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The $0 Gym Membership

Odds are, by this point in your life you understand how important exercise is to maintaining a long, healthy life.

This fact is constantly hammered home by many people; doctors, insurers, family, etc, and all for good reasons. Nobody wants to be stuck with health problems at any point in their life!

However, there’s another party that’s took notice as well, and they’re coming after your wallet.

That’s right, I’m talking about the more than $80 billion fitness and health club industry.

These people have a vested interest in you being motivated to be healthy, and they sure will charge a premium for it.

The average gym membership costs $58/month and that’s not including the typical annual fee you’d need to pay.

This is just for gyms, if you’re looking for something more specialized (such as yoga, spin class, cross fit, etc.) you could easily be paying over $100/month to attend on a regular schedule.

Not surprisingly, this can amount to a huge cost for people, and can be a significant portion of their budget.

To be clear, this post isn’t to bash on gyms or other fitness clubs (even if the statistic that 67% of people have gym memberships but never use them seems pretty wasteful). If you value your place of fitness and take advantage of it then who am I to say that’s wrong?

Instead, I wanted to point out a place to get your workout in that many people don’t consider.

The best part about it? It’s all free!

That’s right; I’m talking about a combination of the great outdoors, and your own home!

The $0 Gym Membership


There are so many ways to get free workouts in just utilizing what’s already available to you.

To get started with cardio, everyone knows it’s free to run/walk outdoors! Personally, I can’t stand the treadmill, so this has always been my choice of cardio.

Go for a walk/run/jog around your neighborhood, park, local trails, etc. if the only reason you use the gym for is the treadmill!

Using the elliptical/stair machine too? Most towns should have a school that has bleachers, use those instead! If not, surely you have some area of town with hills? Same thing!

I get it, when it’s cold outside many people don’t want to deal with the outdoors. I was the same way. But I found that if you dress warmly enough; as your heart rate elevates you will get super warm naturally and it’s a lot more bearable than you think!

Plus, in the winter, so many of us fail to get outside enough (due to the cold) which can lead to a whole other host of issues. Running outdoors has been found to help alleviate some of these!

Aside from running, another great outdoor workout is through biking. You can use any bike to get around (I still have my 20+ year old rusting bike from when I was a kid), but investing in a decent one could last you many years.

These two are probably the most popular, but you also could get outdoor cardio exercises through hiking, playing a sport, swimming, and really whatever you set your mind to!

At Home

The Home is an area that many people do consider for a workout space, but sometimes they think they need a lot more than they really do.

Many people end up getting a “home gym” where they’ll buy expensive machines and weights which could easily total up to a few years’ worth of gym membership payments.

Sure, in the long run it could save you on gym payments (if you utilize it) but I’m here to tell you, you don’t need all that fancy equipment!

Most people don’t realize that bodyweight training can sometimes be all you need! And newsflash, it’s really good for you.

Last I checked, for bodyweight training, all you need is yourself and a little bit of space. Whether that be indoors in your house/apartment or also outdoors is totally up to you!

I know what you’re thinking, “bodyweight exercises are too easy, they don’t push me like weight training does.”

To anyone that says that I’d like to see you try and do 100+ good form push ups and tell me how you feel afterwards! (emphasis on good form)

The point is, most people once they get to a certain age really don’t need to be lifting a bunch of heavy weights, it’s really about maintaining your current strength.

This can all be accomplished using what you already have. Not sure where you would start with bodyweight workouts at your home?

We live in a digital age where it’s insane how much free content is out there.

Take your laptop, tablet or phone and search YouTube for free workouts. There are literally thousands of professional trainers and fitness instructors that upload free workouts to YouTube to grow their following. Cash in on that!

You can search for anything, “leg workout”, “bodyweight arm workout” “free 30 minute at home workout”, etc. The possibilities are endless.

You can also just do a general google search for other bodyweight exercises if you want to target anything specific. Here’s a good guide if you are stuck.

Try out some of these workouts and you may be second guessing paying all that money for your gym/fitness club!

My Workout Philosophy

One thing that’s really helped my budget since graduating college is that I’ve never paid for a gym membership or any specialized classes.  At an average of $58/month, that’s roughly $700 a year I save.

Now, I would be lying if I did not mention that for 3 of the 4 years, I’ve been at a location where my employer has an onsite fitness center (even though for some places it was just a small room with a couple machines).

It is nice to have that, and I’ve always tried to go at least a couple times a week when possible, but often times I fail to do even that.

When you have 12 hour days (9-10 hours at work, plus 2 hours commute round trip) it is tough to get to the gym even when it’s close by as tiredness (and hunger for dinnertime) kicks in.

Even when I fail to get into the gym though, I do turn to my trusty free workout spots. Enter my workout space:

So much room for activities!

Yep, a whopping area measuring 6’ by 6’ in my bedroom allows me to get just about all the bodyweight exercises in that I need to! It really comes in handy those nights I get home late.

They aren’t necessarily long workouts, sometimes I just have time for 10-15 minutes, but depending on what YouTube exercise video I choose, it sure can work up a sweat!

If I’m feeling motivated, I also will sometimes switch that out for a run instead. I’ve got a couple routes that I can run 2 miles in 15-20 minutes.. not a huge time commitment either!

It’s also the perfect area to get stretching and yoga practice in (I’ve never actually been to a yoga class, just self-taught from all the free videos out there!)

Ultimately, I’ve noticed I really don’t need a big space or machines at all to get a good workout in.

Not For Everyone

While I think this is a great way to get free workouts in for people on a budget, I want to be clear that this is not for everyone.

Some people thrive on community and working out with others, as this gives them the drive to get a better workout in.

Others may lack the motivation or discipline to actually workout in their own at home when the TV or other more fun activities are closer by.

A lot of people simply really like the trainers or classes they take as they feel they are getting their money’s worth to take care of their health/wellness.

If any of these situations describe you (I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m missing) then I think you should continue doing what you’re doing.

After all, getting good, consistent exercise in is extremely important and what we’re aiming for here.

As many of are striving for Financial Independence and potential early retirement over here, maintaining good health along the journey is essential.

It really comes down to what you value, and if you value your current place of fitness at the price you are paying, carry on!

Just remember, if you ever change your mind or need to cut back on your budget, there are endless free workouts out there!


Do you pay for a gym/health club membership? How often would you say you utilize this? Do you think you could only workout at home/outdoors? Why or why not?

19 thoughts to “The $0 Gym Membership”

  1. This is certainly a thought-provoking post. I pay roughly $20/month plus a $50 annual fee (charged in December) so with sales tax it’s a little over $300 per year. I never knew the average membership price was so high. I’d never pay that, to be honest. I’m content with what I pay currently and the services that are provided. The gym is on my route home from work, so it’s convenient.

    Personally, I think I’d have trouble exercising at home. It’s not something that’s top of mind when I get home. I want to have dinner, relax, practice my golf game, pretty much anything else except exercise. 🙂 But I do carve out a good chunk of time on my way home from work to stop at the gym (3-4 days a week). The biggest thing for me is eating right consistently.

    I think I need to look into the stretching and/or yoga that you mentioned. I’ve never had any flexibility my whole life!

    1. Yea I think that when you can find gym memberships that cheap it’s definitely worth it, especially if it’s tough to do the workouts at home! $300/year is definitely not too bad and as long long as you see and get value out of it that’s the important thing!

      Definitely should stretch more it’s been amazing having more flexibility!

  2. I just can’t give up all the sweet gains i get at the gym lol. Deadlift, bench, squat rack LOL, i’m having withdrawals just imagining a life without the gym haha. My membership is somewhere between 20-30 dollars, i pay once a year upfront for a better rate.

    But definitely like you said, this won’t be for everyone, but majority of people do not utilize the gym like they should. Nice post!

  3. Very interesting article! My husband and I tried a few of these strategies but we weren’t disciplined enough to make them ‘stick’. My husband ended up signing up for a personal trainer which costs a bit more. However, he hates being late and disappointing people so it makes him accountable and he has never missed a session regardless of how busy he is. Plus the trainer pushes him beyond what he would ever do on his own so it is worth it for us. We just try to save on other items to make the budget work. 🙂

    1. It definitely tough to get used to working out at home! It’s so tempting to just relax on the couch haha.

      That’s the way to do it though! If you can make it work in the budget and sacrifice in other areas I think you’re doing it right 🙂

      Being healthy isn’t something to mess around with!

  4. The following is specific to my situation, but I’m not self-motivated. I wish I was able to workout at home by myself. I’ve tried an failed. I’ve also been cheap and paid $10/month for planet fitness. The problem with cheap is that its so cheap, who cares if I go or not.

    I had to make it hurt. So I joined crossfit at $150/month. The pain of seeing that much money leave my bank account every month forced me to go. I’ve been going 4x/week for the past 4 years. i’ve learned to love it and the community. I’m at my healthiest and fittest. Its my one splurge!

    1. Hey if you’re at your healthiest and fittest in your life that is amazing and you should keep doing that! As long as you can fit that expense in your budget and/or sacrifice in other areas to make it fit in with your overall goals that is.

      As I mentioned, the working out at home definitely is not for everyone as the allures of relaxing in your own home/apt are very tough to get around.

  5. I think I’m willing(ish. Obviously I’m not happy about it but hey I’m also paying $80/month less than their non-discounted memberships cost 🤦‍♀️) to pay the ridiculous amount I am right now solely because it’s the only full-body workout I’ve found that I don’t hate. Honestly if you told me a few years ago that I would actually look forward to working out sometimes, I would’ve absolutely laughed in your face. So that in itself is motivation to keep paying for exercise, at least for now! When I can’t make it in to a class I’ll try to do an online workout in my room, but apparently I am one of those people who works out much harder when I’m there in person, go figure.

    I really do wish I didn’t hate running so much! Good thing for now I get a lot of walking in during the day and like going hiking!

    1. I feel like most people work out harder when they’re with other people 🙂 that’s just natural competition and accountability at its finest!

      If that’s a workout you enjoy and will push you more than any other kind of workout it sounds like you should keep doing it!

  6. Yikes, $58/mo is the AVERAGE? The reason I’ve kept my membership is that it only costs me $17 a month. Pre kid, I went a good 3+ days a week, but now I’m lucky to get there a few times a month. Still, at the crazy low price of my gym (which includes all LA Fitness locations in our area), it’s worth keeping at this point.

    1. Right? I had to double take on that cause that was way more than I was expecting! $17 is very cheap and affordable. Even at a couple times a month that’s a few dollars per workout which seems worth it in the name of health!

  7. Great post – I’ve never had a gym membership in my life and never will. And those who say ““bodyweight exercises are too easy, they don’t push me like weight training does”, well I challenge them to get a video like the “Insanity” series and just try to keep up without puking. The biggest muscle-head or fittest person can’t keep up with those, it’s seriously intense.

    I do see the benefit of being around others for motivation, but that’s why I ride with cycling groups. We race and we constantly challenge each other (including copious amounts of smack-talk). All in the great outdoors.

    1. Yea I remember trying the insanity series.. that was so difficult haha.

      Nice though! Cycling/running groups are a great idea for that social interaction and motivation. I should’ve included that in the post!

  8. Great summary, and exactly my thoughts. Why pay for what I can do at home for free, with no one to watch or judge? It took time but I’ve found a combo of videos and styles (HIIT + yoga) that works best for me. Something is always better than nothing.

    1. Thank you! Yes the yoga videos have been awesome in helping me to learn on my own without having to pay for any classes. I like the HIIT as well as you can get an awesome workout in in a relatively short period of time!

  9. Great advice, YFK! We keep it free thanks to Mrs. Cubert being a part time gym instructor. A perk is free membership for her and me. That said, my main form of exercise most of the year is biking to work. Free and fun, and OUTDOORS.

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