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How to Get Fit and Healthy on a Budget

A woman is trying to get fit on a budget by running up some outdoor steps.

When it comes to getting healthy, it’s easy to make excuses: But I don’t have the time. But I’m just too tired. But I just don’t have the willpower. But I’m on first-name basis with the donut guy. But I just can’t afford it!

Well, go ahead and scratch that last one off the list, because you 100% can get fit and healthy on a budget. And while you’re at it, cross off not having the willpower either. You can totally make the life changes you need to live the best life for your body and your budget. It’s time to stop bringing up those “buts” and start busting yours. Yeah, it’s work. But it’s worth it. So try out one—or all 10—of these tips and get moving (literally).

1. Set empowering (and realistic) goals.

Guess what? “I’m going to get healthy” isn’t a goal. It’s too vague. And “I’m going to run every day for two hours” when you’re crazy busy and have never run a day in your life isn’t doable. You need to set measurable goals, and they need to be the perfect balance of empowering and realistic.


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Then you need to write them down. Why? Because goals are dreams in action. And the first step to putting those goals into action is writing them down. When you put goals into words and keep them in front of your face as both a reminder and a motivation, you’re beginning to bring them to life. So give them breath. Write them down.

2. Exercise outside.

Sometimes we believe we need fancy machines or hours in the gym to get fit. But think about this—exercising outside is way more cost-effective than equipment, classes or memberships. Bonus: Fresh air is free. So take a hike (for real), go on a walk, or get running—outside. Nature’s gym is cheaper than man’s. Also, research shows spending just 20 minutes outside reduces stress.1  Strengthen your body and lower your stress—exercise outside.

3. Try fitness apps or free videos.

There are plenty of free fitness apps and online videos. Even Instagram is full of free workout posts. These are great if you don’t know where to start to make your fitness goals come true. You can test out different apps and programs to see what works best for your current lifestyle, workout preferences and athletic abilities. And don’t be afraid to push yourself. That’s how you grow.

Even some paid apps offer a free trial. This is a fantastic way to try before you buy. Just be careful—if it’s not the app for you, don’t forget to cancel on time. But if it’s just what you always wanted, make sure your budget is ready for it when the free trial ends!

4. Look for gym deals or free classes.

If you love the gym because the classes and group atmosphere motivate you to work out on the regular, then look for deals and free classes. Some studios will offer one free class a week or a free short-term class pass so you can try out a program before you pay to join. They’re hoping to get you to buy a membership or package, but you can enjoy the free classes and skip the sign-up (unless you can work it into your budget without backtracking on your Baby Steps progress).

If you do want a gym membership, look online for coupons and discounts—especially to new places opening up in the area. But remember, if you’re crushing those money goals and don’t have room in the budget for a gym membership, that doesn’t mean you can’t still crush your fitness goals too. Just exercise somewhere else (like outside or at home)!

5. Skip the expensive athletic wear.

Turns out you can work out just as hard, burn just as many calories, and get just as fit in bargain-priced athletic wear. Okay, so we don’t have an extensive research study to back that statement—but trust us on this. You do need good shoes (meaning they treat your feet well—not they’re worn by your fave athlete). And you do need clothing you can move in. But you don’t need expensive, designer exercise clothing to work out.

6. Invest in home gym equipment.

We’re not suggesting you go buy one of those complicated machines advertised on TV by fitness spokespeople like Chuck Norris. Yes, those things boast that they can work every muscle in your body—even the ones you’ve never heard of and especially the ones you can’t pronounce. But they’re also expensive.

Instead, buy a sturdy yoga mat (which is helpful for many kinds of exercise) and some weights. Find used equipment super cheap from people who gave up or moved on to the next big thing in fitness. Don’t go crazy to start. You don’t want things gathering dust and waiting on your next garage sale. If you realize you need more equipment later, just budget ahead to buy it.

7. Meal plan.

Eating healthy on a budget is possible. You just have to be intentional. And one way to be intentional is to meal plan. Meal planning is deciding up front—and on purpose—what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the week. Plan out all those healthy meals. Make a list of ingredients you need. (Pro tip: Think about what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer first.) Then, go to the grocery store and buy only what’s on your list to make those meals happen. Meal planning is good for the body and the budget.

8. Have healthy snacks ready.

When you’re shopping healthy, don’t forget to buy more than just meals. You need healthy snacks on hand for everyone in the house. Keep them at work too, so you don’t run to the snack machine when your tummy growls. You’ll curb those junk-food cravings, which can get expensive and are rarely a smart health decision.

9. Find an accountability partner.

There’s no shame in asking someone to help you keep your eye on the goal. Just the opposite—there’s incredible strength in asking for accountability. And an accountability partner costs you nothing. The only risks include tighter friendships and a higher likelihood of success. And those are risks we’re ready to take!

The best accountability partners are on the front lines with you. Find someone working toward a similar goal. You can vent your frustrations and share your wins together. You aren’t alone. So don’t go it alone. Get. An. Accountability. Partner.

10. Budget for your health.

You can have health goals and money goals. And you can knock out both at the same time. Just budget! The dumbbells, the smoothie ingredients, the yoga mat—put everything in your budget.

While you’re trying out ways to get fit on the cheap, try out our free budgeting app too. It’s practical. It’s mobile. It’s free. From your desktop or phone, EveryDollar goes where you go so you can budget even while you’re working out! (Please budget safely, friends.)

Dave Ramsey likes to say that goals are dreams with work clothes on. So get your (budget-friendly) workout clothes on, download EveryDollar, and go do this thing.

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Get a FREE Customized Plan for Your Money! 

Answer a few questions, and we'll create a plan tailored just for you. It only takes three minutes!
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