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Queen of Free: Getting fit doesn’t have to be expensive

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During the month of January, our hearts, minds, bodies and pocketbooks turn toward potential goals. In the new year, we want to be more intentional with our finances. At the same time, we might be feeling the heavy burden of too many Christmas cookies and also want to improve our health over the next 12 months.

At times, it may seem like these goals are at odds with one another. Surely you can’t save money and get fit? It costs big dollars to get a gym membership, eat more veggies and invest in workout gear, doesn’t it? Au contraire, mon frere. I am a firm believer you can get buff on a budget, reducing your waistline and your bottom line. Here are a few of my favorite ways to do just that.

Reconsider the gym

For many years we had a gym membership. I probably didn’t go as often as I should have, but I loved it. There’s something about building fitness into your routine. If we are honest, most of us don’t make the most of our membership, though. It might be time to reconsider it and channel those dollars elsewhere. Many churches in our area offer excellent fitness centers for a fraction of the price. If you really can’t give it up, then see if your gym will renegotiate your fees. Especially if you’ve been a loyal customer, they might be able to give you a price break.

new equipment?

This is not a free pass for not working out. Rather, I want you to promise me you will never, ever, ever pay retail for fitness equipment. From treadmills to free weights, there is no need to pay that high dollar sticker price. Begin your search on your social media networks.

More than once, I’ve picked up a major piece of equipment for free from a friend who wanted it out of their bedroom because it was not being used. Ask if anyone is looking to unload equipment on your status. If that doesn’t yield a result check out Craigslist, Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace and government surplus websites. All of these places have gently used equipment at a fraction of the price. When the weather warms, many people also put similar items in yard sales.

Invest in shoes

Your ears should always perk up when I encourage you to actually spend money. No matter what sorts of fitness pursuits you follow, you need to be sure you have a decent pair of shoes. While they cost a bit more upfront than a cheap pair, in the end paying a higher dollar for shoes is better than paying loads more at the doctor’s office.

I have found great luck at places like DSW, the Saucony outlet and even Amazon when it comes to purchasing quality shoes without spending too much. Your feet and your wallet will thank you in the end.

Check out DVDs

Want to try out one of those great fitness infomercials before you pony up to purchase it yourself? Ask around. A friend or two might already own the DVDs you’re interested in and will loan them to you for a short period of time before you make an investment. The library is also a great place to look for fitness DVDs. Some titles can be found on Netflix and Amazon Prime, too. Spending hundreds of dollars on DVDs you might not even like will bust your budget and maybe your gut, too. Be sure you love a product before you purchase it.

Find a workout buddy

Whether it’s a tennis match or a stroll around the neighborhood, we are more likely to stick to our fitness goals when we have accountability. Not all of us can afford a personal trainer, so find the next best thing — a workout buddy. Seek out a friend who will move with you on a regular basis and check in on your activity level.

Free apps

Apps are amazing. Fitness apps can help you track mileage and count calories, watch workouts and track progress.

Some of my favorites include Cardio Trainer, Map My Run and Spark People. A free or even 99-cent app might be the extra encouragement you need on a day when you don’t feel like working out. Being able to visualize where you’ve been and where you are going is priceless.

You don’t have to sacrifice your financial goals for your fitness goals and vice versa. Be creative, find an activity you love and spend money only when absolutely necessary. Here’s to a healthier new year for both your body and your back account!

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to


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