Yes, you can be frugal and still have a gym membership!

One of the common pieces of advice on financial sites or frugality blogs always includes questioning your gym membership. This is good advice – when evaluating your budget, it’s good to question everything. Commonly shared statistics include this one: The average gym membership costs just under $60 per month, and 67% of memberships go unused. There are also plenty of options to exercise for free, which include all kinds of outdoor sports, as well as fantastic fitness videos on youtube (My personal favorites are Yoga with Adreine and Fitness Blender). If this works for you, then spending any additional money on fitness is obviously unnecessary. We however, spent $90 on fun fitness things over the last few months. Check out our reasons below. I do want to start with a disclaimer that if you’re in debt and struggling financially, the best advice might be to eliminate all unnecessary spending. It is possible to stay fit without it (check out the last section). But if you’re looking to change up your routine, read on.

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Why I belong to a gym

I really love going to the gym. I also love taking group fitness classes. I find it motivating, social, and it makes it easier for me to get into that workout mindset. Additionally, with our micro-home, working out in the house can be challenging and a gym is fully stocked with all kinds of equipment. Yes, I know I could do with less, but I like changing things up and playing with new toys!

For the past 10 years I’ve been working on a college campus, and no matter where it was, it was the most affordable option- for what it offers. While in our current location, Planet Fitness is $40 dollars less per calendar year (we pay $200 per person), they do not offer group fitness classes, their equipment isn’t great and the gym is really far away from our house. Here, I can pop out during lunch or right after work, and it’s a 4-minute walk from my office.

The college gym also includes all kinds of additional offerings, such as The Group Fitness Marathon, Bench Press Competition, the Fit in Five program and group fitness and yoga training. Mr. Sweetspot and I attended 8 weeks of yoga training for FREE and at the end, he took a test to teach, and as a result started working there as a yoga instructor, which he loves doing. This semester, he bartered teaching class for a free membership for both of us for the following year, which worked out great for both parties involved (the cost is more than what he’d make teaching one class a week, and it’s at no cost for them to give him the memberships).

I work out 5 days a week, mostly doing classes. This means that the average visit costs me 80 cents. That’s a pretty affordable hobby, mood booster and social activity. I can afford it, and unless I had to, I will not give it up.

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Occasionally, all that exercise can get exhausting!

Why I pay for other stuff

The short answer is necessity and variety. When I travel for summer gigs, having a similar routine allows me to feel at home even when I’m far away. I typically get a month long membership to a studio or gym in town and try to keep the cost as affordable as possible. It’s typically not though, because monthly memberships or class passes aren’t the bulk-buying method. This can run $60 and up, but I justify it by the extra income I receive from these gigs. This is an unnecessary expense, but it brings me comfort.

We also like to try out new classes when we travel as part of the experience. That is how Mr. SS took an aerial class in a circus act studio, and we took hot yoga in Detroit. I’ve also taken a barre class in Omaha. These probably run around $20 on average. We consider it a vacation expense, pick something weird and truly enjoy it!

Now, occasionally studios have “free first class” passes or other specials, but most offer them to city/county residents (although it never hurts to look when you travel). However, a fairly new Bikram studio in town was offering 2 weeks of “all-you-can-take” classes for $20. We’ve been wanting to take this opportunity for a long time, and our schedules aligned and opened up enough for us to make the most out of the experience. We did it like a challenge and completed a class a day. In the process, we discovered we don’t like Bikram, but it was a fun, though quite exhausting, challenge. I strongly recommend taking advantage of your local opportunities.

This summer, our gym, which is divided between two buildings, is undergoing renovations on one of them. Only the other is open, and it’s smaller and doesn’t have showers or AC (we have nicknamed it “the crappy gym”). The summer class offering is always smaller, since a big chunk of the college population is gone, but with this change it’s minimal. So while I still go, I needed to add something on. The college has a pool with free open swim hours, so I figured that could be a nice addition, especially since I was on a swim team in high school. Turns out I was right; I had forgotten how much I loved swimming. It’s been a welcome addition, but I had to buy the gear first. Not quite a gym expense… but kind of? The total was $50, so I’ll definitely bring it down to at least $5 a swim this summer, and it’ll keep going down the more I use it. I bought this, in case you too need a swim starter kit:

  • Swimsuit $23.99. I didn’t want to spend a lot, I wanted something basic, with a good rating. So far I’m happy with it, might invest in something better if I keep up with swimming (not sure I’m capable of walking with wet hair during winter. Positive I won’t dry my hair).
  • Goggles $13.53. Here, I wanted great ones. I hate it when water seeps under them while you’re swimming. These are great, and only $5 more than the “cheapies” on amazon.
  • Swim cap $11.99. This model was rated for long hair (yes, it all fits under it) and many reviewers said it kept their hair dry (uhm- how? It does not). Holds hair in place, but does let water under. This is why I swim only twice a week- to coincide with hair washing. I also put conditioner in my hair before putting on the cap.
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We found this bike with a “free” sign on the side of the road!

What I do for free

Yes, on top of all this we also do free stuff. Some of it is completely free, and some requires owning the thing (like, to bike, you need a bike) so potentially it should be on the list above? Although I’m guessing most people have at least one “thing”…

  • Hiking. We love hiking. Our dogs love hiking. We typically go at least once a week, although my recent obsession with a mallard’s nest I discovered keeps me hiking almost daily. We go on our property and in the local woods.
  • Running. Not my favorite, although sometimes in the right weather, I get in the mood. There is a track .3 miles from where I live, so I typically go there. Had some bad falls running around the neighborhood, so I now prefer the track.
  • Biking. I use this as a commute in nice weather and occasionally as exercise. This is fun to do, just around the neighborhood.
  • Snow-shoeing. We bought them 3 winters ago. It replaces hiking in the winter.
  • Free classes/events. Occasionally studios will offer free classes, or there might be events like yoga that are free to participate in.
  • Videos. Mostly from youtube.
  • Teaching fitness classes. Better then free because you earn money. You also work at least 20% harder in front of people, so this pays off in more ways then one.

Obviously, we don’t do this all at once, but fitness is a big part of our lives. Becoming fit has really transformed our lives for the better, and I’m so grateful that this is something I got into. Now, if only Mr. Sweetspot didn’t cook like an angel…

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This is why I need to work out in the first place!

How about you? Do you stay fit for free? What do you pay for?

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