For me, having a gym membership meant I got to wear boxing gloves.

  • DH = dear husband
  • GF = good friend

“As a person in pursuit of frugality on my mission to kill all personal debt, I have a confession to make: I’m keeping my gym membership.” So I wrote at Fruclassity two years ago. “Not even for the gym that I can use at a discount through my work. I’m going to the more expensive one that DH goes to. The one that specializes in karate instruction for kids and first rate cardio kickboxing and bags & drills classes for adults.” I then went on to give 7 reasons why gym membership represented value-based spending for me.

Well, I’ve dropped my gym membership, and I’m left to answer to my 2015 self – the one with those 7 reasons.

Gloves on vs. gloves off

2015 Reason #1 – “Let’s start with the obvious one: I get to wear boxing gloves! Unlike DH, I am no black belt, but I have discovered a love for karate moves – however imperfect my execution of them. In my experience, there is no stress release like it.”

2017 Answer – My purpose in working out is to maintain a strong level of physical fitness. I don’t need to wear boxing gloves to do that.  I can go for a jog or a cycle or a hike – all with bare hands. Each one of these activities pumps up endorphins and decreases stress.

External vs. inner motivation

2015 Reason #2 “I slack off when I try to do physical fitness on my own … Even this past winter, I thought, ‘Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ll be able to motivate myself to work out 3-5 times a week on my own.’ Wrong again!”

2017 AnswerIn the past couple of years, I have become aware of a general and long-term deficit in my self-discipline. As I’ve worked on it, there have been positive ripple effects in my spending, eating, de-cluttering, and physical exercise. Since stopping my gym membership 3 weeks ago, I have been doing 4 or 5 workouts per week – actually a better rate than I achieved before. That inner motivation is no longer missing.

Scheduled vs. non-scheduled workouts

2015 Reason #3 – “I am more likely to work out if there are limited, scheduled class times. For over a year, I went to a gym … with multiple locations and a schedule that offers many options … It became easy to make excuses. ‘I can go to the next class,’ I’d think … With the more limited schedule of my current gym, I don’t have the option of making excuses. ‘Cardio kickboxing starts at 7:00! Time to go!'”

2017 Answer –  I like the freedom of being able to work out when it’s convenient. I have cycled in the morning, hiked in the afternoon, lifted weights in the evening, and run at night. And I appreciate the fact that my workouts now take less time. When I did classes, I would:

  • drive to the gym (15 min)
  • take the class (1 hour)
  • do some weights (20 min)
  • drive home (15 min)
  • shower (10 min)

That’s a grand total of 2 hours for every workout. Now, since no extra driving is involved, my workouts (especially for running) often come in under an hour. As for “excuses” – I haven’t had to make any.

“Excellent” vs. “adequate”

2015 Reason #4 – “I recognize and value the level of excellence I find at my gym … The instructors who teach our classes are National and World champions in karate, and the workouts they give are fantastic.”

2017 Answer – I recognize and value the meals produced by great chefs at fine restaurants – and the talent of actors, musicians, and comedians on stage – and the artistic gifting of painters and jewelers … But I almost never spend on these things. I’m in debt-reduction mode. In the same way, I don’t need to spend on excellence in fitness classes. Again, I’m in debt-reduction mode. My own workouts, while not “excellent”, are adequate. And “adequate” is just fine.

Supporting small business vs. DIY

2015 Reason #5 – “I’m happy to support gym staff in their area of expertise … I value independence, but I value interdependence even more. The staff at my gym are far better than I am at motivating me to become fit. I don’t mind relying upon them. And I’m glad that they can earn a living by fostering good health.”

2017 AnswerNow, while I’m still making my way towards debt-freedom, is not the time to play the role of benefactor. Not yet. Now is the time to DIY in as many areas of my life as possible. And I’m finding DIY fitness is now possible for me.

Overall fitness achieved via instructors vs. self

2015 Reason #6 – “I get overall physical fitness at my gym. Any one hour class involves flexibility, cardio and strength; it works out upper body, lower body, and core.”

2017 Answer – I’m getting all of the above on my own.

Together time with DH vs. separate workouts

2015 Reason #7 – “DH and I usually go to the gym together. Last week, on our way to a workout, DH said to me, ‘This is my favourite part of the evening – driving to the gym with you.’ Pretty sweet, don’t you think? Like many working couples, DH and I don’t have tons of time to spend together, but our shared trips to the gym have a bonding effect.”

2017 Answer – OK, I don’t have an answer to this one. In fact, I do notice that on many days, I hardly see DH. If I exercise right after work and he goes to the gym at 7:00, it means we spend almost no time together. Hmmm … DH and I will have to be intentional about making up for this change.

BONUS! Closed door → opened window

Two weeks ago I told a friend of mine (I’ll call her GF for “good friend”) that I had dropped my gym membership. “I’ve run, cycled, or hiked almost every day,” I told her, “but I haven’t done weights. I want to get that going – maybe at work …”

“You’ve dropped your gym membership?” GF asked, clearly getting an idea. She told me that she hadn’t been going to her gym at all, but that she didn’t want to stop her membership. “At my gym,” she told me, “each member is allowed to bring a guest any time.” GF said that she thought she would actually go to her gym if I went with her. “Would you like to come as my guest? For free?” she asked. Of course I did!

We started this past week, and our plan is to meet regularly at her gym – which is on my way home from work – every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. I have access to weights for free, and she has built in the motivation she needs to make her workouts happen. Right after completing my draft of this post last night, I opened up an email message from GF. “Just want to thank you for helping me get to the gym.  I feel very good about it, and it is sweet to be there together.  Thank you my friend.” Win-win!

Do you DIY your physical fitness? Or do you have a gym membership that represents value-based spending for you? Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


  1. It’s good you’ve gotten to the point where you don’t need it. I still do unfortunately, although I guess it’s not a bad vice? I WAS getting my gym for (sort of) free, but that time has ended so I’m going to need to cough up dough each month now. 🙁 I guess I was feeling guilty anyway about my “deal” but still, I saved $60/month.

    1. Thanks, Tonya. I think it’s good you know that you need a gym membership. No use pretending you don’t. Your fitness is definitely worth it. There are many things I don’t DIY and that I value enough to pay for. $60 is less than I was paying, so that doesn’t sound too bad to me.

  2. I can see where your athletic daughters got their inspiration – from mom and dad 🙂 You’re looking mighty fine there Ruth. Joe and I are not athletically inclined, but have discovered in our senior years that we must use it or lose it, so do half hour treadmill and half hour exercises and weights every day at home. Who knew that Joe would turn into a “jock” at age 70??

    1. That is fantastic!! Good for you both doing your cardio and weights every day! DH got out of shape in his 30s and 40s, and then in his 50s, he started with this karate/cardio kickboxing gym, and he is now in the best shape of his life. “Use it or lose it” is right. I want to be a jock like Joe at age 70 : )

  3. I do mid-level casual bodybuilding, but have always disliked gyms because of the time commitment. I’ve found that home workouts can really work with just a few pieces of equipment. Just a treadmill or elliptical and a few excercise bands can work wonders.

    1. A few pieces of equipment … and a lot of self-discipline. I’m sure you know many people who use their treadmill to hang their laundry. So many pieces of home fitness equipment collect dust until they’re sold at garage sales. Kudos to you for actually using your home gym! And yes, the time saved is a big bonus. Thanks for your comment, Miguel : )

  4. Overall great article Ruth! I must say though, I really enjoyed the ending where you get to hit a gym for free and help a friend out at the same time. I know I never liked going to the gym by myself back when I was a single gal. Nice going! 😀

    1. I enjoy that bit too, Kay. I love it when people give up something they actually really want – for a good reason – and then without expecting anything, they get a great substitute out of the blue. I believe you have experienced that phenomenon many times with your commitment to tithing. I experienced it last year when we decided not to buy cross-country skis – and then a friend of DH’s gave me his extra snow shoes. (Such a Canadian example, eh?)

  5. Great article that points out you really need to analyze what you do and don’t need when being frugal.

    If anyone is interested, I wrote a piece on my blog about how trimming monthly expenses (like gym membership) can really add up.

  6. I really struggled with the recent decision to pay for yoga after purposefully dropping the gym due to finances two years ago. I’d never done yoga and both my doctor and physical therapist have recommended it after a muscle injury a few years ago — but highly recommended learning one on one with an appropriately certified teacher at first to not further injure my lower back.

    For me it has been a tradeoff of money vs. lower back pain mitigation. I’m hopeful that by the end of this month I’ll be comfortable enough with this particular style of yoga to do more at home and start decreasing the number of hands-on classes I’m attending. If only I could use my HSA dollars to pay for preventive health care in the form of gym and yoga memberships 😉

    1. Hey, if your doctor and pt are both recommending yoga, then there’s not even a question involved. Eventually, I’m sure you will be able to do it on your own (as Mrs. Frugalwoods does), but it makes a lot of sense for now to have training with a certified teacher. It can be so frustrating when something that really helps your health gets no coverage. Our society is still very skewed towards 1950s-type concepts of what constitutes healthcare.

  7. I’m glad you found a way to drop the gym membership, keep up your workouts, and get your weight training in. My wife and I are not in great health, so while exercise is important, it can be difficult for us. We’ve invested in a basic gym membership ($20/mo each) which gives us access to the treadmills as well as weights and machines. Plus, my wife’s health insurance covers it up to $200/year. For us, that’s a good investment to make our workouts easier and help our motivation (you’ll have to share the secret of your self-discipline efforts!).

    1. I’m so glad that despite your health challenges and the fact that exercise is difficult for both you and your wife, you still make the effort to get your cardio and weight bearing workouts. Your wife’s health insurance sounds very progressive! $20 is not bad at all – especially when combined, you have 5 months covered. The secret of my “self-discipline efforts”? Hmmm … I’ll ponder that one for a while, Gary. I’m not sure how to put it into words. (But thanks for the idea.)

  8. I love the ending! We’re trying to be good at passing things along to people who will use them right now to create our own little Freecycle network since our local area doesn’t have one and I don’t have the time to head one up, and the exchange with your friend is exactly the kind of thing I hope we do more of!

    As to physical fitness, I’ve been working on it with Seamus. He and I walk twice a day every weekday and he can adapt to my needs and energy level so I push myself as much as I can and have a pal to make it happen since he HAS to go out 🙂

    And with JuggerBaby learning baby yoga at daycare, we can occasionally squeeze in some stretches together at the end of the day though zir focus isn’t quite there yet. Still, not bad for a 2 year old.

    I know I’ve hit a bump in my routine with all that’s going on but I’m determined not to let it derail me.
    I can’t! Some day, some time in the future, I must be fit enough to ride a bike or horse again – so this isn’t just a choice, it’s a commitment to Future Me.

    1. This is the first time I’ve heard of the term “Freecycle”. I’ve heard of the concept – and a neighbourhood nearby that puts it into practice – but not the term itself. Clever! I cheer you on in your commitment to your future self. Walking is terrific exercise, as is yoga. I am amazed that a 2-year-old can do any form of yoga at all! I think that staying committed to physical exercise is especially important in those stressful times when it’s most difficult to squeeze in – like for you right now. All the best in keeping it up.

  9. Great job working out even more than before! How cool that you’ve been able to improve your internal motivation. And work through all the reasons you had for keeping the gym membership in the past. I think it’s important to keep challenging our spending habits since they can change as we change. I gave up the gym membership 8 years ago and haven’t looked back.

    1. Thank you, Kalie. “I think it’s important to keep challenging our spending habits since they can change as we change.” Very true. It has happened to a greater extent than I would have guessed when we started this journey out of debt 5 years ago. Some frugality happens through intention, but some happens as a natural extension of change.

  10. Is this part of your discretionary fund cuts? Great job eliminating the cost and still finding great ways to exercise. So many DIY ways to keep active. Walking has been my main way, but just adding biking too.

    1. It is, Brian. And it makes a significant difference: $100 a month. This will speed up my discretionary debt repayment. Walking is almost perfect exercise, but I’m glad you’ve added cycling into the mix. Can you manage to walk and cycle with your wife or one of your kids? Or maybe you prefer to go on your own. Whatever works, go for it : )

  11. I haven’t got a gym membership right now, but have considered getting one again or joining an exercise class because I think a class environment would help me stay focused. So tomorrow, I’m going to a no-obligation tai chi class at church. If I don’t like that, there’s a yoga class on fridays. If i don’t like that, there’s a swim group at one of the city pools.

    So I’m exploring a few options to increase exercise, but trying to avoid the commitment of a membership. Jon thinks I should just walk but I think I need a little more group orientation, and I’ll see how it goes.

    1. I think it’s great that you’re trying out different forms of exercise, Emily. And if a social environment is motivating for you, go with it. Maybe you’ll end up taking on more than one of these classes on a regular basis. All the best in finding the workout in the right setting with the right people.

  12. I saw this post, and I had to write my own in response- it’s up on the blog. I joined a gym a little more than a year ago (after I quit working full time). I LOVE it!

    I will say, your reasoning makes a lot of sense though.

    1. I loved my gym too, Hannah, and I’m glad you love yours. The difference between us is that you are young, without debt, and growing wealth via your rentals and other investments. I, on the other hand, am middle-aged, still paying off a mortgage, and looking retirement in the eye. I stopped my gym membership primarily to help me pay off my discretionary debt, and I’m so glad that I’ve developed enough self-discipline to keep working out. My guess is that I will join a gym again some day, but certainly not until I’m in the black with my discretionary fund – and probably not until we’re mortgage-free. OK, now I’ll read your post!

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I’ve undergone a bit of a paradigm shift when it comes to self-discipline. I used to consider it stifling, but it doesn’t stifle life, it channels life in the best way.

  13. I like your reasoning behind quitting your gym membership but I love that you are still working out on your own and you have the bonus of going to your friend’s gym with her and getting some weight-lifting in. Win-win!

    My exercise at this point in my pregnancy is just walking. I try to walk most days but my sciatica acts up now and again so like I said, I just try to do what I can right now 🙂

    1. Oh, I’m sorry you have sciatica. Have you ever been to a chiropractor? I used to have real trouble with my back, and chiropractic made all the difference. I’ve been going every 2 weeks for 20 years now. I remember taking long walks during my pregnancies too. Best form of exercise for an expectant mom : )

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