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Did you know that being overweight can actually cost you money? Let us explain…The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition reports that the annual cost for being an overweight woman is $524 and the cost for men is $432. And if you fall into the obese category, you’re looking at a cost of $2,646 as a man and $4,879 as a woman. They also report that less than 5% of adults get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

When it comes to sticking to our daily fitness routine, we’re definitely not perfect either (trust us!). So we totally get that it’s not always that easy to stay motivated and absolutely know that many times the cost of cardio workouts, exercise equipment, or a personal trainer can be too high for many people’s budgets. That said, we came up with some ways to enjoy fitness for less and have a little fun while we’re at!

7 Ways to Enjoy Fitness on a Budget

1. Add some adventure

Spice up your fitness routine by skipping the treadmill. Sign up to do a glow run, color race or adventure race instead! This is one of the latest fitness trends popping up all over the country.  But, how do you save money? Well, there are  a few ways, including putting together a team so you can get the team discount, using your military or student ID, or doing a quick online search to find a promo code. Not to mention, many of these runs are featured on budget-friendly apps like Groupon or Living Social and often post discounts on social media when registration goes live.

2. Go bowling, or hiking, or biking…you get the drift.

Raise your hand if you love getting in a workout without feeling like you’re working out? When you join a team, league or group, you can get fit, make friends, and have fun simultaneously. There are seriously so many opportunities around the country that you can find online; you have to be willing to look. To get you started, here are two of our faves: meetup.com and eteamz.com All you have to do is type in your zip code to find active groups in your community.

3. Workplace fitness

Another new fitness trend that you can take advantage of is participating in or starting, a workplace fitness challenge at your office. A lot of employers are hosting fitness challenges, and some will even pay you to get fit—either in dollars or healthcare credits. If your employer isn’t offering a fitness challenge, be a fitness for less leader at your office and suggest starting a weekly or monthly challenge to improve overall employee well-being and/or get a group together to start an after-hours fitness sesh. And if you enjoy having an added mission for motivation purposes, consider finding a worthy cause or charity to give back while you get fit.

4. Find a free fitness program or class

Many communities are now offering free fitness classes. All you have to do is check your local listings to see what’s available in your area. For all of our New Yorkers out there, check out Shape Up NYC to find free fitness classes each week. And if you don’t live in NY, you’ll most likely be able to find a free class at your local YMCA or YWCA or on your local Parks & Recreation department’s calendar of events (simply Google “your town/city name + recreation” to find those calendars).

5. Free trials, friend passes and more

Gyms and fitness centers are in the business of finding new members every day. So why not use that to your advantage by taking them up on their free trial week or by tagging along with your friend to use their free buddy pass? If you’re not into the gym and are more of a yoga type – opt to purchase a class pack instead of paying the extra to drop in on a random class. It will force you to go more often and save you money in the long run.

Fitness on a Budget Analysis: If you already forked over the cash for a gym membership and aren’t sure if it’s worth the cost, do this quick analysis to figure out your actual cost per session, and compare that to the cost of doing a class instead.

Monthly fee + (initiation fee ÷ 12) ÷ (number of visits per month) = the true cost of each gym visit

6. Free workout videos and fitness plans

Instead of hiring a personal trainer, find a fitness routine that you can do from the comfort of your own home. There’s ton of options available, including online videos, apps, and websites that offer free workout plans and routines. Here are some of the top YouTube fitness channels to give you a taste:

And if your favorite fitness craze isn’t listed, you can look to buy or borrow workout videos from your local store, online shop or library. Or do a search via your cable provider and DVR your favorite fitness show so you can watch it on demand when you’re ready to sweat.

7. Start a fitness fund

Even with all of the free to low cost fitness opportunities out there, you may find that the fitness that works best for you, the fitness you wish you could be doing instead or an item that you’d love to add to your arsenal of fitness items (that could save you money in the long run), is just a bit out of your budget right now. Don’t fret fitness on a budget friend—we have a solution for everyone who falls in this category, too. We encourage you to start a fitness fund and begin saving for items on your fitness wish list.

The Fitness for Less Takeaway

Getting fit doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Skip the expensive exercise equipment and personal trainers and find a way to get moving without going broke. You don’t need fancy workout plans to get in shape. Try out a few different classes, teams or videos to see what you like and then stick with it to get results. Fitness on a budget really isn’t so bad when you know where to start.

Do you have any other fitness for less tips or fun workout routines that you can share? Post them in the comments below!

 

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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Scary Good Ways to Reap Halloween Savings

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

Save Money on Halloween…

Are you ready for Halloween? Before you hit the party supply store, we have some great tips to  help you save money on Halloween this year.

Last year the National Retail Federation reported that Americans were spending almost $3 billion on Halloween costumes and just over $2 billion on candy! As part of our #LiveFreeBankFree movement, we think there’s a better way, and wanted to share some scary good ways to help you reap some serious Halloween savings without eliminating an ounce of fun.

Decorating

Want to turn your home into a haunted house for a night? Sure you do! Get crafty and DIY your own décor to save. The best way to keep it simple is to pick a theme for your Halloween decorating, so everything from your candy to your costume and party supplies will look cohesive. We found an awesome blog post on savvysassymoms.com that has some simple, cheap Halloween decorating ideas (our fave is the boo-tiful marshmallow ghosties made from a lollipop and marshmallows). And if you’re not into DIY, we recommend checking out Oriental Trading’s Halloween Sale for some cheap party supplies and Halloween decorations.

Food

Every great Halloween party needs some frightful food and drinks. But food and drinks can eat up your budget rather quickly if you’re not careful and fearful of getting creative. To help you out, we found a great post that features 24 wicked good Halloween appetizers and breaks down the cost per serving of each. Need even more inspiration? Check out this Halloween Food Ideas Pinterest board for some spooktacular recipes. We hope you’re starting to get a taste of all the Halloween savings available to you!

 

Music

No Halloween is complete without some spooky sounds and songs. For Apple users, check out the Halloween Spooky Sound Box app, which gives you a variety of tunes for Halloween. You can also find some frightfully awesome sounds on YouTube to play from your mobile device or laptop, like this one that has 75 minutes of old school Halloween sound effects.

Costumes

One of the best parts about Halloween is figuring out your Halloween costume, and you don’t have to buy a ready-made costume to make an entrance. Our first Halloween costume tip is to take advantage of all of the unused costumes that may be filling up the closets of your friends and family members and do a swap. If that’s too much of a hassle, here are a few budget-friendly Halloween costume ideas you can make on your own:

  • Mummy: Just wrap yourself with toilet paper…over and over and over.
  • Ghost: Grab an old sheet and cut a few holes in it. Done.
  • Nerd: You could grab most of these supplies at a thrift store or dollar store: bowtie, button down shirt, tight pants, and glasses – don’t forget the tape!
  • Housewife: Grab an apron, a dress, and a headband.
  • Old School Hip Hop: Some cool sunglasses, a gold chain, some gear and kicks and you’re good to go!

Need some more ideas? Check out these cheap and easy last minute Halloween costume ideas from Buzzfeed.

 Candy

Halloween is one of those times that procrastination can work in your favor. If you wait until the last minute to buy your Halloween candy supply, you may get lucky with the stores marking down their Halloween candy a few days before to make it move so they can get ready for the next set of holidays. Opt for bulk buys to save money and check your local newspaper for some coupons. When your cute ‘lil trick-or-treaters ring your bell, don’t let them reach in and grab a handful of candy. Instead – pass it out yourself.

Trick-or-Treat Bags

Do you remember going out trick or treating with a pillowcase? Why not bring that concept back and remix it with a new school twist by decorating an old pillowcase together as a family! Bust out the glitter and paint and go to town before you hit the streets.

Stick to Your Halloween Budget

Halloween doesn’t have to be scary expensive. And if you need a way to save for this holiday, consider opening up a free high-yield savings account and transferring some money over each week to build your Halloween fund. Having a dedicated fund will help you stick to your Halloween budget.

If you have some of your own spooky ideas, share your tips in the comments below. Happy Halloween!

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Real-World Ways to Avoid Online Scams

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You may think that people who get scammed online are the ones who respond to those crazy emails from a foreign prince, but online scams happen to millions of innocent people each year.

The Bureau of Justice reported that identity theft cost almost 17 million Americans roughly $25 million in 2012—and that’s just one of many types of online scams.

That my friends equates to 7% of people in the U.S. over 16 years old! And college students specifically are a population at risk because they may not necessarily take the steps to protect their personal information from being stolen from their laptops and mobile devices or even their dorm. So what exactly do these online scams looks like and what are some ways to avoid those online scams?

Beware of These Types of Online Scams

  1. Phishing:No – we’re not talking about catching that big fish – but phishing is quite similar in the realm of online scams. The phish scammers are trying to catch you – and they do it by sending you spam or getting you to click on pop-up messages online (the bait) so they can get your personal info if you bite (giving them their big catch).
  2. Identity Theft:Online scammers use stolen captured personal information, like your Social Security Number, to open credit cards or create new bank accounts in your name. They also use it to withdraw money from an established account, go on shopping sprees, apply for loans in your name or even rent apartments or storage units!
  3. Smishing:A close cousin to phishing, smishing is a newer scam via text/messaging. Often times the text/message is something alarming and contains threats of awful consequences if you don’t reply ASAP. And what do they want? Your confidential information.
  4. Keylogging:Another online scamming term is keylogging, which is a way thieves use malware that records your keystrokes to capture your personal information right as you type it in. This could be your online banking password. Yikes.
  5. Flipping money:This is an older scam that’s been repurposed via social media. Messages are being posted via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to entice you into making BIG MONEY quickly. Some of these tweets and posts have a photo of someone holding up a huge check or tons of cash. If you contact them about this amazing opportunity, they will ask you to buy a pre-paid card and give them the PIN so they can take the money and run – without any paper trail.

How to Avoid Scams Online

While no one is impervious to online scams, there are ways you can lessen your chances of becoming an online scammer’s next victim. Here are some helpful ways to avoid scams online:

  1. Don’t post too much personal information online or via social media. Love getting those birthday wishes via Facebook each year? We do too. But don’t post your actual birthday, including year, as this is one of those pieces of personal information that online scam artists are after. Also be cautious about posting your travel plans or sharing pics while you’re not home. You don’t want to tip off any crooks that your house is fair game for a week. Other things to avoid posting – your pet’s name, your address, your mother’s maiden name – basically anything you use to create a security question for your online banking can be sourced via your Facebook page.
  1. Make your passwords strong and keep changing them. Did you know that a 4 digit number password can be hacked in just 0004 seconds and a password with 10 characters containing letters, some of which are capitalized, digits, and a symbol (like a comma, period, or exclamation point), can take 17,000 years to hack? The lesson here is to make strong passwords and change them often. Read our post to learn how to make a strong password that’s easy to remember. Don’t use information like your birth date or phone number either – it’s too easy to guess. And don’t ever share your password. You also should avoid allowing your computer to remember your username and/or password.
  1. Safeguard your computer and mobile devices.Make sure to keep your computer updated with the most current anti-virus and anti-spam software. You’ll also want to install a firewall and anti-spyware software to be safe. To keep your mobile phone safer, make sure to update your apps, especially your financial and mobile banking apps, and only install apps that are from trusted marketplaces.
  1. Be careful with Wi-Fi.Don’t do your online/mobile banking or send personal information over public Wi-Fi. Others on the network can intercept it and use your info in an online scam.
  1. Never give your personal information to random people.Please never give out your sensitive, personal information through email, over the phone or via text. Make sure the company you are communicating with is legitimate, and if you’re ever unsure, call them instead. Only share personal information with those you trust.
  2. Be prepared. Keep a record of your account numbers and their expiration dates. Also make sure you have your bank’s phone number in case you need to report any weird or fraudulent activity.
  1. Don’t hand over your debit or credit card. Never give out your debit card to anyone—not your children, friends or roommates. Also don’t get in the habit of leaving your receipts or bank statements lying around where anyone can see them. When it’s time to throw these out, always shred. (Yes, people have been known to dumpster dive to get this type of info!)
  2. Keep tabs on your credit. Check your credit report annually – it’s free at annualcreditreport.com. Check over these reports and look out for any errors – that could be a sign of identity theft.

FTC’s Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

The Federal Trade Commission recommends these tips below for protecting yourself online:

  • Only bring the card you need with you, and don’t put your debit and credit cards in your wallet. If someone steals your purse or wallet, it will help minimize your loss.
  • When making a purchase, keep tabs on your card and get it back before you leave.
  • Don’t sign a blank receipt. If there are any blanks, cross them out.
  • Save your receipts and compare them with your bank statements.
  • Open your bills quickly, or look at them online regularly, then reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.
  • Report any questionable charges or transactions to the card issuer ASAP.
  • If you’re going on vacation or moving – call your bank, whether it’s a branch bank or an online/mobile bank  and card issuers so they don’t keep sending your statements for someone else to view.
  • Don’t write down your account number on the outside of any envelope.

How to Report Online Scams If You’re a Victim

If you think you are, or may be, a victim of an online scam, contact your bank, credit card and other financial institutions ASAP. Additionally, if you believe you’ve been scammed online, reporting online scams by filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is recommended. A good resource to visit is IdentityTheft.gov – they have information on where to file a report, and how to begin the recovery process.

Online Banking Scams Happen

As a branchless bank, we want you to understand that online banking scams are a reality in our world today and you should take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

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Saving 101

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In the age of instant gratification, it’s hard to think of saving as something fun. But if you start with the end goal in mind, saving is merely the method to get you what you want. Maybe it’s not right away, but there’s a certain pride you exude when you earn something that you worked hard to achieve. You may think that you don’t have enough money to save when you can barely pay your bills, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Here are some simple savings tips to help you find your way to a brighter tomorrow. (more…)

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