How to Save Money on a Gym Membership

We know that making lots of money means nothing when you don't have good health. In our own lives, while we strive for continuous improvements on all of these fronts, we prioritize food and fitness over finances and frugality.

Because money without good health is nothing.


Name your price

A recent lunch conversation at work turned to the topic of everyone's favorite workouts. The biggest winners were ClassPass, SoulCycle and Equinox among my coworkers. ClassPass starts at $40/mo for 3 classes and runs up to $115/mo for a 10 class plan. SoulCycle costs $32/class and you can get a 10 class pass for $300. Equinox averages monthly membership fees of ~$200 along with a one-time initiation fee.

A couple hundred dollars each month doesn't sound like a lot for professionals with $100k+ salaries. But if you took that money and invested it each month in a portfolio earning 7% for 5 years, you're looking at $15,000 in your pocket. At $15,000, we're looking at our full year's worth of basic living expenses without housing and travel: food, utilities, transport, entertainment, you name it. 

We're all about investing in your fitness and long-term health. What I don't feel good about is willingly giving money away to these expensive establishments just to be part of The Cool Club. There are plenty of frugal ways to get great amounts of exercise and I'll share some ideas below. 


Motivation

Merely reading about these free/cheap forms of exercise is not enough to start making regular exercise a habit. My biggest wall when it came to exercise was motivation. I just didn't have that little voice in my mind that made me guilty about not working out. Mr. FH tried to help me in so many ways, but I just wouldn't budge. 

You know what finally did the trick for me? Finding forms of exercise that I actually loved. Yoga, walking, hiking and cycling are my go-to. Your list will probably be different than mine, but keep pushing yourself to find what you truly enjoy doing. If you're already frugal in other aspects of your life, I know you'll find joy in getting the most value for the money and time spent towards fitness.

If your true love is ClassPass, SoulCycle, your fancy gym, or something similar, I'm not here to convince you otherwise. All I ask for is to take a moment to run the math. We built this calculator to help you compute the long-term impact of recurring expenses like your monthly classes/gym fees. This is what you're leaving on the table over a 10-year period. If that trade-off sounds okay to you, by all means, go for it!

But if not, here are some frugal fitness hacks that we're into. Because we would rather put every single dollar of our disposable income into buying our financial independence, rather than on classes.


Frugal Hackers' Fitness Hacks

  1. Yoga at home

    • Free YouTube videos online - there's no shortage out there! My favorite YouTube workout is this class. We do this stretching yoga class at home in front of the TV after every long bike ride.
    • A whole treasure chest of videos here: https://www.doyogawithme.com/
  2. Walking

    • Go for short, brisk 20-min walks during the day
    • Climb up some hills for extra challenge (one of the perks of living in SF, we're never more than 4 blocks away from a hilly street)
    • Walk to your grocery store and carry your groceries back by hand. No time or money wasted on driving, parking, gas etc. You're also less likely to overbuy because you know you have to walk back with all that weight! Hauling your groceries home on foot is fantastic exercise.
  3. Hiking

    • Long hikes in the woods on weekends, great fresh air, and amazing views!
    • Urban hiking inside your city. Enjoy your local parks, botanical gardens, or take a walk by the waterfront if you have one.
  4. Biking

    • Biking to work and back is one of our biggest frugal hacks, Mr. FH has a whole post on it.
    • Cycling is not only amazing exercise, it's also an awesome way to explore your city on weekends. Our usual weekend rides consist of riding across the Golden Gate Bridge and pedaling through the wonderful cities of Marin County aka paradise
  5. Running outside

    • I'll admit that running isn't my thing, but Mr. FH is a marathoner! I've signed up for Relay Races, 10Ks, 5Ks and obstacle races like Tough Mudder in the past to keep me motivated to train.
    • Running shoes are a one-time expense and entrance registrations to these events don't add up to much. And you get a cool free t-shirt that makes you look like a total badass!
  6. Exercising at home for free

If you hate yoga, or if you were thinking none of the above applied to you because your city is too hot or too cold or doesn't have X, this final list is for you. No more excuses :)

  • Tone your muscles with dumbbells / barbells / kettle bells
  • Warm up quickly with pushups / situps / jumping jacks / burpees / on-the-spot jogging
  • Exercise ball for core workouts
  • 7-minute workouts
  • Pull-up bar that attaches to your door frame
  • Household chores (cleaning the kitchen and bathroom can be *hard* work, saves money on a maid and gives you free exercise)
  • Run around and play with kids/dogs

 

If all of this wasn't enough to convince you, here's a short collection of my favorite photos from hikes we've done in the past. Can your fancy $200/month gym beat these views? ;)