Posted on 2/28/2012 10:18 EST
The average price of a monthly gym membership is about $40, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, plus initiation fees and transportation costs. Unfortunately, simply paying the dues doesn't automatically improve your fitness. Do the math: Divide the cost of your membership by the number of visits (actual visits, not optimistic projections) to calculate the amount you pay for each workout. Too much? Then consider one of these cheap workouts as an alternative to the gym.
1. Play a video game.
Seriously! Borrow your child's game console or buy a used Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move, or Xbox 360 with Kinect. These game systems with movement-tracking
technology provide a fun way to get fit. Games such as "Dance Central" can double as high-energy
aerobic workouts. Other video games are designed for yoga or personal training. You can work out right at home -- and learn a few dance moves at the same time.
2. Start a hardcore home workout program.
There's a reason why the P90X
and INSANITY Fitness Regimens
are surging in popularity. These boot-camp-style
workout programs are extremely high-intensity
and provide 60 to 90 days of different daily routines that require no special gym equipment. Compare the price of one of these cheap workouts with the price of two or three months of health club dues, and factor in the convenience of working on your six-pack
in your living room.
3. Enjoy a "class" with DVDs and free online videos.
If fitness classes are the main reason you visit the gym, swap them for hundreds of free videos on sites like YouTube, or some cheap workout DVDs
. You can even find these at the library. With the seemingly endless selection, your routine can vary as much as it would in an instructor-led
class -- if not more so. Plus, with this gym alternative, you won't have to fight for mat space.
4. Follow a home fitness regimen.
Not all training requires specialized equipment or machines. Dozens of strength exercises use your own body weight to tone and sculpt muscles. Combine some of the hundreds of at-home
exercises and routines available online
, and see how much you can accomplish with just the floor and maybe a chair. Take these cheap workouts to the next level with the addition of some inexpensive weights, an exercise ball, or a jump rope.
5. Replace a machine with its original inspiration.
If your equipment of choice is a treadmill, swap the gym for the great outdoors. Runners World
explains that running outside is more demanding than running on a machine. Opt for a more challenging (and interesting) workout with changes in terrain, elevation, and scenery. You'll save money and burn more calories at the same time.
6. Bring the gym home.
If you favor a machine or live in a cold climate, invest in equipment for your home. A cheap elliptical
or cheap treadmill
should pay for itself in less than two years. Biking enthusiasts can buy a cheap exercise bike
for less than the cost of an annual gym membership. This can save you years of fees, plus the time and cost of getting to the gym. Without that hassle, you may find yourself working out more often.
If these cheap workouts don't appeal or you really want to stick to a fitness club setting, here are a few tips:
7. Find a Groupon or membership discount.
Sign up for Groupon and other social buying sites to see if they offer discounted membership rates to local gyms. But keep in mind, the more popular the deal, the more crowded the facility may be.
8. Join with friends or family.
You may be able to negotiate a better rate if you bring along a friend or family member. With more than one potential new member on the line, a gym may try to seal the deal with discounts and special offers, such as massages or spa privileges.
9. Sign up for a limited plan or pay as you go.
Instead of locking yourself in to an expensive yearlong contract, ask the gym about a more limited plan or a pay-as-you-go
membership deal. Some gyms offer heavily discounted plans for members who visit only during off-peak
hours or on certain days of the week. One of these plans can help you feel (slightly) better if you fall off the fitness bandwagon for a while.
Posted on 2/27/2012 10:31 EST
Whether you're saving up for a big purchase or just want to save, these seven easy tips and tricks can help curb your spending and supplement your savings account without so much as lifting a finger. But first, scan your individual or family's daily expenses and see which can be eliminated or trimmed, and commit to doing so. And then try the following strategies for saving still more money painlessly.
Consolidate your spending on one rewards or cashback card.
Earn rewards or get cash back on your regular purchases by using a good rewards credit card
. Maximize your rewards (and minimize paperwork) by consolidating your expenses on one card and you'll see dollars returned on everyday purchases like gas or groceries. Even better, pay your bills with your rewards credit card and rack up points without changing your spending habits. But remember, it's still a credit card, and it doesn't make financial sense to spend more just to earn points.
Set up your bank account to save automatically.
Use your checking account to feed your savings account automatically, and thus, painlessly. Many banks offer programs that automatically deposit money into your savings account based on each direct deposit, paycheck, or even purchase. For instance, Bank of America's Keep the Change
program rounds up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar amount, then deposits the difference to your savings account. You'll never notice the missing "change," but you'll be happy to see how much money has magically appeared in your savings account.
Get motivated - tie in money-saving with another goal.
If you're looking to save money and attain a behavioral goal at the same time, link the two so that your motivation for each is increased. Trying to kick a habit like smoking or snacking on junk food? Create a financial incentive - set up a reverse "swear jar" for any habit you want to break. Deposit the money saved by foregoing the temptation and watch the pile grow as you change your ways. The visual reminder will make you proud of having saved so much and come so far in reaching two milestones.
Know what's worth buying at warehouse stores and what's not.
Americans waste millions of dollars on unused or spoiled food every year, so next time you're at Costco or Sam's Club
figure out what food or grocery items are worth buying in bulk. Unless you have a large family, tubs of spreads and blocks of cheese may not turn out to be good bargains if they go uneaten. Also, resist the urge to buy economy-sized
boxes of snacks; yes, they may be cheaper than supermarket prices, but ask yourself if you (and your waistline) really need them.
Eliminate excuses to eat out - use a slow cooker.
It's understandable if you're too tired to cook after a long day, but that doesn't have to be an excuse to order pizza or takeout. Learn how to use your slow cooker
(or crock pot) and come home to a fully-cooked
homemade meal. Look up recipes, pour in the ingredients, turn on the cooker in the morning, and you'll be greeted by delicious aromas when you walk in the door. The slow cooker has surged in popularity recently for its ease of use, and with plenty of slow cooker recipes within easy reach for every day of the year
, it's no wonder why.
Cut the cost of your daily coffee(s).
Coffee drinks are an everyday expense that most consumers don't think of as a luxury, but they should. Add up the yearly cost and you'll see you could have splurged on a real luxury item. Cutting your coffee costs
is simple. You can always make your own coffee, of course, but even diehard coffeehouse addicts can trade their double mocha lattes for plain drip coffee, starting with just one such order a week. Once you realize you save $3-$4 per visit, you may find yourself opting for the classic cup more often. Also, take advantage of any coffee shop loyalty programs or punch cards offered and curb your specialty drink habit this way: buy ten regular coffees, reward yourself with a more expensive drink on the house.
BYOB - Bring Your Own Bottle (of water).
Save money and the environment in one fell swoop. Whether you're out shopping or chauffeuring the kids, bring a refillable bottle of water from home
. Chances are you'll get thirsty at some point, so avoid being forced to hand over a dollar or more for what's essentially just tap water and marketing. You can even carry an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain, or make your own drink with a slice of lemon or flavoring.
Posted on 2/24/2012 12:30 EST
Although Presidents' Day proved to be one of the best shopping days of the year, no need to worry if you missed it. We're still finding great deals for you, including the best times and places to shop for a cheap lawn mower and a slew of new ideas for a memorable (and frugal) spring break.
Lawn Mower Daily Deals.
Spring beckons and the brown grass of winter will soon turn green. Time to start thinking about mowing that lawn. We searched high and low for the best lawn mower deals
and found several retailers eager to move inventory. Check out their sites for prices as low as $68 for an electric push mower.
New Blog Posts.
Alternative Spring Break Ideas.
If Cancun is old news to you (or just way beyond your budget), you can still enjoy a memorable spring break. We've put together our favorite tips for frugal alternative spring break ideas
suitable for families, professionals, and, of course, students.
Presidents' Day Discounts.
Depending what you're in the market to buy, Presidents' Day sales
may have even trumped Black Friday for the best deals of the year. Something to keep in mind next time this national holiday rolls around.
Posted on 2/21/2012 18:16 EST
It may seem as if everyone is jetting off to warm, far-off destinations for spring break: Cancun, Mazatlan, Hawaii, Disneyland, Ft. Lauderdale. But for those on a tight budget, there are alternative spring break options. We've put together a list for all sorts of spring breakers, from students to families to professionals.
You're in college and money is scarce. Skip the tropical drunk-fest
and take a road trip with friends. You'd be surprised how much ground you can cover in a week, and with everyone chipping in gas money, expenses will be minimal. Students in Washington State, for example, can make it to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even Las Vegas in a day's drive. East Coasters can head south to New Orleans and Nashville, among other places. Stay in cheap motels along the way and consider this alternative spring break an adventure -- just make certain you're ready to spend a full week in a car with four other people.
Airfare costs and lodging can really add up for a family, so for this spring break consider a camping trip. Spring isn't too early to be sleeping outside, although you'll want to make sure you have gear for inclement weather; that means warm sleeping bags, a tent that stands up to rain and wind, and plenty of cozy clothing. Crisp mornings and sunny spring weather are good for the soul, as are s'mores cooked over a campfire. Check out campgrounds within a 200-mile radius of your home and pick the one that seems primed for the most adventure. Hiking trails, streams and rivers, beaches and/or mountains are all fodder for exploration. Many campgrounds have well-equipped
bathrooms and convenience stores, so "roughing it" is relative.
If you need a break from the daily grind but your budget won't allow a full-on
spring break, consider dividing the week between a long weekend away and a "staycation." Spend the first half of your alternative spring break week unplugged at home and use the money saved by treating yourself to a midweek golf game, a massage, a facial, or a little shopping excursion. Dine out somewhere new. Go to the theatre or a movie. Once you've unwound from the stresses at work, finish up the week with a long weekend at a bed and breakfast, out of town, where you can recharge in a new environment.
Volunteer for a week. Non-profits
such as Habitat for Humanity
, Cross Cultural Solutions
, and United Way
programs that cater to spring breakers. Many of these programs are targeted at college students, but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for others as well. So look around and find a program that works for you for an alternative spring break. Often housing and food are included, or you may pay a small fee. Either way, you can save a lot of money while still traveling to a new destination and feel good about it
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Black Friday may be famous for day-after-Thanksgiving discounts on electronics and other holiday gift items, but when it comes to clothes shopping, Presidents' Day sales are almost unbeatable. Data compiled by Shop It To Me show that clothing, shoes, and accessories are more heavily discounted during Presidents' Day sales than they are on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, according to ABC News' Consumer Report.
Shop It To Me, a site that alerts users when apparel from their favorite brands goes on sale, determined that average discounts during Presidents' Day sales total 46.7%, compared with 42.1% on Black Friday and 41.1% on Cyber Monday. In fact, Presidents' Day is only the second-best
day in the year to shop for clothes online, ranking just below Labor Day.
As we noted in a recent blog post, this month is the best time to find discounts on winter clothing and outerwear. Take advantage of some of the best discounts of the year by combining existing February deals with Presidents' Day sales.
The moral of the story: If online shopping isn't on your list of things to do over this long weekend, you may want to consider a change of plans.