10 Cheap (or Free) Ways to Lose Weight

cheap and free ways to lose weight

Want to lose weight this year?

I officially welcome you to the club of several million people.  It is one of the top new years resolutions.  By the end of this year you will want to graduate from the “I decided to lose weight this year “ club and become a member of the “I lost weight this year” club.  The I-lost-weight club has many less members than the club you now belong to.

The decision to lose weight is a highly emotional one.  You are now looking to the future with so many hopes and expectations.  You are now in a great position to start justifying some spending.  What better investment could you make than into your own health? Surely every dollar you spend today will be saved in health and life insurance premiums.  Think of all the medical bills you save.

Don’t wrongly justify spending a lot of money to get in shape.  I come to you today as a still small voice – it doesn’t take a lot of money to get in shape.  As an example, you can frugally train for a half or full marathon.

10 Cheap Ways To Lose Weight and Get in Shape

Rule #1 – Buy today what you want/need today.

With your new vision of your skinny self you head out to do some shopping.

Before you know it, you’ve spent $500 dollars on new exercise clothes, running shoes, and a gym membership.

However, you are better off asking yourself – do I need that today?  Most of our fitness spending is based on what we are sure we will need tomorrow.  Think, for example, about new exercise clothes.  When you first start your fitness plan it will probably start with some casual walking.  Do you really need a $50 Under Armor shirt to walk around the block?  How about those $200 running shoes?  Don’t you think that your old $50 running shoes would suffice?

Buy the minimal items at first, and then as you start to exercise you can get more ‘technical’ gear.

Rule #2 – If you buy exercise equipment, buy only one piece of equipment.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of a lot of exercise equipment.  However, I recognize that many of you live in a frozen tundra and think your lungs will collapse if you try and exercise outside.  So I’m going to give you a little leeway.

However, you should only buy one piece of exercise equipment.  If you don’t use this rule, you will own something for abs, biceps, and cardiovascular fitness – all within the first day.  You don’t need to (and can’t) get in shape overnight.  If you start with one small new exercise you are on the right track – don’t buy everything at once.

Rule #3 – Shop Used.

I’ll let you in on a little trade secret …

Most exercise equipment sits in a corner collecting dust.  You could probably buy a used treadmill that is four years old for a 90% discount.  And the machine has probably only been used for a total of 15 hours.  There is no reason to buy new equipment.

Where do you get used sports equipment?

  1. Second Hand Stores – I think exercise equipment is on thing you should always shop second hand first.
  2. Used athletic stores – like Play It Again Sports
  3. Craigslist
  4. Network – let people at church know what you’re interested in buying.  Yet, another advantage of forming a frugal community.

Rule #4 – Include physical fitness spending in your budget.

It is too easy to justify fitness spending.  While it is so important to get into shape, don’t give yourself a blank check for spending. Don’t destroy your finances in an effort to get fit.  By the end of the year you probably wouldn’t feel any better about yourself.

All your exercise spending is subject to the old rules of the budget – budget it or you don’t spend it.  If you spent the budgeted amount – don’t spend any more.

Rule #5 – Do your own cooking.

There is not a single company in the world that has a product that makes you skinny just by eating THEIR brand of food. You can get online and look for healthy recipes and cook your own food. Use sites like livestrong.com to help you monitor and track your required daily food intake.

Rule #6 – Take advantage of free.

Before you race out to take advantage of the predictable January sale at the gym, ask yourself if there is a way you could exercise for free.

Free options include – walking/running, community centers with free resources, an exercise room at work.  Sure, these options might not have all the bells and whistle, but let me remind you, you are a beginner so you don’t need all the bells and whistles.

Rule #7 – Do your own exercise at home.

There are a lot of great plans for getting into shape.  Most, however, require highly specialized equipment.  However, you can often use resources in your own home.

  • Use paint cans or rocks to work your biceps.
  • Find a bar at home for chin ups.
  • Use a chair to work your triceps.
  • Do sit ups and push ups without any equipment.

Use your kids as weights.  Sometimes I just wrestle with my kids and lift them up for the exercise.  (I’m glad this post doesn’t have a full body shot because I’m about the size of a twig on a dead tree).

I’m not saying that for the rest of your life you’re only going to use paint cans to get in shape.  However, after you’ve developed a habit and proved to yourself you’re going to stick with it – then go buy better stuff.

Rule #8 – Don’t sign a long term gym contract.

Hmmm.  Not much more to say here.  Buy it month by month until you see if it is getting used – then sign the long term contract.

Rule #9 – Buy one good fitness book or use the internet.

The internet is packed full with useful information on fitness.  Find a cheap at home fitness plan online.

Otherwise, you might want to get a book that will give you some structure and exercise plans.  I have the book Fit & Well – it has lots of at home exercises.

Rule #10 – Don’t register for that marathon today.

You’re on fire because on January 1st you ran around the block.  As a person who was a long distant runner for several years, I’d advise you to wait to sign up for the marathon till you know you’re ready.  There can be a lot of registration fees lost if you find you set your goal to prematurely.

Photo by nattu.

What ideas do you have for getting in shape without spending a bunch of money?

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  1. Ken

    Walk…..if weather is an issue…go to a mall (watch that impulse buying :-)) and make laps…or bundle up and walk your subdivison….walk up and down steps in your house.

  2. Some of my goals for 2010 are to complete the challenges of 100 pushups, 200 situps, 200 squats. All are free, requiring only time and motivation. Also, I got a pair of cheap running shoes (about $15) and will be running as soon as the snow melts and I can see the sidewalks again. Can’t get too much cheaper than that!

  3. Joe Plemon

    I needed physical therapy to help a pinched nerve in my arm. The therapists used all the latest and high tech equipment and then gave me home exercises lifting soup cans and a stretchy rubber strap which I closed in the door to anchor.
    Here’s the point: the soup can and stretchy strap replicated the exercises at the therapy place, proving that cheap can be effective.

  4. ken

    I wouldn’t be doing chin ups on a bar that wasn’t made for it.
    Most bars in your house aren’t made to hold a person so I would watch out.

  5. Derek

    Losing weight is a pretty significant lifestyle change, and overstepping your bounds will set you on a path to quitting. As a lot of your tips advise, don’t over commit. Start small and buy only what you need.

    Another good resource is Youtube. There are tons of body weight exercises you can do at home all over youtube.

  6. Personal Finance Student

    I think the advice you give that has no cost is the best. There many ways of exercising at home that will practically do close to everything that the gym will offer. It just takes commitment.

  7. Elfada

    A french guy released a book called “Lafay’s method”. It’s based on moving its own body with no equipment, except a bar and exercises with one or two chairs (dips).
    Most important advantage of this book is the way he describes exercises and the way to progress. For example, he details duration and spacing of different exercises, their number and their intensity. The method is divided into 14 steps and is included in a healthy food consumption depending on your body at the beginnng of the method and the objectives you’re looking for.
    This book had a great success in France!

  8. Nan

    In addition to a fitness program, build exercise into ordinary activities. Take the steps at work instead of the elevator. Walk during lunch and breaks. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot. Rake your own leaves and mow your own grass. Turn over flower beds and gardens by hand. Et cetera. Over time, it adds up.

    As for food, little changes can really help with weight loss. Shop on the outside aisles of the grocery store. Avoid overly processed food. If you’re drinking 2% milk, switch to 1% or skim. Eat less meat and more veggies. Avoid fried foods. Eat foods that are high in fiber. Avoid soda and sugary drinks with empty calories. Always read labels. And watch portion sizes!

  9. what to eat while pregnant review

    Rule #7 & #9 are the big ones that resonated with me, since I started exercising at home I have gotten so much more progress, than being at a gym, maybe because there really is no excuse as I have the gym at my house, and also I have sticked to just one program at a time instead of trying to do several at once, this one is big, it is all about focusing until successful 🙂