If you were to take the media’s and retailer’s word for it, getting fit these days costs quite a bit of money. According to Mint.com, workout DVD sales are up 70 percent since 2007. Americans are spending $25.3 billion a year on gym memberships. Weight loss programs like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem all require a monthly payment that can quickly add up.
It doesn’t have to be that way. People shouldn’t be afraid to try to get healthy because they think it's too expensive. They also shouldn’t be tricked into thinking there is only one way to do it (retailers are good at that). Here are a few tips that can help keep money in your wallet as you’re trying to get fit.
Skip the gym membership
According to Statistic Brain, two-thirds of people with gym memberships never use them. I fell under that category when I had one a few years back. However, I know several people who love their gym membership and use it regularly. The key factor in this decision is based on your utilization. If you pay $40 each month and go twice a month, you’re spending a whopping $20 every time you work out. Ouch! If you’re trying it out for the first time, try a month to month contract and see if it works. Never lock yourself into a contract.
Stay away from detox diets
. As exciting as detox diets sound, there are two truths you need to know about them. They’re expensive and they don’t work. According to WebMD, you might lose weight, but only because they’re so low in calories. Your body was designed to get rid of toxins on its own and living on such a low-calorie and nutrient-poor diet can be more harmful than helpful.
Join a free support network
While there are many reasons why people pay to join weight loss networks, the main reason for many people is the support they receive and the quantifiable way they can measure what they eat and keep track of their progress. But, there are now several websites and apps that provide exactly that — and they’re free. MyFitnessPal and Livestrong seem to be the most popular, but a quick search online would lead you to many others like them. You can join groups and add people you know and don’t know who all have a common goal.
Another free support network is your family. My family is currently doing a “Biggest Loser” competition of our own. We’ve done it a few times over the past few years and each year it gets better and more sustainable. Doing this not only helps us all become fitter together, but we also grow closer as a family.
Shop on the outside aisles at the grocery store
. At first glance, it may seem more expensive to buy healthier food like produce, learning how to make food from scratch will actually make your money go further. Cutting processed foods out of your diet will also help you keep your saturated fat and sodium intake lower, which will have a great effect on your efforts to get healthy.
. I’m amazed at how much you can find on YouTube, and the scope and variety also extends to workout videos. When you really see how much is available, you’ll see that there’s no reason to spend money on DVDs to help you with your workout routine. You can also easily try new types of workouts without having to buy even more DVDs.
Companies spend millions of dollars a year on marketing, and that’s because they know that a lot of our decisions are driven by marketing. As in anything else you’re trying to do, it’s important to recognize that your actions do not need to be dictated by advertisers. You can find a better way that not only helps you reach your goals to become healthier, but also helps you keep your money for other priorities you and your family have.
Ben lives with his wife, Kilee, and dog, Paisley, in Arkansas. He has a passion for personal finance, sports, and learning. Ben recently started a blog at www.wealthgospel.com where you can find more of his opinions on personal finance. His life goals are to write about personal finance all day and start a non-profit organization to help others become self-reliant and to find their true potential. On any given day, you could find him eating homemade salsa, picking blackberries, or staying up until 3 a.m. to finish a book.