Cutting Gym Expenses Without Sacrificing Health Goals

When you’re on a debt payoff journey, there’s usually a need to look at your budget and cut expenses, at least temporarily, so that you can pay off your debt, fund an emergency savings account, and continue to contribute to your retirement savings. 

Some of the expenses that are typically cut from your budget include coffee and streaming subscriptions, takeout / eating out, and clothing. But sometimes, these cuts are not enough. While there’s always the option to increase your income through a side hustle or second job, there’s another expense you can cut from your budget, at least temporarily, to make a big dent in your debt: Gym memberships.

With inflation pushing the prices of gas, groceries, and other day-to-day expenses higher and higher, more consumers are reporting that inflation is having an impact on their health, not just their financial situation. One of the ways that consumers are trying to save money is by cutting back on health-related expenses such as gym memberships, health care services, and eyeglasses, according to the mental health index report from Telus Health, released on Feb. 23, 2023. 

“The current economic environment is leading many employees to feel pressure to prioritize finances over their health and well-being,” said Michael Dingle, chief operating officer at Telus Health. “This is an impossible choice, as one is not mutually exclusive from the other. In fact, financial well-being is a fundamental contributor to overall health.”

While cutting a gym membership in order to save money may seem harsh to some, for many consumers, it may make financial sense.

A 2018 study found:

  • 63 percent of gym memberships are completely unused 
  • 22 percent of consumers with gym memberships stop going after six months
  • 82 percent of gym members attend the gym less than one time per week
  • 31 percent claim they would never have joined the gym in the first place if they knew how little they’d use it

Cutting Gym Expenses Without Sacrificing Health Goals

In the U.S., roughly 39 percent of Americans have gym memberships. On average, it costs $50.03 a month for a gym membership, which includes the initial joining fees, annual renewal fees, taxes, and monthly membership fees, or around $600 per year.

While the average gym membership is around $50 per month, gym membership costs can range from as low as $10 per month to $249 or more per month. The difference in price for a gym membership often depends on a number of factors, including the location, equipment available, or additional features of the gym. 

High-end gyms tend to cost the most per month. Lifetime Fitness is an example of a high-end gym. These gyms tend to offer members more than a standard gym experience, such as unlimited classes (yoga, Zumba, spinning, pilates, etc.), swimming pools, towel service, saunas, and locker rooms.

Mid-range gyms tend to be more affordable than high-end gyms while still offering a good range of high-quality gym equipment, classes, and services. Anytime Fitness, for example, has tanning facilities and wellness programs.

Then there are budget gyms that typically offer monthly memberships for $10-$11, like Planet Fitness, that have limited equipment and rarely offer classes. They tend to be more affordable options because these gyms are designed for beginners, so the equipment is more basic than a mid-range or high-end gym offers.

While staying healthy physically and mentally on a debt payoff journey is important, if you find yourself struggling to make it to the gym regularly or your gym membership payment feels like a stretch, there are ways to cut back on gym costs, at least temporarily, while on your debt payoff journey.

7 Free and Affordable Workouts

1. Walk, Jog, or Run Outside

It’s basic, but it works. If you’re looking for a free workout, you can always consider putting on a pair of shoes and basic sports apparel and going for a walk or run outside in your neighborhood any time of day. If you have a dog, you can take your dog with you for a walk in the morning and/or the evening. If you work from home, you can always go for a walk on your lunch break. Even if you take three 10-minute walks a day instead of one 30-minute walk, getting into the habit of moving your body and getting outside can do wonders for your health.

2. Bike Ride

If you are a fan of cycling classes but need to save money on the gym, consider going for a bike ride. Many Americans tend to own a bike, but only a small minority use them regularly. If you have kids, you can always take them with you for a ride on a nearby bike trail or around your neighborhood. Or, if you’re able to do so safely, consider riding your bike to and from work instead of driving. If you don’t own a bike, you may be able to find an affordable used bike on Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp. Local bike rental shops in your area may also be open to selling used bikes at a fraction of the cost of a new bike.

3. Go for a Hike

If you have local hiking trails in your area, consider going for a hike. Some parks may require a small parking fee or admission fee, but there are often plenty of trails that offer free admission and free parking. You may want to invest in hiking boots if you hike regularly, but regular tennis shoes will also do the trick. 

4. At-Home Weightlifting

If you don’t have the budget or the space to purchase a bunch of weights, don’t worry – you can still work on gaining muscle by using items around your home, including your own body weight. There are instructional at-home workout videos on YouTube and Amazon Prime that show you how you can use items such as soup cans and even your own body weight to tone and strengthen your muscles. 

5. Free Excercise Videos

YouTube and Amazon Prime have dozens of free fitness videos you can use to keep your body moving. From kickboxing, Zumba, and pilates to aerobic strength conditioning and yoga, there is a fitness video available for every body and every skill level. If you find yourself really enjoying a particular teacher or video, you can come back to it over and over. And in some instances, you can purchase the video so that you always have access to it, even if it’s no longer offered for free.

6. Invest in a Home Gym

If you found yourself struggling to make it to the gym because you had to pick up your kids from childcare, you were working on a side hustle, or your work hours didn’t align with the gym being open, consider investing in a home gym. You’ll not only save yourself time without having to commute to and from the gym, you won’t have to wait in line for your favorite equipment to be free, and the gym is always open and available based on your schedule. 

While creating a home gym may sound expensive, and it can be, the average cost of a home gym is $3,141, according to a survey from Strong Home Gym, but a decent home gym can be made for around $1,000. With gym memberships costing an average of $600 per year, it’s safe to say your investment in a home gym would save you money within 2-5 years. 

7. Put on Music and Dance

If you have headphones and a decent music playlist, you can always put on your favorite songs and just dance for 30-45 minutes in your bedroom, living room, or outside. It’s a great workout that may not just improve your physical health but your mental health too. 

Have you cut back on a gym membership to save money? What are your favorite at-home workouts? Free workouts? Or affordable workouts?

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