact on your student loans and your health won’t happen that quick either. Both take patience, dedication and clear goals. 

Fortunately, here’s how you can save money and reduce student loan debt and lose weight at the same time.  

Cut Spending on Food and Lose Weight

Make a meal plan for the week. Creating a meal plan for the week is extremely beneficial for both your health and your bank account. It takes the guesswork out of what you’re eating, so even when you’re in a rush, there’s no impromptu takeout deliveries. Taking a list to the grocery store is going to prevent impulse buys, keeping your money and health on track.

Reach for the right choices at the grocery store. For fruits and vegetables, shopping what’s in season will usually save you money. Beans and lentils are full of protein and are very cheap (especially in bulk). Brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, quinoa and frozen vegetables are all low-cost healthy foods.

Skip the bad stuff. Ditch the non-essential junk food that is bad for your health and wallet, such as candy, cookies and chips. Frozen dinners may be more convenient, but homemade is usually healthier and costs a lot less. Soda and sugary juices are extra calories and an extra cost. To help stay on track at the grocery store, eat before you go. You’ll be less tempted to throw extras into the cart.

Shop deals. Meal planning and making a shopping list are only steps one and two for your grocery jaunt. As you’re making your list, check out which healthy items are on sale at the store with weekly ads online. Find coupons online at Coupons.com and earn cash back with the Ibotta app.

Cook at home. All of that grocery shopping means one thing – you have to cook. If you’re new to cooking, simply search for cheap healthy recipes online. You can also find simple cookbooks for free at the library and free cooking tutorials online. 

If you’re not crazy about the idea of cooking or don’t have the time, make big batches when you do cook and freeze the leftovers. If you have friends or family that are also trying to improve their health, suggest having each other over for dinner to share the cooking chore.

Bring your lunch (and coffee) to work. When you’re cooking, make enough leftovers to take to work the next day. If you typically spend $10 per day on lunch eating out and $3 on coffee, that’s an extra $3,250 a year to put towards your student loans. Bringing your own lunch allows for more time, too. Use your extra time to take a walk, do some yoga or even just meditate and relax (to get rid of all that student loan stress).

To brew the perfect cup of coffee, clean the coffee pot and drink the coffee fresh, within 30 minutes of brewing. Office coffee tastes bad because nobody cleans the pot and the coffee sits for hours. Never reuse coffee grounds unless you like bitter coffee.

Suggest healthy options at work. Companies are often great at bringing in free food for their employees. Unfortunately, it’s often doughnuts, cupcakes, pizza and other not-so-great-for-you treats. If that’s the case at your company, and it’s appropriate to do so, make a friendly suggestion to sometimes substitute healthier options so you don’t have to miss out. Also, consider suggesting incentives for fitness and health at your company. 

Carry healthy snacks with you. Having healthy snacks on hand prevents spending money on that ever-so-tempting candy bar or bag of chips in a vending machine. This is a must anytime you’re traveling since airport food is overpriced and often not the best for you. Think easy-to-carry fruits (such as an apple), nuts, carrot sticks and roasted chickpeas.

Reduce your alcohol in-take. Alcohol is an unessential cost, extra calories and, if not drunk in moderation, can cause health issues. Studies have shown that people are more likely to spend money while drinking (shopping online, of course) and make poor food choices.

Suggest a new social setting. When getting together with friends, we’re often meeting at restaurants, bars and shopping centers. Instead, suggest spots unrelated to spending money and eating and drinking. Think events at the library, art showings at galleries, community centers or the great outdoors.

Sign up for Walgreens Balance Rewards. Earn points by making healthy choices and completing physical challenges, such as taking 10,000 steps for the day, practicing yoga or heading to the gym. These points can be used to purchase items at Walgreens, which frees up more money you can put towards your student loans. Combine your rewards with sale items and coupons to maximize savings.

Use Apps that Pay You for Losing Weight

Achievement is an app where you earn points by walking, biking, meditating and answering health-related questions about yourself. Every 10,000 points equals $10 redeemable via PayPal or direct deposit. The information you share is public and used for research.  

HealthyWage actually pays you for losing weight. It requires an entry fee upfront, but if you lose the amount of weight you say, you’ll receive money via check, PayPal or a credit on Amazon.

Dietbet allows you to join existing games or start your own weight-loss challenge with friends. Put in an upfront wager, whoever loses the amount in the challenge (such as four percent of your body weight in four weeks) then splits the pot.

Exercise for Free

Swap fun and free physical activities for typical pricey ones. Go for a hike, walk or bike ride. Take advantage of a free class (or even free week) at nearby gyms, yoga studios, dance studios and other fitness spots. Get a group together for a basketball game, volleyball game or other team sports.

Teach a fitness class. If you have any experience with a fitness activity, look into teaching a class at local gyms, community centers and even breweries. You don’t have to be an expert in most cases – just be energetic and enthusiastic.

Get a side hustle that keeps you moving. If you want to earn extra money to repay student loans, choose a gig that provides exercise, too. Waiting tables, bartending, dog walking, cleaning houses, babysitting and helping with home moves are just a handful of options.

Walk or bike whenever you can. Anytime you can walk or bike instead of using your car, go for it. It’s great exercise, plus that extra gas money can be put towards your student loans.

Utilize free resources to lose weight. Many times, when people are looking to lose weight, they end up spending money on diet books and fitness programs. The local library has hundreds of books (to borrow for free) that can help, including healthy cookbooks and books on fitness, exercise and health in general. Between YouTube and the library, you’ll find countless options for workout routines for free.

What to Do Now

Make clear goals for both getting healthier and reducing your student loan debt. Get specific with goal setting, such as putting an extra $25 per month toward your student loans, taking a walk during lunch three times per week and eating healthy meals at home every day for two weeks.

Want more advice for dealing with student loan debt? Sign up for our free student loan newsletter. And don’t forget to follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.