Get Physically Fit While Staying Financially Fit

by Tracy · 10 comments


Many of us will make the resolution to become more physically fit in the coming new year. Exercising and eating well are great investments in our future health and will help save money on health care. The good news is that we don’t have to spend a fortune to get in shape. Check out what you can do this year to stay physically and financially fit.

Joining a Gym

While joining a gym is not necessary for getting fit, it can be a good choice if we want to work out with a variety of equipment and weights or if we need someplace warm and dry to work out. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a gym:

  • Do any churches or community organizations offer gym space for free or very low cost? While these won’t have all of the amenities of a full priced gym, you might be surprised at how much they do offer. Many will also offer the opportunity to participate in team sports, which can be a fun way to socialize and exercise at the same time.
  • How easy will it be to cancel your membership? There are horror stories all over the net about people who are unable to get out of gym memberships. If possible, avoid allowing the gym to auto-debit your account. If that is unavoidable, consider putting your auto-pay on a credit card as this will offer you more consumer protections and is less likely to put you in a horrible bind if your information is stolen or abused.
  • Take advantage of free trial periods. This will give you a good idea of the culture of the gym and let you get a feel for how well you will fit in. You’ll be more likely to stick with your program if you feel comfortable at your gym.

Exercise at Home

  • Don’t rush out to buy expensive exercise equipment! Craigslist and other classified ads are usually full of gently used stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals and other equipment.
  • Borrow workout dvds from the library, Netflix or from a friend before buying. No need to spend money on workouts that you just don’t click with.
  • Look for activities that you can do with your spouse and children or friends. Not only will this be more fun, but it can give you the accountability you need to stick with your program.

Buying Gear

  • When buying workout clothing, there is no need to buy the most expensive, but be wary of going with the cheapest options. You want to get fabric that breathes, that is free of seams that can irritate you and is durable.
  • Shoes are another area where it pays to shop around. There is no one brand that works for everyone, get the shoes that fit your feet the best and are designed for the activities that you will be doing. That said, you can often get last year’s styles/colors for half off.
  • For other gear, such as racquets and bats, consider buying used. There are even resale shops such as Play It Again Sports that make shopping for used equipment just as convenient as buying new.

Eating Well

  • Stay away from diets that offer pre-portioned, processed foods. You are paying far too much for far too little food and most people find they quickly put the weight back on when they go off the plan.
  • Fresh produce is expensive! Despite what some would have you believe, there is no reason why you need to have fresh blueberries and asparagus in your diet in January. Fill your diet with fresh produce that is in season to get the most bang for your grocery dollar. Plain frozen vegetables and fruit with no sauce or added salt or sugar is a good way to fill in the gaps without emptying your wallet.
  • Watch portion sizes, especially for meat and fish. Staying close to the recommended portion sizes is not only optimal for your health and weight, it also keeps the grocery tab reasonable.
  • Borrow diet and cookbooks from the library before buying. Just like with the workout dvds, you don’t want to invest in a cookbook before you know if it is something you will use often.

Getting physically fit is the best gift that you can give to yourself and your family. While you might need to spend a little upfront and your grocery bills might increase, neglecting your health to avoid paying for these things is truly penny wise and pound foolish.

How do you keep yourself active and healthy without going over your budget?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Briana @ GBR December 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Thankfully I’m about to get a free gym membership at my job, which is exciting. I will also be paying much more attention to what I’m eating, and getting coupons to cut down on the cost of food.

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KM December 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Running outside is free. So is doing push-ups and lifting weights (after you purchase the weights themselves, which are rather inexpensive) and you can change the way you lift them to target the necessary muscles. Hiking only costs the gas to get to the mountains. But I swim year-round, so I pay for a gym membership and only use the pool because I find treadmills boring – I prefer changing scenery.

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WashingtonSavingsBank December 21, 2010 at 10:50 am

Great advice. There is no need to spend a lot of money on an expensive gym membership or specific types of fruit and produce if you shop around. Do your research and take some time to figure out what exactly it is that you want. You’ll likely be able to find something that meets your needs and keeps you happy without requiring you to spend a lot of money.

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Anna March 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Weights can be expensive, yes, but if you’re only looking for hand-weights there’s a very cheap alternative: Collect several containers with handles (i.e. milk or juice jugs, etc.), and fill them with water to add weight. You can fill it to various intervals, weigh it, and use permanent marker to create lines for more precise pound measurements. Voila. Instant weights, at ~$0.02 each (including labor).

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Janet December 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I’m an avid at-home workout person. It’s much more realistic to get up before work and walk to my living room than drive to the gym, and it’s definitely cheaper. I did buy a couple of workout videos, and I change it up with OnDemand Exercise TV.

I have friends with gym memberships who invite me from time to time. Works for me since I’m not a gym rat. I’d rather by outdoors if it’s nice or in my own home if it’s early in the a.m. and I’m working out.

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M.B. December 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

We live in a climate with long, cold, snowy winters and don’t care walk on icy sidewalks so we feel our elliptical was a good investment. It was not the cheapest and not the most expensive one, but it has stood up well to being used about two hours a day whenever we can’t go outdoors.

We, too, would rather be outdoors and bike, hike, and do some tent camping when the weather is nice.

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Lucas January 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I’d give one additional piece of advice. Check out your company’s wellness plan to see if they offer any breaks on a gym membership. Heck, I’m a high school teacher, and my school offered a deal where my wife and I were able to get a lifetime gym membership at a great gym (babysitting included at no extra cost) for just $30 a month. Some of the Fortune 500 companies in our part of the Midwest offer similar great deals.

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CreditShout January 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Most gyms (especially locally owned ones, not like Planet Fitness) will give you a huge discount, even on personal training, if you can get a couple friends to go with you. This is all great advice though, and timed perfectly for everyone’s new year’s resolutions.

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Jennifer May 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Great article. Totally agree with what you’re saying. I am just at the beginning of my “epic” journey to go from couch potato to uber-fit, and I don’t have an extra nickel in the budget to spare. So I bought decent shoes, some fairly inexpensive workout clothes, and I am running. Using a free podcast from iTunes to teach me how to run properly. It’s definitely possible to get fit for next to nothing.

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Witty Artist May 25, 2011 at 12:32 am

Nice article. Having the workout done at home or jogging in a park is free and has the same effects. I can also have some exercise done together with my friends, thus it’s also even funnier.
Thanks for the tip regarding the books borrowed from the library. I saw some cooking books in the bookstore, but a little expensive and didn’t figure out it they were worth it.

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