Frugal Alternatives To Your Pricey Gym Membership

Remember when I said we used to do money all wrong? No? Well trust me, I said it because we did. I can’t even begin to tell you how many gym memberships I have gone through in my life. It started as soon as I graduated high school. I had an older brother who really enjoyed pumping iron and spending time at the gym. He took me with him one night and I was instantly hooked. I was really impressed with all the equipment and the energy in the place. I signed up that first night, and the rest, as they say, is history – including my hard-earned money.

Confessions Of A Former Gym Member


pizza - frugal alternatives

You might want to curb your pizza intake when getting into shape 🙂

I estimate that throughout my adulthood, I have been a member of at least 5 gyms. They all started out the same way. I would go for a trial. Then, I would get engulfed in the energy and ambiance (if you can say that about a gym) of the place. And before I knew it, I was agreeing to be a financial contributor to the said establishment for the next 12 months, MINIMUM. For the purposes of this post, let’s focus only on the last gym membership I had, and will ever have!

The last time this happened was in 2012. I had been a part of the online dating scene for quite some time at that point, and I also decided it was a good time to get back to my fightin’ weight. So, I joined a VERY popular chain gym during a special promotion they were running at the beginning of the year. Think: New Year’s Resolution.

In any case, it actually was a really good deal. After the sign-up fee, the monthly cost was only $19, and that included childcare and unlimited tanning. Woot!

The gym was also right next to my daughter’s preschool center. At the time, I had visions of picking her up from preschool and shooting right over to the gym to get in a workout. As if. In the 5 years I held that membership – that NEVER happened. Ever. Why? Because I underestimated how tired I would be after a long day at work combined with the anticipated guilt I would have felt had I taken her directly from preschool (i.e. daycare) to yet another daycare.

The Last Straw


Still paying for a gym membership that you barely have time to use? Save money by dropping the dumbbells and trying some frugal alternatives...

Pine me!

Over the course of those 5 years, I went religiously for the first few months. I would venture out with my daughter after dinner in the evenings to embark on the 15-minutes drive to the gym. Rain, sleet, or snow, it didn’t matter – we went. My little girl somewhat enjoyed playing in the playroom with the other kids. And I enjoyed getting back into shape. I usually ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then used free weights to build up my strength. Things were going along swimmingly. Or so I thought.

Then something odd happened; my 3-year old daughter started getting an opinion. And her opinion was that she didn’t want to go to the gym in the evenings. Instead, she wanted to stay at home and play with mommy. Gasp! I realized she was right. I was sacrificing time with my little girl to spend time at the gym. In 2012, I was also a single parent. That meant, after work, dinner, and the household chores, there really wasn’t much quality time leftover before she was crawling into bed for the night.

My 3-year old voicing her concern about our new evening routine was the last straw. I decided to scale back our trips to the gym to give my daughter and I the time we deserved in the evenings.

Prepping To Cancel My Membership


Lake Champlain

Me on a trip to Lake Champlain

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me 5 long years to consider canceling my gym membership. Even though I scaled back my trips to increase my heart rate and pump iron, I wasn’t ready to cancel my membership. Besides, I still wanted to stay in shape. I figured having the membership gave me the option to actually use it when I had free time. And I did. But those trips became less and less prominent over the years.

One Saturday in 2016 I decided that I needed to give up the gym membership for good. After all, I had married in 2015 and we started charting a course of frugality in a quest for financial independence. As you can imagine, a barely used gym membership just doesn’t fit into that mold. I ultimately marched up to that counter that Saturday and told the teenager behind the desk that I wanted to cancel my membership. It felt great! I felt like it was another step towards our goal! Because it was. He stared back at me like I had a monkey on my head and stated that the manager wasn’t there and that I needed to fill out some form and mail it somewhere in order to cancel. Unfortunately, he had no idea where to find this mysterious form. Obviously, canceling memberships doesn’t happen too often at this gym.

Cancelling My Membership


I left dejected and determined to return within a few days to finally Cancel My Membership. I didn’t. A few days turned into a few months, and then another few months. Before I realized what had happened, we had already toasted champagne at the stroke of midnight on 2017. The automatic credit card payment was still popping up on my statement each month. This needed to stop. NOW.

So again, Mr. MMM and I stopped at the gym during our errands one weekend – FYI, we combine our trips because it makes frugal sense 🙂 This time, the person behind the desk handed me The Form! I walked out with my cancellation form firmly planted in my hand. Funny thing, I felt a little sad. That gym, even though I had greatly scaled back my appearances, had somehow become part of my identity over the course of those 5 years.

Before I had too much time to think about losing this small piece of myself, I filled out The Form and dropped it in the mail. DONE.

Frugal Alternatives To My Gym Membership


Me at the Grand Canyon

Me sitting on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Blonde. 2013.

Did I mention I had a treadmill at home? Yep. I bought myself a pro treadmill around 2007 that was still in excellent condition. So there I was, running on a treadmill at the gym when I had one in my own home! #sillygirl

Not only did I have a treadmill at home, I also had free weights, a door leading outside, an Internet connection, and functioning arms and legs. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic – but you gotta admit it’s fun in a post like this! Let’s explore each of these points in more detail!

My Own Treadmill


It’s true. I have my very own treadmill and I have for quite some time now. Even before I signed on the dotted line for that gym membership, I had my treadmill. It sat downstairs in my home just waiting to be used. And I did use it quite often throughout the years – I’m just not so sure why it wasn’t good enough to be used in 2012.

Like, why the heck was I driving myself and my daughter in the snow, sleet, and rain 15-minutes to the gym when all I had to do was walk downstairs and hop on my treadmill? Instead, I was putting my daughter in the playroom and hopping on the gym’s treadmill. In retrospect, it’s quite an enormous waste of resources all around.

A Door To The Outside



All I need for a great home workout!

Guess what else I had at my frugal disposal! Yep, you got it! I had (and still have) a door in my home that leads outside! Now granted, being a single parent I couldn’t possibly just throw on some jogging gear and hit the pavement. Maybe that’s why I felt the gym was a better option.

But guess what! If you’re not a single parent and you also happen to not have a treadmill, a gym membership is not your only option for getting into shape. You have options. Not only do you have options, but you have frugal options!

In such a familial case, you can actually use that door in your home that leads to the great outdoors. You actually can put on some jogging gear and hit the pavement. And just think of all that time, money, and energy you’ll save just by not having to drive to and from a cold, sterile establishment. This is truly a win-win!

Functioning Arms and Legs


I’m willing to bet that you, like me, have functioning limbs! If so, there are a plethora of activities, both indoor and outdoor, you can partake in for no cost at all! You can open that door and run out! You can run down your street, and then run down your neighbors street, and so on and so forth. You could also do sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, or any other physical activity you can dream up!

Before I even canceled the gym membership, I started doing mommy and me yoga at home with my little girl. Not only was this a great exercise, but it also strengthened our bond and was a ton of fun. Don’t believe me? Try doing the downward-facing dog with a 5-year old! Check out the post I wrote about it here!

Internet Connection


Mad Money Cat

Mad Money Cat does IronWoman competitions. #hardcore

One of the best exercise tools you have at your disposal is likely your Internet connection. You read that right! I couldn’t believe the amount of information and free exercise videos that are available online. How do you think Mini and I do our little yoga routines? Thank you, Internet!

Side Note: I recently discovered there are high-intensity programs available on YouTube for FREE. I’m in the middle of a 30-day workout right now. I must say, I am amazed at how my body has transformed since starting it. And with that, I give you my closing argument – if you have an Internet connection, a home, and a dash of determination, you, too, can have the body you desire without even leaving your house!

Determination To Exercise


Do you still have a gym membership you’re not using? If so, what’s stopping you from canceling it and trying some of these frugal alternatives?


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • PhilanthroCapitalist May 18, 2017, 4:02 pm

    If you’re interested in lifting, I could show you how I built a pretty sick full-size 8×8 Olympic lifting platform, power rack, 500lbs+ worth of weights, and 200lbs+ worth of adjustable dumbbells with the first two grand I made working in my local grocery store. I built everything but the weights, which I found cheap on Amazon. For a complete home gym of that caliber, the price is very solid (and weights that are accurate enough for powerlifting competitions don’t really depreciate in value; I fully expect to MAKE money when/if I sell).

    After I built that little home gym in my parent’s basement, I quickly learned that my social life was almost entirely dependent on going to work and hitting the gym, so even though I was on track to save money instead of paying for a membership, I ended up paying for a membership on top of that home gym.

    Then I moved out of my parents’ place.

    So keep in mind that, if you’re a gym rat, cancelling that membership might be kind of depressing.

  • mike May 15, 2017, 8:35 pm

    We have never had a gym membership, but love frugal alternatives. I like to substitute hard outdoor work for a workout on the weekends sometimes. It builds functional strength and I get something done at the same time.

    • Mad Money Monster May 16, 2017, 11:32 am

      Exactly! Who needs a gym membership?! 🙂

  • Dads Dollars Debts May 11, 2017, 12:37 am

    We have a gym membership currently. We got it for the outdoor swimming pool. We will see if we use it with our son this summer. If not, then adios gym membership. If we do use it, then it is a lot cheaper than having a pool myself.

    • Mad Money Monster May 11, 2017, 7:42 pm

      You make a great point! It would definitely be worth paying a membership fee as opposed to putting in a pool. I have actually done both in the past! So, I know just how expensive backyard pools can be!

  • Steve D Poling May 10, 2017, 3:12 pm

    For about $100 in lumber and a weekend’s time, I managed to build my own treadmill desk. I did this when I weighed 100+ pounds more than today and I’ve since acquired the habit of walking >10 miles/day. (I’m at 14.02 right now.) The treadmill desk originally served as a rest for the TV, BluRay, sound bar, etc. remote controls, but I find it is a good work surface for my laptops that also enable streaming video to the TV. Writing isn’t very comfortable with the current configuration unless I drop the speed down to 1.4mph or so.

    • Mad Money Monster May 10, 2017, 3:57 pm

      That is amazing! I couldn’t imagine clocking more than 10 miles everyday. I am VERY jealous. Time to start thinking about this for myself!

  • Jax May 10, 2017, 12:10 pm

    I’ve never had a gym membership, mostly because I am far to self concious to move my body in public. But, I do have a PS4 and look like a fool dancing in my living room playing Just Dance several times a week.

    Memberships are useful if you use them, or if you go because you need a personal trainer. But there are a million creative alternatives like you mentioned! I am going to start looking into the YouTube programs.

    • Mad Money Monster May 10, 2017, 3:56 pm

      YouTube is an unbelievable resource for exercise vids!

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