ScoreCard Research Jen Hayes - The Penny Hoarder

A year ago, I was walking past a yoga studio when I saw a flyer in the window advertising one week of unlimited free yoga classes.

I had never tried yoga before, so I was a little hesitant, but I certainly wasn’t going to give up the opportunity to try something free!

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the classes, and I wanted to continue taking more after my free trial ended.

But when I saw the studio’s prices, my enthusiasm waned. The classes were $20 each and the monthly packages started at over $100.

I couldn’t afford that, so I searched for free ways to do yoga. Over the past year, I have found several ways to get free yoga classes, and I attend free classes multiple times per week.

Where to Find Free Yoga Classes

Doing yoga at home is convenient, but there are numerous benefits to attending an actual class. With a trained instructor present, you can receive specific feedback to ensure that you are using the correct form -- which will prevent injuries and allow you to make the most of your yoga practice.

Also, going to a class can be more fun and it’s a great way to meet new people.

Here are six places to find free yoga classes.

1. Churches

Many churches have started offering holy yoga courses. Holy yoga incorporates elements of Christianity into the practice of yoga, emphasizing faith, prayer and building a strong sense of community.

You don’t need to be a member of the church (or even be a religious person) to participate -- holy yoga classes are open to the public. I go to holy yoga classes twice per week and love them!

Classes are typically “pay what you can” by donation, and you’re not obligated to donate.

2. Colleges

Some college health and wellness centers offer free yoga classes for students, staff and/or alumni.

Another potential way to get free yoga classes through a university is by participating in research.

The University of Minnesota recently offered 12 weeks of free yoga classes (at a few different locations in Minneapolis) to participants in a study related to how yoga affects stress levels. I didn’t qualify for this particular study, but it’s possible that other similar studies may be available in the future.

Typically, you can find research studies seeking participants on a college's website. I would recommend looking at the websites for the psychology department or the medical school.

3. Health and Fitness Stores

Many fitness stores, such as Lululemon and PrAna, offer occasional free classes.

Of course, they hope you’ll stick around and buy some yoga pants after you’re done with class, but there’s no obligation to buy anything. I recently attended a class at a PrAna store, and the salespeople were friendly and not at all pushy.

4. Nonprofit-Hosted Events

Some nonprofit groups offer free yoga classes as a way to spread awareness of and generate interest in their causes. These classes typically have suggested donation amounts, but they aren’t going to turn you away if you don’t donate.

If you go to one of these classes, you get to enjoy a free workout and learn about a cause that you might become passionate about.

In the Twin Cities, Minnesota, area, I’ve attended classes given by Gorilla Yogis (proceeds of the donations go to Right to Know) and Story Time (donations go to various educational projects in Malawi, Africa).

5. Facebook Events

Most events these days are advertised on Facebook. Try searching for free yoga classes in your area.

You might find a nonprofit group offering a free event to raise awareness for their cause, an outdoor yoga event or a first-class-free deal at a yoga studio looking to attract more business.

Through Facebook, I found a private yoga instructor (Yoga Prairie) who offers free classes at a variety of locations from time to time.

I’ve attended her events at gardens, arboretums and fitness clothing stores. There are quite a few free yoga events out there -- you just need to take the time to look for them!

6. Your Workplace

You don’t necessarily have to work for a yoga studio to get free (or discounted) yoga classes -- you might be able to get free yoga classes if you work for a gym or fitness company.

I work at the corporate headquarters of a fitness company, and my husband and I both receive free gym memberships, which include group fitness classes.

Other companies outside of the fitness industry have also started offering free yoga classes as a perk for employees. Employees receive a free benefit, and the company gets healthier, less stressed employees. It’s a win-win.

If your company doesn’t currently offer this perk, you might want to suggest it to your HR team.  Free yoga classes could be a popular addition to a wellness program.

While yoga studios are typically quite expensive, there are many free alternatives. I’ve been able to find ways to attend free yoga classes several days per week. You just need to know where to look!

Jen Hayes is a frugal lifestyle blogger and freelance writer. She is passionate about helping fellow millennials to lead healthier lives -- financially, physically and mentally. Jen is currently on a journey toward shedding 50 pounds and $117,000 of student loan debt by 2018.

The second our wedding was over, my husband and I started saving for a down payment on our first home. We were excited about the prospect of being homeowners and couldn’t wait to move out of my parents’ basement.

However, after running the numbers, we realized buying a home at this point in our lives would be a terrible idea because of our massive student loan debt.

When we got married shortly after I finished graduate school and he finished his bachelor’s degree, we knew we both had high student loan debt. But neither of us had done a good job of tracking exactly how much debt we had accumulated.

When we realized we owed a combined total of $117,000, we felt overwhelmed and anxious about our future.

We put our plans to buy a house on the backburner, and made the decision to pay off all our debt in just three years.

Why We Decided to Pay Off Our Debt Sooner Rather Than Later

We considered multiple options.

We thought about lowering our monthly payments by extending them over 20 years. But we knew that with that option, we’d end up paying more than double what we owed. Compound interest is a nightmare!

We also thought about staying on a 10-year payoff plan. But even then, we would pay more than $30,000 in interest. Our monthly payments would remain as high as a mortgage at $1,400 per month.

With either option, we wouldn’t be able to afford savings, a retirement account or an emergency fund. If an unexpected issue came up, we would likely put it on a credit card and become trapped in an endless cycle of debt.

We needed to find a better way. So, inspired by Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball approach, we committed to paying off our loans in just three years.  

This method isn’t easy – it requires hard work and sacrifice. But it will be well worth it.

Here are the steps we’re taking to finally get out of debt.

We Made a Debt Repayment Plan

When my grace period ended after graduation and I started making my enormous monthly payments, I was miserable.

I knew I would have debt, but I had naively believed a master’s degree would be my golden ticket to a high-paying career.

I was wrong. My first job after grad school paid so little that 50% of my income went toward my student loan payments.

I spent a lot of time wallowing in regret, wishing I had made smarter financial choices. But I soon realized obsessing over my debt wasn’t productive.

What I needed to do was take action.

Combined, my husband and I pay $1,200 per month on our loans. To boost our debt payoff, we try to pay an additional $1,500 each on our own loans every month.

While we have a joint savings account, we make payments on our own debt from our personal accounts.

This isn’t always possible, but we still throw as much extra as we can toward our loans.  We’re able to do this because we side hustle and scrimp like crazy.

We Found Ways to Make More Money

I work in HR and my husband is a graphic designer. Neither of us works in particularly high-paying fields.

But after gaining a year of experience at a low-paying job, I was able to land a job with a $10,000 pay increase and much better benefits. Recently, I received my first raise.

I also started a blog and have been working on monetizing it.

My husband side hustles as well -- he does freelance graphic/web design projects and works part-time as an assistant wedding photographer.

Together, our combined annual gross income is about $90,000. We have a small emergency fund of $1,000 and no other debt --- we’ve put saving for retirement and other funds on hold until we’ve finished paying off our student loans.

We Practice Extreme Frugality

Increasing our income wouldn’t make a difference if we didn’t manage our money well.

We live an extremely frugal lifestyle and are currently on a three-year spending ban, which means we don’t spend money on any non-essential items.

I don’t spend any money on dinners out or other fun activities with friends. The hubby and I still get together with friends often, but we have found free things to do for fun.  

We also don’t have car payments because we both drive old cars we’ve already paid off, and we plan to keep driving these cars as long as possible.

We Live With My Parents

The biggest way we save money is by living with my parents and only paying them $150 in rent each month. I realize many people don’t have this option, and I am extremely grateful to my parents for allowing us to live with them.

That being said, living with parents at the age of 27 isn’t easy, especially with five of us (my brother also lives here) in a small, crowded house -- but it’s worth it.

The easy choice would be to switch to a 25-year repayment plan on our student loans and buy our own home. It would be much more enjoyable than our current living situation… but it wouldn’t be smart.

We’re currently one year into our debt payoff journey and we have paid off about $30,000 so far. The sacrifices we’re making now will be well worth it when we finally attain financial freedom.

Your Turn: What are some ways you’ve tried to pay off debt quickly?

Jen Hayes is an HR professional and frugal lifestyle blogger. Jenn and her husband are paying off $117,000 of student loan debt in just three years. She writes about healthy eating on a budget, affordable wedding tips, destroying debt and living frugally on her blog, Frugal Millennial.