Tax Day is two weeks from now, and hopefully we’ll all be getting refunds! While normally we have visions of flat-screen TVs or designer purses when waiting for that bank transfer or check to come through, here are a few suggestions for healthier ways to spend some excess income.

1. Get a bicycle.  Biking is a fun, inexpensive way to get exercise and fresh air, as well as explore your town.  With smart shopping a new bicycle can be purchased for a relatively low amount of money, or you can find a used one for even cheaper through Craigslist or other community bulletin boards.  Don’t forget to grab a helmet!

2. Buy a share in CSA.  If you’re interested in both eating healthier and supporting local farmers and gardeners, you may want to become involved in community supported agriculture, or CSA.  CSA group members purchase “shares” that allow them weekly or bi-weekly deliveries of fresh, locally grown produce for an entire season, with up to ten different kinds of vegetables. Half-shares can be purchased for smaller families on a budget, and most CSA groups offer payment plans for lower income members.  Some even offer shares for meat, dairy products and flowers!

3. Purchase home exercise equipment.  If you prefer to work out at home, exercise equipment and accessories such as resistance bands, kettle bells, yoga mats and weights can be found at a low cost online.  If you need a little guidance while exercising, you can download fitness podcasts or find yoga or Pilates videos at YouTube for free.  Make sure to check with your doctor beforehand if you have any health conditions that may restrict movement.

4. Join a gym.  Gone are the days when gym memberships cost three figures a month and were reserved to the wealthy.  With working class Americans being encouraged to get more active, many fitness center chains are lowering their monthly fees, some even to as little as $10 or $20.  Often as an incentive for new members, the initial joining fee will be drastically reduced or even waived.  Also check out the local YMCA—with its quality gym equipment and vast selection of exercise classes for all ages and fitness levels, it may be your town’s best kept secret!

5. Donate to charity.  Far too often we neglect our mental health, and simply doing good can increase our emotional well-being.  Volunteering and performing other charitable acts has been proven to help lessen the effects of depression, as well as boost confidence and self-esteem.  Check out United Way or for opportunities to get involved in your community.  You may only donate your money initially, but you may end up donating your time as well.

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