Wash Your Hands (215/365)

Washing your hands? Really?

It seems like something that’s incredibly obvious and perhaps bordering on stupid. Most of us were taught in childhood to wash our hands after using the restroom. What does that have to do with personal finance?

The truth is that the simple act of washing your hands is a surprisingly good financial tactic. It can help your career, boost your productivity, and save you money on over-the-counter medications.

It’s such a simple little thing, but it ends up making a big difference.

Wash Your Hands (215/365)

Handwashing is perhaps the best defense we have against the spread of illnesses of all kinds. Illnesses lead to lost productivity, ill feelings, sick days, doctor’s visits, medications, and other expenses, all of which cost us financially and otherwise.

The last significant illness I had resulted in a doctor’s visit (including the drive there and home), the purchase of two different over-the-counter medications, and about two and a half days of productivity lost because I was laying in bed feeling miserable. I’m also fairly sure that I passed the illness on to my toddler (who couldn’t resist coming into the bedroom to visit daddy), which resulted in another doctor’s visit, some more medication, and some time spent caring for the sick boy.

All of those costs added up. Medicine, doctor’s visits, transportation, lost productivity, and physical misery have real costs. Proper hand washing very easily could have prevented all of those costs.

Just make it a new routine. Wash your hands before and after meal preparation, after using the restroom, before eating food, before and after being around someone who is sick, after changing a diaper, after blowing your nose or coughing, after touching an animal (or animal feed or waste), and after touching garbage.

Again, those things are obvious, but it’s really easy to forget about it if you’re taking out the garbage as part of a household routine or if you just pet your neighbor’s dog. (I’ve found it easy to just remember to wash my hands each time I come in from the outdoors.)

Of course, as with everything, there’s a balance to be made. I tend not to use anti-bacterial soaps because of anti-bacterial resistance. I also don’t wash my hands that often throughout the day. I only do it before and/or after a necessary event, like going to the bathroom, touching animals, or handling food.

Clean hands mean a reduced chance of illness, and a reduced chance of illness means fewer doctor’s visits, fewer medications, and less productive time lost. Those are all financial victories.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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