40 Ways to Work Out on a Budget

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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40 Ways to Work Out on a Budget

You live a fit and healthy life and stay within the tightest of budgets. These 40 simple tips help you work out, take care of your skin and properly hydrate without spending hundreds of dollars.

1. GET SOCIAL

“Try forming an exercise group with friends and set up meetings 2–3 times a week. Use free resources like a local park, high school track, community pool or someone’s home. Keep it fun and engaging for all by partnering the event with something like going out for coffee afterwards.”

— Heather L. Tyler, NSCA certified personal trainer and owner Simply Fit L.A.

2. INVEST IN A DECK OF CARDS

“It’s amazing how many workout routines you can build into a simple deck of cards. Aces are one, face cards are 13 and everything else is its corresponding number. Flip a card and perform pushups corresponding to each card’s value. Take a short breather and then flip another card, repeating through as many cards as you can.”

— Ryan Frankel, founder of EduPlated

3. FIND PASSES

“Look for seven-day class passes and trial memberships. To avoid being charged, set a reminder on your phone to cancel if you’re not committed.”

— Jacquelyn Baston, certified strength and conditioning specialist, NSCA certified personal trainer at Triple Fit Lifestyle Fitness & Wellness.

4. USE YOUR OWN BODY

“Free workout options include walking, pushups, planks and walking up and down the steps of your house.”

— Joe Cannon, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist, NSCA certified personal trainer

5. SEEK OUT DISCOUNT SITES

“Many gyms, especially newer ones, offer great deals on discount sites like Groupon in an effort to bring in potential members. You can save up to 80% on a monthly membership if you’re willing to be flexible in what type of gym you attend. One month you could box, another you could do Pilates, a third you could do an outdoor boot camp.”

— Esther Avant, certified nutrition coach, ACE certified physical therapist at Esther Avant Wellness Coaching

6. GET RESISTANCE BANDS

“You can get a premium set of resistance bands with all of the attachments you’ll ever need for under $100. If you travel for business or pleasure, many of these resistance band sets come with a travel bag so you can toss it in your suitcase or vehicle and take it with you.”  

— Matt Weik, certified strength and conditioning specialist, certified personal trainer and owner of Weik Fitness

7. LOOK INTO CORPORATE WELLNESS

“Some companies subsidize workouts and some specialized trainers and gyms accept health insurance or have arrangements with programs such as Silver Sneakers.”

— Tyler

8. GET OUTSIDE

“You can always go for a hike, run hills and do pullups or pushups in a park.”

— Arielle Crumble, certified fitness trainer and certified sports nutritionist

9. HIT THE BEACH

“Try outdoor workouts on the beach or in the water such as swimming and surfing.”

— Franklin Antoian, personal trainer and founder of ibodyfit.com

10. MAKE YOUR HOME LOOK LIKE A GYM

“I mirrored one wall in my room from Home Depot. Friends come over to work out and they love it.”  

— Christie Maruka, image consultant

11. INVEST IN KETTLEBELLS

Kettlebells are small but effective. For someone at home, you don’t need a large collection of bells. One bell is enough for most people. It adds some weight resistance with movements at an affordable cost. They also don’t take up much room; you can put it in the car to travel to a park or other location for a workout.”

— RJ Beam, lead fitness instructor at a police academy

12. DRINK WATER

“You don’t need fancy drinks. Remember to drink water for overall hydration and body temperature regulation.”

— Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology

13. WORK OUT AT HOME

“You can exercise right in the privacy of your own home, whenever you want, and not have to travel to a gym and spend money on gas.”

— Weik

14. DIY WEIGHTS

“You can use gallon water or milk jugs as weights (fill them to the weight you want to use).”

— Jerry Snider, owner of All in Health and Wellness

15. SWIM AT THE COMMUNITY POOL

“Water workouts are just as diverse as the workout classes you see in expensive gyms. There is resistance training involved for building lean muscles and cardio, and you can also do intervals in the water.”

— Ashley Walter, nutritionist, fitness chef and certified personal trainer

16. EXERCISE WITH A PARTNER

“You can split the cost of a training session and recruit different friends for different activities. This gives you variety while splitting the cost of a session — and everything is more fun with a friend.”

— Baston

17. LOOK FOR LOCAL FITNESS-RELATED MEETUPS

“Some trainers offer free outdoor workouts to help spread the word about their services and many fitness-related businesses do the same, such as running stores and juice bars.”

— Avant

18. SHOP AROUND BEFORE JOINING A GYM

“Gyms often provide three-day to one-week passes and discounts (sometimes you can even negotiate a lower rate) if you sign up after.”

— Kelsey Zamoyski, occupational therapist

19. JOIN YOUR LOCAL SPORTS TEAM

“Members of the public can join amateur sports teams for a small fee. The teams meet frequently and generally play around four games a month. Players may be expected to cover their own expenses, such as purchasing equipment.”

— Adnan Munye, nutritionist and founder of AMMFITNESS

20. GET A BIKE

“You can find a good used bike if you keep your eyes on bargain shopping areas like Ebay, Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. You don’t have to spend $800+ on a bike to get a good workout. But I would invest in a good, new saddle for your used bike.”

— Snider

21. SIMPLE SKINCARE

“Overly vigorous cleansing and washing your skin can be a source of friction that aggravates acne. Cleansing wipes tend to irritate hot, sweaty skin, so I don’t typically advise using those after a workout. The best strategy is to splash comfortable-temperature water on your face/neck after exercise, then pat dry gently.”

— Lortscher

22. PURCHASE INEXPENSIVE ACCESSORIES

“These could include a jump rope, exercise bands and set of dumbbells.”

— Pilar Lorca, certified personal trainer, president and CEO of Fitness4EveryBody

23. DO A HOME-STUDIO COMBO

“Set up a schedule so part of the week you work out for free at home and then the rest of the week you pay to try out classes.”

— Zamoyski

24. LOOK TO INSTAGRAM

“Follow some of your favorite trainers on Instagram and take inspiration from them. Most of them are constantly posting videos of their workouts.”

— Lauren Leppla, certified strength and conditioning specialist at Train Away Pain

25. CHANGE THE TEMPO

“The same workout moves can feel very different when you change up the tempo of your workout (i.e., shorter rest periods between exercises).”

— Lauren Manganiello, registered dietitian and fitness coach

26. DO PERSONAL TRAINING IN BULK

“Just like bulk shopping at Costco, training sessions can be bought in bulk for less. Most personal trainers offer discounted rates when buying training packages. Some will also allow you to break those payments into installments.”

— Tyler

27. SHOP SECOND-HAND

“You can purchase used weights and other equipment online, at resale stores or even sometimes at places like Goodwill or online at eBay.”  

Melody L Schoenfeld, MA, certified strength and conditioning specialist

28. BE A GOOD GUEST

“Some gyms offer free guest passes to their current members to invite a friend who may want to join. Ask your friends if they have any guest passes and make a day of it.”

— Avant

29. USE YOUR SMARTPHONE

“You can download apps like MapMyFitness on your phone to track time and distance. No need for a GPS watch that might break your bank.”

— Snider

30. CHANGE YOUR WORK DAY

“Ask your colleague to have a walking meeting.”

— Amanda Sterczyk, author, certified personal trainer and creator of The Move More Institute

31. CIRCUIT TRAIN WITH BANDS AND SLIDERS

“Bands and sliders are compact pieces of equipment that can be taken anywhere.”

— Jeff DelMartin, founder and owner of online fitness training business, Happily Ever Healthy

32. GET A BAND UPGRADE

“You can get an anchor to attach the bands to an anchor point for push- or pull-type exercises. The only limit is your imagination.”

— Lisa Austin, certified personal trainer and nutrition coach

33. CHECK OUT UNLIKELY WEBSITES

“Eventbrite and local city and county Instagram feeds, etc., can offer workout classes.”  

— Zamoyski

34. TURN TO YOUTUBE

“Many online trainers provide YouTube videos and one-week plans before the start of their new seasonal challenge. These plans and videos are free and give you a chance to try a new workout.”

— Monica Lam-Feist, ACE certified personal trainer and fitness lead at AlgaeCal

35. WORK PART TIME

“Offer to volunteer or work at a fitness studio or gym for a discounted membership.”

— Zamoyski

36. SKIP THE DRIVE-THRU AND WALK

“Not only that, but park at the far end of the lot.”

— Sterczyk

37. CHECK A GYM’S WEBSITE FOR FREE WORKOUTS

“Many gyms offer a free weekly workout to introduce prospective members to their style of working out in hopes you’ll want to join.”

— Avant

38. JOIN THE YMCA

“Most YMCAs are very affordable and offer classes in addition to providing gym equipment, pools, tennis courts and other sports facilities.”

— Tyler

39. USE YOUR BIKE FOR EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES

“Cycling can be used as a way to complete tasks on your “to-do” lists quickly.”

— Munye

40. RUN ON A PUBLIC TRACK

“You can run intervals, different speeds and different distances on the track.”

— Kathryn Alexander, clinical exercise physiologist

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.

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