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Frugal Advice - Exercise

January 25th, 2011 at 09:56 am

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.


One topic that often comes up is exercise.

Since having kids and having a desk job, I don't have the most lean and mean body that I used to in my youth (when I Was far more active and had youth on my side).

That said, I spend a lot of time and energy to keep fit. If nothing else, exercise helps me to deal with stress, and to easily maintain my weight. To stay healthy, too. I suppose those would be the three primary reasons that I exercise.

In everyday conversation it often comes up how keeping fit costs too much money.

I think back to the one and only time I lost weight. I have always been very thin and had a very fast metabolism. Having kids and aging had put on a few pounds and changed the playing field a bit, but after my second was born my hormones went whacked for a time and I gained a large amount of weight in a very short time period.

I couldn't afford to spend money to lose weight (Living in California, on maternity leave. Nothing to spare).

However, once my hormones settled down, losing the weight was a priority. I had worked hard to maintain my weight over the years. There is a lot of obesity in my family and so maintaining had been very important to me. I knew it would be easier to lose the random 10 pounds I had rapidly gained before the problem worsened.

& so I walked. I woke up early every morning and went on a brisk walk. I didn't have any exercise equipment but some weights, videos and a step I bought in college. I used those too. For the first time in my life I watched what I ate. It might have taken 6 months, but I worked off the 10 pounds I had gained in the month or so that my hormones went whacked. Walking was clearly the key though. Lots of power walking.

Thankfully I knew that it didn't cost any money to lose weight. Since I ate less, I probably saved money, honestly.


All the above said, I have always been very active and I thrive on variety. Thus, I fare better in the long run with more exercise options. Thankfully, there are many options out there.

*Walking - I am not a fan of walking in unsafe areas alone, or in the cold. That said, during the longer summer days, the kids and I walk to the park every evening. For the dark and the cold I have the gym (treadmill). More on that later. For work (not a safe area to walk) the mall is just a five minute drive. A warm place safe to walk when needed. FREE.

I often see our neighbors driving 2-3 blocks to the pool, the baseball diamond, the school, and even to the park. How ridiculous! We rarely drive where can walk to. (There isn't much else to walk to, but where we can easily walk to, we walk).

*Exercise Videos - if you buy one new video a year (or better yet, one used video a year) you can amass a large collection over time. I have invested in a mat, a step, and small hand weights, over the decades. I suppose it helps to focus on one thing at a time. You don't need to go out and buy a full gym, to be fit. Buy used and on sale to stretch your dollar.

*Balls - balls are pretty cheap to be had. Basketball, Soccer balls, footballs. When my son signed up for soccer, we bought a soccer ball and practiced with him. (Now there is a work out!). When we got a new park we bought a basketball. For Christmas this year we asked for tennis rackets - since we have tennis courts. The walk to the tennis courts is also great exercise. These are all great exercise options that have a very small up front investment.

*Swim - in the summer I swim at our pool at least 3 times a week, if not more. Since I am with the kids (keeping an eye on them) I generally do not swim laps. But I will have the kids throw their dive toys way out and chase after them, or race them at times. Plenty of exercise to be had in a pool, if you have free or cheap access to one. Ours is "free."

*Discount Gym - Not everyone needs a gym membership - that is for sure. Personally, I do well with treadmills and ellipticals. (I don't run due to knee problems, but the treadmill - speed walk up a hill - and elliptical can be a good replacement for a nice run). I don't really want to spend the outflow or make the space for the equipment in my house - particularly not with my wild kids who will be intent on breaking it. So, joining a discount gym had been a good option for me. There is no pool, there is no sauna, and there is not even a locker room, nor showers. What there is, is good cardio equipment and childcare.

Over the years as our income increased, I dedicated $15/month to the discount gym. I can quit at any time (no contracts).

When I Was first out of college, 24 hour fitness (with all the frills and open 24 hours) only cost $20/month.

I presume there are many gym options out there.

*Invest in a piece of exercise equipment.

For the long run, when my kids are more mature and calm (maybe when they move out) I foresee buying a nice elliptical machine. Probably used, to save significantly. The thing about these kind of purchases is you can shop carefully, buy once, and it should last for a long time.

The biggest investment I have made in the last decade is $200 for a real bike. I was looking at some REALLY nice bikes in the $400 range. I decided as I jumped back in after a long hiatus that I may need a bike I could ride around the neighborhood without getting mugged. I ended up finding something comparable at Wal Mart for $200. It wasn't totally comparable, don't get me wrong. But it was a very nice bike for how little I paid. Some none-name brand bike that no one would give a second look, but was very powerful and comfortable.

I suppose I look at biking as secondary to walking. Just get up on it and go. There isn't a lot more to it.

*Discount Classes - Colleges and cities offer a myriad of exercise classes at deep discounts. In college I took advantage of the school gym and the exercise classes (Essentially free on top of my regular full-time course load).

I currently have friends who pay $10-$15 a pop for over crowded zumba classes. My secret is an aerobics/yoga/strength training course through the city. IT is only $2.50 per class, but the class is amazing. I suppose the class speaks to my very being since it is all about exercise and strength training without using any exercise equipment but our own bodies. I always leave this class VERY high on endorphins. At least once a week for my sanity.

After going to this class for years, I could probably do all the workouts in my own living room, for free. But I find I do better with the actual class. (Then I can turn off my brain since I don't have to remember all the routines).


All told, I may spend $30/month on exercise classes and a gym membership. I might invest $25 per year in GOOD shoes (to avoid injuries). I tend to buy a $50 pair of shoes every other year. I maybe invest $30 per year, on average, on some sort of new exercise equipment.

Over the years I have built up enough exercise options. Any given day I can:

Go to the gym
Go to an exercise class
Go play tennis
Take a walk (around lake, to track, to park, at the mall, go for a hike, anywhere)
Go on a bike ride
Go for a swim (summer)
Kick around a soccer ball
Play a game of basketball
Pop in an exercise video (Step aerobics, yoga, aerobics, strength training)
Turn on the radio and just dance!

& the people around me tell me that it is far too expensive to get in shape, as they read off the cost of personal trainers, pricey exercise classes, and the more high end gyms that abound in the region.

Aw, thankfully I know better.

5 Responses to “Frugal Advice - Exercise”

  1. WISEWOMAN Says:

    I agree. Walking can do amazing things for you mentally and physically. Since Christmas day, I have walked 5 miles ALMOST every morning before going to work. (I am fortunate enough to have a walking path near my home and hit it at 5am) The energy I get from walking sustains me all day. I feel great. On the few days I didn't walk I felt drained.

    It also helps with the food I consume. I eat healthy but have a sweet tooth. The nutritious food I consume tastes that much better.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Single Guy Says:

    Check yard sales for weights & videos. Its amazing how many people virtually give away the stuff. I have paid $10 total for dumbell sets @ 5, 10, 15 & 20 lbs, along with an 8 lb medicine ball, and a large balance ball. Videos usually can be found for $1 or $2 each. At that price you can get them all, keep what you like and resell the rest. I just did an hour long core training video at lunch today.

    The elliptical at my gym is my favorite machine. I know lots of people have difficulty with it, but if you stick with it, it can really work.

    But I think the best reason to exercise is to save money on fewer doctor's visits (2 visits in 5 years), less medicine, and I can go to yard sales and pick up great clothes that other people have grown out of (ie: got too fat for). Also by doing it at lunch time, it gives me an excuse not to go out to lunch with other people and pay $10+ for unhealthy food. Exercising for the win!

  3. MonkeyMama Says:

    Great points.

    I suppose the long term health benefits are the best reason to be fit, but I think most people need more short term motivation (feeling good would be mine).

    Reminds me, I looked very hard for a used bike, but it wasn't an easy task. In fact, I gave up. That said, most exercise equipment is pretty easy to find used. I guess if you are not very particular, especially. I wouldn't be as particular about a video or a treadmill as I would about a bike.

  4. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    Walking is great exercise! One of the times I lost 40lbs in a few months, all I did was cut out soda and walk two-4 miles most days. Unfortunately, I didn't stick with it. Frown

  5. Savings Queen Says:

    Loved your ideas about excercise, but mostly I really like your observation that using a little creativity there is almost always a cheaper alternative. Amen sister!!

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