Is it even possible to balance your bank and workout plan?

Although I am more than capable of balancing a budget, James does all of the finances at our house. I figured there was no sense in both of us worrying over the same things. So in the yogi spirit, I let it go. That is why I asked him to contribute his thoughts on this topic.


When it comes to spending money, I am somewhere in this range:

James on money scale

Bless Erin’s soul…

That said, Erin said the word “balance” about 1,000 times before she agreed to let me write this guest post so I’ll do my best to keep it centered.

Option 1: Spend nothing.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! I thought you said keep it centered… Ok, Ok, but I wanted to come right out of the gate with this one. Since the beginning of time people have been getting free workouts all over the place. In the (ancient) past, it was chopping wood and moving rocks, but today there is still plenty to do for free (almost free: unlike our ancestors, you have to wear clothes in public these days…).

There are parks all over the state that are free* to visit. Tribble Mill is within 2 miles of my house. I run or bike there several times weekly. Many of you live similarly close to parks like Tribble, Harbins, Bay Creek, etc. While you’re at it, if you’re going there to work out anyway, why drive? Get your workout on the way there and back, and you’ll save the vehicle expense!

Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, lunges, planks, squats, running, stretching and all the variations of those things cost $0.

Ever watch the able-bodied guy/lady at the office (or the gym?!) take the elevator to the second floor? Stairs are also $0.

The last free one I’ll mention is a perquisite not available to everyone, but some offices and apartments have a gym – locker rooms and showers included. I know many people that pay for a gym membership when they have a totally free option right under their feet (literally).

Option 2: The Value Play

So you’ve convinced yourself not to workout like a caveman and you don’t have the free-at-work option. Fair enough, but you still don’t have to break the bank.

Want a cross-fit style workout? Google “how to build a crossfit box” – like magic… lots of good info. Check out Craigslist for the weights folks are trying to get rid of after realizing they didn’t really need 4,000 lbs of iron in their basement.

Not into cross-fit? Me neither. There are still plenty of options that are basically variations of my last paragraph so I won’t repeat them except to say this: be patient and look for the equipment like treadmills, ellipticals, etc. that are on sale (i.e. people have put it in their basement for 2 years before finally agreeing they’ll never really use it).

Option 3: The Gym

If you’re like many people I talk to, you’ve gotten this far and you’re saying, “I just don’t have the willpower… I need motivation… so I guess I’m stuck paying $x/month for a gym, and I just wasted a perfectly rainy, 75 degree December afternoon reading this.” Don’t give up so easily! Bear with me for a few more paragraphs.

Let’s talk about the easy one first: reciprocity. I know at least one person that has 5 gym memberships. That’s 5 (FIVE!?!) monthly payments for a gym. The reasoning is logical. He works all over Atlanta and never knows where he’ll be at the end of the day. However, the solution is likely sub-optimal. There are several gym chains with multiple geographic locations and full reciprocity. If you are paying for multiple gym memberships or paying visitor fees at other gyms, no judgment from me, just learn the word reciprocity.

Next, find a place close to where you live or work. Simple enough: a) gas money and b) you eventually won’t go if you have to drive out of your way.

The next one is also easy but requires you to be willing to be a little mobile, a little flexible and a little trusting. Most gyms offer deals to members who are willing to pay upfront. This is a little risky since you will likely lose your money (and your membership) if the gym goes bankrupt so you probably should avoid this method at the financially sketchy gyms. It also requires that you have the funds to pay upfront – putting it on your credit card and paying a minimum payment is not the way to take advantage of this deal. And finally, it requires you to be willing to walk away from a gym not offering a deal. I know many of you go to the gym for social hour** so you may be stuck. One last note on this – don’t do this in January. I’m not saying you’re a quitter, but statistically speaking you’re going to waste your money on 11 months of a membership when you quit going in late-January.

Option 4: The Hybrid Model

This is the last one I’ll talk about today (Erin said keep it short, and it’s already long). I run. I don’t need a gym to run. But I would like to do something different every now and then. For me, I like stretching, balancing and strengthening on my off days from running. Lucky me, I have a free private yoga session on demand… mostly.

Maybe you are in a similar situation minus the yoga instructor spouse. Places like ProMotion offer incredibly well-priced, one-time sessions to be able to do things like this in small groups. I like that method because you can go one time and not have to pay a recurring monthly fee. Several gyms offer group classes in a wide variety of styles as part of their membership, and many gyms now offer low rates without locking you into long terms (e.g. Planet Fitness). All of these make the hybrid option possible – work out for free alone, but when you need that extra motivation, sign up for a one-time or one-month session.


Working out can be as free ($0) or expensive ($1,500/month!?) as you want it to be. Figure out what you can comfortably afford and let that be your guide. You don’t want to be stressing out every time you pay your gym fee or it negates the stress relief you get from working out. Whatever you choose to do, get moving!

*Technically parks are not free since you pay for them with taxes, but the incremental cost of going is $0 since you pay the same tax whether you go 0 times or 365 times.

**How many people have you seen standing on the treadmill talking to their neighbor… and forgetting to turn the thing on? I know you’ve seen it at least once. It’s ok – you don’t have to admit it if it was you.

P.S. In the spirit of saving money, if you’ve read this far, congratulations! Tell Erin you want the James discount to get 10% off your first private yoga session with Erin.

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