Get Out of the Gym: Ways to Save Money on Exercise Anyone Can Do

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You can save money on exercise in many ways if you put your mind to it. Here are some tips to help you avoid the gym but still get a quality workout done.

Grayson wrote a few months ago about how he was ditching his gym membership this year. I used to be right there with him. Mrs. Frugal Rules and I had memberships to multiple health clubs, from 24 Hour Fitness to Gold’s Gym. Tell me if you can relate…we’d sign up, go gung ho for maybe 2.3 weeks and then it would take an act of Congress to get us back to the gym.

Suffice it to say, we were doing nothing to save money on exercise. In fact, we were paying the gyms we were members of just for kicks and giggles and getting nothing out of it – other than an auto deduction from our bank account each month. Sadly, we were not alone. Check out some of these stats from Statistic Brain:

  • $58 is the average cost of a monthly gym membership
  • $39 of that is money wasted because of under use
  • 67 percent is the amount of people who have memberships and never use them
  • $21.8 billion is how much the health club industry makes each year

If you think like me, those are crazy numbers; they’re mind boggling really. At nearly $40 per month waste my mind is full of better ways to use that money each year – which is really the point behind the Frugal Hack Fridays posts. This post really isn’t about whether or not you should have a gym membership as we all derive different value from things, rather how to save money on working out when you don’t want to have a gym membership.

Because, let’s face it, exercise and working out is very much applicable to our financial lives – directly and indirectly. So, if you’re looking for some ways to save money on working out at home hopefully these simple tips we use in the Frugal Rules home will help you.

5 Ways to Save Money on Exercise


Use Your Computer. You may not realize it, but likely the best way to save money on working out is something you’re staring at right now. The Internet is a treasure trove of tools to help you work out from home and many of these options are free. While there are a good number of membership sites available, all you have to do is go to YouTube and type in “workout videos” and you have countless to choose from.

Buy your own weights. Not having access to weights is something I had missed about not having a gym membership. But, you can very much have your own weights, from simple free weights to entire systems. Mrs. Frugal Rules and I went the free weight route by purchasing the CAP Neoprene Barbells from Amazon. We got several pair and spent less than $30 I believe. You can get similar weights at Target for a similar price and can work out whenever you like.

Get outside. One thing I hate about winter in Nebraska is that it’s usually butt cold. The last thing I want to do when it’s -5 is go out for a walk so this is reserved for 8-9 months of the year. Just go out for a walk or run or work in your garden. It really doesn’t matter, just get moving and it’s likely all free.

You can save money on exercise in many ways if you put your mind to it. Here are some tips to help you avoid the gym but still get a quality workout done.

Buy Workout Equipment. Ok, I know, this can be as much (if not more) of a trap as the gym membership but it comes with a catch. I didn’t say buy it at the store, rather scour Craigslist, the want ads or even Freecycle. It might take a little work, but it can be a great way to save some serious money on exercise equipment. Just make sure it works right before buying it. 🙂

Ride a bike for your errands. Of course, this one should be done within reason but biking is a great way to get in shape and get outside. You may have to buy a bike upfront, but I’ll guarantee you it’ll be cheaper in the long run versus the cost of an unused gym membership.

At the end of the day, the important thing is that you’re working out, whether you do that from home or are a member of a health club. However, just make sure you’re not making your budget work out too much as well. 😉


How do you save money on exercise? What’s one of your favorite ways to work out at home? How much have you wasted in gym memberships?



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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    Great advice! I haven’t had a gym membership in over 9 years, but I work out almost every day. We have a weight bench and weights that I use regularly, we walk or bike around town, I do exercise videos I find online, and best of all, I trade for free yoga classes at my local studio.

    I take the trash out on Mondays for a free class (5 minutes of work for 90 minutes of free yoga!) and then I work at the front desk for 30 minutes on Wednesdays for another free class. It’s the best gig ever–if people are interested in doing yoga, I highly recommend they ask their local studio if they can trade for classes!

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s a great idea Mrs. FW! We’ve done similar things where we exchange services for something we want but don’t want to spend the money on.

  • Mrs. 1500 says:

    The thrift stores and garage sales are overflowing with barely used exercise equipment. Most of what I own is from there.

    That P90X commercial looked really intriguing, so I checked Craigslist to see if there were any copies for sale that way. Yes. Lots. Prices range dramatically from people who are trying to get their money back, to people who just want it off the shelves at home.

    If you have kids, playing with them is a double reward. They will wear you out, and they get to spend some time with you.

    Shoveling your driveway rather than snowblowing it is a great bit of exercise. I always go out dressed for the cold and finish up with my jacket open, no hat, sweating profusely.

    Ditto leaf raking vs. leaf blowing.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Great point on the thrift stores/garage sales. I don’t know what P90X costs, but I can only imagine that you’d get it at a greatly reduced price with the CL route.

      Yep, I view yard work/playing with the kids the same way – free exercise and you get quality time with the family.

  • Hannah says:

    I do a kettlebell workout, but I do it outside when its not freezing cold (allows me to do all the exercises instead of just a few).

    Yesterday my neighbor’s son and his girlfriend were definitely laughing at me, but I thought “someday you will know what it’s like to fight the fat, and then you’ll be the one who looks like a fool while exercising.”

    • John Schmoll says:

      My wife will do some workouts outside when it’s not butt cold and she has similar experiences. I say let them laugh…you’re doing yourself good.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’ve always been a runner, but I’ve recently started supplementing with some free youtube workouts. They’re great.

  • Derek @ Tools 4 Retirement says:

    I find I get the best bang for my time (and for free) to simply head out the door for a run. Also hiking or trail running is a great way to get exercise in nature. For strength training, a $40 set of resistance bands has made for a great home gym for many years, and takes up zero space in our apartment.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    This is one area I hacked amazingly well. Like Mrs. FW, I’m on an exchange team at my yoga studio so I trade 2 hours of my life to clean up the floor after class and during that 2 hours I actually take class, and get unlimited yoga at a studio voted best in it’s area in LA. I also do video/blog work at another gym in exchange for free membership. And it’s a really expensive boutique gym. And of course I live where the weather is nice year round so that is a big help when I want to run outside or play beach volleyball. I think the point is, if you are determined to get exercise, you will find a way, even if you have no money.

    • John Schmoll says:

      You’re right Tonya…you do have the benefit of living in LA, but like you said, it can be done anywhere – you just have to want it and look for it.

  • Michelle says:

    We go on a hike a few times a week and it saves money and is fun. I’ve never been the type of person to work out in a gym. I just get so bored!

  • Kalie says:

    My husband likes to bike for errands, work, or visiting people, but the weather is only nice enough about half the year. He also splits firewood for exercise and to save on wood costs.
    I have found really good videos at the library and on Amazon Prime. We also have a huge benefit of a local (mega)church that offers men’s basketball 2 mornings a week, and women’s fitness classes (harder than anything I took at the gym when I was a member) with childcare for $2 per hour class. It’s amazing! I’ve heard of other churches offering classes so it may be a good option for people to look into.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s an excellent point Kalie! That’s an awesome value to be able to take advantage of.

  • Kayla @ Femme Frugality says:

    I had a gym membership for several years, but now I’ve cancelled due to not going. I did go religiously for the first 1.5 years, but then this January I fell of the wagon and couldn’t seem to get back into the groove of going. Now I just go for walks with friends or with my dog instead.

  • Jason B says:

    I can’t lie, my gym membership is only $65 per year. When I don’t go to the gym I exercise at one of the local parks.

  • Gretchen says:

    Awesome advice! I just found a jogging stroller on Craigslist for $35 and it was worth every penny! Plus, it was less than even a month’s gym membership! It definitely gets harder during the winter, but there are so many workout programs for free on YouTube we really never want for much of anything!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks Gretchen! I feel the same way. I love getting outside to exercise, but at least in the winter you can take advantage of the different free videos on YouTube.

  • Jrperez says:

    Also your body is a gym . You can do so many different exercises with just your body weight and with little space .

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