This Simple Workout is Helping One Woman Save $860 a Year

cheapest gym membership

I’ve been a fitness junkie for a while now.

But leaving my parents’ house (hello, paid-for membership!) and the cocoon of college (hello, free gym!) made me re-evaluate my fitness choices.

My local big-box gym membership, for instance, cost me $35 a month. Plus, the gas money to get there and back six days a week in rush-hour traffic was about $15 a month.

Going to the same gym every day, as many know, can get pretty boring. My gym offered a simple list of fitness classes I used to supplement the daily grind.

But then even those became a daily grind, and taking other fitness classes around town (up to $30 each) wasn’t doing me any good, either.

All said and done, I was spending about $95 a month on fitness alone! So what’s a person on a budget to do?

The solution, as it turned out, was simple — and it’s saving me almost $1,000 a year.

I became a runner.

I Quit the Gym

After six months of overpaying, enough was enough.

I went down to the gym, discontinued my membership (they make you do it in person to try to dissuade you) and rejoiced — for about a second.

Then I was lost.

How do you stay in shape without the looming presence of the gym and all its fancy fitness promises?

I invested the money I saved the first month sans membership into some new running shoes.

I purchased a pair of Sauconys on Amazon for $70, but also found deals everywhere from eBay to Zappos for as low as $35.

And then I just got out there.

My first run was around my neighborhood. It cost me $0 and I was out of breath in no time, much more so than running on a treadmill or elliptical, which studies show is a less effective workout.

I Used Online Tools

As it turns out, there are a bunch of free apps that help runners go from breathless to full-blown expert at lightning speed.

At first, I relied on the Couch to 5K and Apple Health apps, but I’ve also heard great things about the Nike training app.

Other fit-filled apps and websites help with everything from local route planning (WalkRunJog, RunningRoutePlanner or even good ol’ Google Maps) to calorie and activity counting (MyFitnessPal is my go-to).

These apps helped me not only stick to my goal outside the gym, but also vary my route and keep from getting bored while taking familiar runs.

There’s something new to see every day!

I Joined a Group

I joined a local running group.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A group of runners of all levels gets together and goes on weekly runs, adaptable in length and speed.

Groups like these exist in almost every U.S. city. Find one by inquiring at your local running store, or search listings on sites like Meetup.

The beauty of these groups is they’re pretty much always free and incredibly social. Some even give out periodic free T-shirts or other swag to dedicated members.

A running group is also a surefire way to keep motivated. That’s a big deal, especially for those who like the gym’s community setting. Talk about a win-win!

I Found Cheap Add-ons

For many, fitness is about more than cardiovascular health alone.  

But a balanced workout routine can still be cheaper than shelling out countless dollars on fancy equipment or even fancier classes.

Simple online searches led me to free and effective warm-ups and cool-downs from sites like and Furthermore from Equinox — even Youtube.

In addition, I recently purchased a set of free weights ($30 on Amazon) to beef up my exercises-you-can-do-at-home game.

Don’t have the space?

Think about training outdoors (if weather allows), with a friend at their pad, or even by pushing your furniture up against the walls once a week to really let loose — and burn some extra calories in the process!

I Changed My Lifestyle

Quitting the gym and becoming a runner has changed my wallet — and my life.

Running is both the cheapest and most convenient form of exercise. It’s also a way to explore your neighborhood, your limits and your inner mental space.

These workouts are 100% customizable in ways I never would’ve dreamed about. They’re also community-oriented in ways I longed for in my gym days.

And most importantly, by the time the one-year anniversary of quitting my gym rolls around, I’ll have saved $320 on an annual membership, over $30 a month on outside classes and $15 a month on my gas bills.

That’s a total savings of $860 a year, or, in other words, a whole lotta celebratory carb-loading.

Your Turn: Will you quit the gym and try running?

Disclosure: What would Abe do? Probably pat us on the back for placing affiliate links in this post. Thanks for helping us fill The Penny Hoarder’s beer fridge!

Nicole Horowitz is a writer and full-time Los Angelino. As her love for food grows, so does her love for fitness and her love of saving what she could be spending on ice cream.

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