How To Get Fit On A Budget

How To Get Fit On A Budget

Written by Bryan Daly
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated January 13, 2018

Trying to work off the post-holiday winter weight? Or maybe you’re just sticking to a long anticipated New Year’s resolution. Whatever your motivation might be for getting or staying in shape, you’ll probably want to do so without putting too much financial strain on yourself. The strain should be on your body after all, not on your bank account. While our Canadian winters often make going outside or to the gym a bit of an annoyance, using the weather as an excuse can only last so long before you realize you need to get over it and start working.

We strongly believe that money and budget concerns should never hold anyone back from achieving their goals, fitness or otherwise. Here are our top tips for how to get fit and stay active while sticking to your budget.

The Gym Membership

The harsh truth? The typical fitness center membership can run you up a steep monthly bill. For the most part, if you’re looking for a decent, all-inclusive gym with up-to-date equipment, classes, and facilities (i.e. locker room, swimming pool, showers, sauna, etc.), and are not a student or a person over the age of 60, you’ll most likely be paying over $50 a month. That’s over $600 a year!

Luckily, there are a lot of basic, low-cost gyms opening up across Canada. In Quebec alone, there are places like Buzzfit and Econofitness. In parts of Ontario and British Columbia, Fit4Life gyms are on the rise. All of these facilities offer a monthly membership for under $20. These places are perfect if you’re just looking to get in a quick workout, then leave and do the rest at home. Just be aware that there’s a reason that they charge so little per month. It’s because their facilities are indeed basic, one or two of every exercise machine, same with dumbbells and barbells, small lockers, no sauna or swimming pool, and in some cases showers you need to pay for. However, if you need that gym atmosphere to motivate you into staying fit, and none of this bothers you, signing up for one of these gyms can save you a few hundred dollars a year.

Working Out At Home

An alternative to paying that pesky gym membership is to buy your own set of weights, maybe an exercise machine like a bike, treadmill or cross-trainer, and stay fit at home. If you’ve got enough space in your house or apartment for a little gym of your own, you could find that investing in your own equipment will save you some cash in the future.

Getting Equipped

Firstly, start by going online and finding your local classified website, for example, VarageSale, Craigslist, or Kijiji. There will likely be a ton of people trying to get rid of their unused fitness equipment. The good news is that most of it will still be in good shape, but at a heavily discounted price.

If you’re not into the hassle of meeting up with a stranger to purchase used exercise equipment, check out retailers like Sports Experts, Walmart, or Sport Chek. Keep an eye out for sales and only buy a one or two items to start. It’s better to get started first and add to your collection as you learn your strengths, likes, and dislikes.

The equipment that will cost you the most money are typically the cardio machines. Exercise bikes, elliptical machines, and treadmills can range from about $200-1000 dollars. If you think you’ll actually use one of these machines then, compared to the price of a yearly gym membership, it could be a good investment to make. But since we’re interested in helping you save as much as possible, we have one word for you, run.  

Run it Out  

Get outside and run, it’s the easiest and cheapest (as in free) way to get yourself off the couch. Obviously, this isn’t possible all year long. We understand that there’s nothing less motivating than running in the cold and the snow, but when April arrives and you’re still complaining about not being fit and not having the money to get fit, you now know what to do.

Make it Winter Friendly

The Internet is a wonderful place, especially for anyone looking for fitness motivation, workout ideas, or healthy meal plans. It’s all there you just need to look for it and then implement it into your life. Like we said above, running is free but not the best option for the cold Canadian winters. So, when it’s -30 how are you supposed to get fit at home and for free? Youtube. Literally, thousands of free workout videos are uploaded every year. There is something for everyone. Hook your laptop up to your television, search for a video you like, and then get to it.

Eat Less Junk

Dieting. One of the easiest and at the same time toughest ways to lose weight and stay in shape for a lot of people. We say easiest because, if you’ve got the willpower, you can just cut junk food out of your food pyramid, replace it with healthy stuff, exercise from time to time and feel better within a few months. However, this is often way easier said than done, when you consider that healthy food is usually more expensive, and junk food is, well… yummy. When you don’t have time to make your own lunches before work, going to the nearest McDonalds on your break is easy and cheap, same with grabbing takeout on the way home when you’re too tired to make yourself dinner. It’s important to resist this temptation at all costs, quite literally.

While spending $5-10 every day doesn’t seem like much, eventually it’s going to take a toll on both your health and your wallet. If you’re working full time, you could be spending over $50 per week on food that will only hurt you in the end. Why do that, when you can invest that money and have groceries for over a week? On top of that, you’d be eating stuff that won’t put you into a food coma. Once you start eating healthier and exercising, you’ll eventually find yourself with the energy to get up a few minutes earlier every day and make yourself a good lunch. Not to mention you will lose weight and feel fit, if you take the money you’d normally use to buy a Big Mac, fries and soda, and buy chicken, vegetables, and water.

Sundays Are For Preparing

There is probably nothing worse than coming home after a long and stressful day and spending a couple of hours preparing a healthy meal. This is one of the biggest reasons why it’s so hard for many people to stick to eating well. You’ve definitely heard this before but we’ll say it again. Preparing food ahead of time is one of the best ways to stick to a healthy eating plan. An hour or two on Sunday afternoon can save you hours during the week and make eating healthy 100% easier. When the healthy food is already prepared, you’ll more than likely choose it over a less healthy alternative.

Get Outside

When dieting and going to the gym gets boring and complicated, remember this, people have found ways to be healthy since the dawn of humanity, without having to really force themselves to do so. If you’re just looking to burn some calories and feel less sluggish, you don’t have to go crazy lifting weights and guzzling protein shakes.

The oldest and cheapest tradition for staying in shape? Going outside and moving around. While this might be a bit of a chore in the winter, throwing on some warm clothes and simply power walking around the neighborhood, coupled with a moderately healthy diet can work wonders for your body. Cross-country skiing is one of the best calorie-burning outdoor activities you can do, and it’s fun. Then, when summer rolls around, sign up for a team sport like soccer or Ultimate Frisbee. Sure, sometimes you’ll need to pay for your own cleats and equipment, even a seasonal fee if you’re planning on joining a league of some kind, but you’ll definitely end up feeling healthy and accomplished by the end of it. If you can’t be bothered to invest in a league, but have trouble exercising on your own, find a group of like-minded friends, and organize games. Either way, getting fit doesn’t have to be as monotonous as doing the same gym routine and eating bland food.

Don’t Get Discouraged

The biggest mistake that a lot of people make when they’re trying to get in shape is thinking that a few bicep curls and a few jumping jacks will get them the results they’re looking for. Truth be told, sculpting a six-pack does take a lot more effort than that.

The best thing you can do is be patient and know that the effort you’re putting in will pay off in the end. Your body, mind, and wallet will thank you.

Bryan is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. He has been writing for Loans Canada for five years, covering all things related to personal finance, and aims to pursue the craft of professional writing for many years to come. In his spare time, he maintains a passion for editing, writing screenplays, staying fit, and traveling the world in search of the coolest sights our planet has to offer. Bryan uses the BMO Cash Back Mastercard to earn cash back on everything from boring bill payments to exciting excursions. He is also a strong saver, holding both a TFSA and an RRSP account in order to prepare for his future while taking full advantage of tax benefits.

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