Staying in Shape Without a Fancy Gym Membership

Changes on the Path the FI


Since starting on the path to financial independence, there have been a lot of changes in the waffle household.

Fortunately for you, most of these changes I have already written about. These changes include how I:


Lots of little changes that have all made a big impact on my life.

But one of those changes I have yet to write about. I briefly mentioned it when I discussed my monthly memberships, but I didn’t go into much detail.

I used to be an avid monthly membership-er (not sure if that is a word, but you get my point).  I had memberships to everything: yoga clothes, music, massages, regular clothes, etc.  Once I realized how much money I was throwing away each month, say upwards of $400, I started cancelling all of my memberships.


The Hardest Change


Most of them were easy to do away with, since they really didn’t add too much value to my life. But one of them was much tougher to cancel than the others.  It would also be one of my biggest money saving hacks.

For years, I went to a gym that I absolutely loved.  It was a small circuit training/ boot camp gym that I attended 5-6 times a week.  They were closed on Sundays, otherwise I probably would have been there every day of the week. I had an awesome group of friends there, loved the trainers, and really got a lot of value out of going there.

This gym was located one block away from my house so I could literally roll out of bed and head to class. It was also two blocks away from the beach so sometimes we would head down to the beach to do our workouts in the sand.  It was brutal, but it was a great workout!

It was awesome and I was in the best shape of my life too.

But this awesomeness came with a hefty price tag: $200 *gasp* a month.

A few times, I paid in full for a year which dropped the price down to $166 a month. It helped, but it was still a lot of money coming out of my pocket each month.

Being that I went so often, I was typically paying about $8-10 per class, which really doesn’t seem all that bad and I was getting a lot of value out of it.

At the time, I thought it was completely worth it.  I knew it was a lot of money, but I felt great and I had the salary to cover it.

But now with the increased financial knowledge that I have, I know that money could have done much more for me if I had invested it instead, especially being that I was in my mid-twenties during this time. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?


Cancelling My Gym Membership


After awhile the price tag started to wear on me.  I decided to forego my fancy gym membership and try out ClassPass in order to drop the price a little bit, but still have access to a gym.

At this point, I was paying $125 per month for an unlimited membership.  Better than $166-200, but still a lot to be paying for a gym. I did it for about one year and enjoyed it while it lasted, but I finally reached my breaking point and no longer wanted to be paying for a gym membership.


What To Do Without a Gym


At this time, Mr. Wow and I had moved from our termite-infested beach apartment and out of my parent’s house to the place that we are in now.  One of the perks of our current spot is that we have a big garage.

And you know what they say about a big garage… so much room for activities.

So we decided to convert half of our garage into a home gym. Bye bye monthly gym membership!

Fortunately, when Mr. Wow left one of his previous jobs they happened to be moving offices and getting rid of all of their gym equipment.  Being the savvy frugalist that he is, Mr. Wow snatched up a lot of the gym equipment, including a dumbbell weight set, weight bench, resistive bands with handles, jump ropes, combat ropes, yoga blocks, a fan, and floor mats.  All for free!


Weights, weights, weights… everybody!


The dumbbells alone would have cost around $1,000 if we had bought them.

Oh and he also acquired all the Insanity videos, including T25 and Insanity Max, P90X, and Hip Hop Abs.

Over the past two years, I have added a few things to the gym as well, including a hand-me-down TRX trainer, wooden box that my dad built, and resistance bands.


The box my father built


When everything was said and done, we had spent all of $10 (being that we only had to buy the resistance bands) on getting this home gym set up. For what it is worth, I’d say it was a steal.

And it’s pretty sweet if I do say so myself.


What I have Gained


While I originally thought that I wouldn’t enjoy working out at home, I’ve actually gained so much more than expected.


  1. Time: It only takes me one minute to “commute” to the gym aka walk out my front door, open the garage, and turn on the music and fan. I now have more time to devote to other parts of life.
  2. Intrinsic motivation: I used to rely on others to help me get fit, but now I have learned am learning how to rely on only myself.
  3. Choice: I no longer have to do what someone else wants me to do. I have control over the exercises and routine that I do.
  4. Money: You don’t need to spend a lot of money in order to be in shape.  You just need to dedicate some time. And it doesn’t hurt that almost $5,000 has stayed in my pocket over the past 2 years and has the chance to be invested in order to continue making more money.
  5. Podcasts: I used to be a music person, but I have learned the life changing magic of listening to a podcast while I work out.  I’ve found that listening to an inspiring personal finance ‘cast is actually really motivating to work out to and once I am done, I feel great and am ready to take on the world that day.


Jump ropes and combat ropes and bands, oh my!


The Purpose of This Post


Now, I’m not writing this post to shame people who pay for a gym membership.  If you actually go and you get value out of it, then you keep doing your thing.

I am more writing this post for people who think they HAVE to have a gym membership in order to stay in shape. I’m writing it because I was one of these people up until 2 years ago.

I thought that the only way that I could be in shape was to go to a fancy gym. I thought it was the only way to provide me motivation both socially by wanting to impress the trainers and other members, but also monetary since I was paying to go there.

When I first cancelled my membership, I honestly thought that I would test it out for a month or two and then go right back to the gym.

I was so wrong.

Since cancelling my membership I have continued to use my home gym almost everyday.

I figured out a weekly routine that I enjoy, but that also challenges me and helps me get stronger. My workouts for the week usually consist of some blend of Insanity or P90X videos, free weights, 100+ burbees, running, and going for a bike ride to meet Mr.Wow after work.

It’s true. Some days it’s tough to find the motivation, but I experienced those days going to the gym as well.  Overall, I have gained a lot more from having a home gym than I would have from continuing to attend the fancy  gym I used to go to.


Ain’t she a beauty?


The Cooldown


If I’ve learned anything while on the path the FIRE, it is to challenge the norm and lean into the discomfort. I thought I needed a gym membership to stay healthy. I thought I needed to spend money in order to stay in shape.

I quickly learned that working out at home also had its benefits.  While it took a little adjusting on my part, it’s actually become easier and easier. I lucked out getting so much free equipment and I have found so much value in working out at home.


Come to think of it, it’s time to hit the gym. See ya next time Wafflers!


Who else works out at home? Any equipment that you use that I didn’t mention? Know of any cheap places to buy gym equipment? Also, who here finds value paying for a gym membership? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  • Jim Wang October 10, 2018 at 5:03 am

    Free weights!? That’s so awesome. Our gym is a community one and costs us only $30 a month, so I’ve debated converting an area of the house into a mini-gym but at $30 it’s hard to argue in favor of the investment (and space commitment).

    I’ve done the research though and came away with similar figures and the payback period is only around 5 years after everything. The kicker is the space, it’s hard to find a spot in our home for it. Plus part of me enjoys going to a place and out of the house. 🙂
    Jim Wang recently posted…How to Start a Business

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 5:55 am

      Finding space is definitely a challenge, but I’ve found that you actually don’t need as much space as you think. We have a decent sized matted area and I pretty much only use a small portion of it, just enough to do some squats, burps, and push-ups. But at 30 bucks a month, I can see where it might not be worth the investment to set it up in your home. I agree that it is nice to get out of the house, but it is also nice to just roll out of bed and into your home gym.

      • Jim Wang October 10, 2018 at 6:46 am

        The “roll out of bed and into your home gym” is very appealing. We have a doorway pull-up bar that I put in a guest room door and for a while I was doing a pull up each time I walked by. Convenience is key!

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach October 10, 2018 at 5:33 am

    I think the gym is as heavily debated a topic as personal care in the FIRE world. I think it all comes down to personal preference and decisions like anything else. I tried quitting gyms when I lived in LA to work out on my own, but the only thing I did was cardio. I realized I have zero motivation to strength train on my own. But you can find balance there too. I bartered for many years my boutique membership at Bionic, and I’m going to be doing the same thing here in Boise too. Thankfully there is more than one way to skin a cat. Glad you found a system that works for you and is cheap/free!

    • Mrs. Doodlepop October 10, 2018 at 5:41 am

      Hi Tonya! So awesome you bartered your gym membership. How did you go about doing that? My sister recently moved to Boise and loves it!

      • Tonya@Budget and the Beach October 10, 2018 at 6:11 am

        Well, the one I like is expensive. When I quit my job, I flat out told them I loved the gym but there was no way I can pay the membership, but that I have bartered with other gyms/yoga studios in the past for video work, or working at the studio doing cleanup and whatnot. They talked it over and said they could always use videos. Glad your sister likes Boise!
        Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…September Rewind: Moving is Expensive!

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 5:59 am

      I feel like I am the opposite, I am totally motivated to do strength training and the cardio is one that I have to push myself more to do. I agree that it really is personal preference and for many people, going to a gym is the best thing for them. But it doesn’t have to be the only way to stay in shape. I’m totally inspired by how you have bartered for memberships. Hope Boise is treating you well!

  • Mrs. Doodlepop October 10, 2018 at 5:39 am

    Awesome insight!!! I recently signed up for a new membership deal at my local yoga studio (unlimited classes for $44 for the 1st month) and was thinking about continuing after the 1st month is over (unlimited classes jump up to $89/month, yikes!), but this has me rethinking my decision. I’ll have to take a look at how I can bring the perks I love about a yoga studio (all the incense!) into my home. There are so many free yoga classes online I could explore. I agree that the power of motivating yourself and getting into your own routine sounds inspiring for other parts of life like starting a business, taking the first step towards van life, etc. Thank you for the perfectly timed post 🙂
    Mrs. Doodlepop recently posted…The Happiest Marathon on Earth

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 6:03 am

      YouTube has a ton of free yoga videos, you can pretty much find anything that you are looking for. And all you would really need is space for a mat, your computer, and some incense ;o) which is pretty easy if you ask me. I love that you are making the preparations for #vanlife. I must admit that the whole work out component is something that I have been thinking about while on the road. Gonna have to pare to the essentials when that time comes.

  • Weekend Warlock October 10, 2018 at 6:35 am

    I love my dungeon basement gym! Just me and the spiders getting our pump on. Ok, the spiders kinda freak me out. I secretly hate them and am trying to find ways to revoke their membership, but we’ll see how it goes.

    The life changing piece of equipment for me was a power cage complete with a bench and barbell set. That’s actually all I have and it’s everything I need for a complete workout. Beautiful simplicity! It also allows you to bench and squat safely by yourself.

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      That power cage sounds awesome and slightly intimidating. That’s awesome that’s all you need. I’m with you on the whole spider thing, I’m sure there are plenty of them lurking around in my garage and watching me with their 8 eyes. Fortunately, they have stayed out of my way so far. Maybe my muscles (or lack there of) scare them away?

  • Young FIRE Knight October 10, 2018 at 6:43 am

    I’ve never actually paid for a gym membership before! Luckily my company has had small gyms in most of the buildings that I’ve been in for me to workout. When I don’t feel like doing those, or on the weekends I’ll just do body weight workouts or go for a run which are all free too!

    When I lived out in Hermosa Beach that was the one spot my company didn’t have a gym so I’d just do beach workouts and run on the strand all the time!
    Young FIRE Knight recently posted…Net Worth Update: September 2018

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:57 pm

      Hermosa Beach? We used to live there too. Its actually where the Mr and I met. Runs on the sand, strand and the greenbelt were the best!!

  • Mr Crazy Kicks October 10, 2018 at 7:16 am

    Holy nice score on all that free gear!! Of course you don’t need a fancy gym membership when you own a fancy gym!

    We have a workout room at home, but also still pay our gym membership. We pay about $15/month each only because they have a lot of good equipment and it’s right down the street. Probably also keeping the gym membership because it’s the only public place I go to some weeks 🙂

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      “Of course you don’t need a fancy gym membership when you own a fancy gym!” Dang it, that would have been a great title. At $15 a month, you can’t beat that. Sounds way better than $200 a month.

  • 5am Joel October 10, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Ever thought about renting out your home gym to others in the neighborhood? Subscription starts at 1 x 6-pack of craft beer per month. And if they want access to your shower afterwards it’s 1 x case of beer per month.

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      I knew we are friends for a reason ;o)

  • Dads Dollars Debts October 10, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Nicely done. I am still paying for yoga and it puts me back about $12 a class. I also will soon be paying for some music lessons, but I figure those will be far rarer and I have always wanted to learn an instrument. Consider it an investment in the future. Instead of waiting until retirement to start a hobby, I am starting now at 38.

    Your gym looks good and your muscles will probably make me look puny, but I am okay with that! Keep on working out.

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      I have found endless free yoga videos on YouTube, for pretty much any style and any length. I know it’s not exactly the same as being in a studio, but it works and its free. Music lessons? Whatcha learning? I bought a guitar a few years back and have been meaning to learn how to play it.

      • Dads Dollars Debts October 10, 2018 at 9:53 pm

        Banjo…Always liked the sound but am not musically inclined (other than having some rhythm). Figure better to start now and hope to get good. Plus we are getting rid of the TV, so I will have some time to practice at night.

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials October 10, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Oh come on…. low hanging fruit! The one thing you didn’t gain…. was weight!

    But really though, as someone that’s seen that awesome home gym with my own eyes, I can attest it’s pretty epic!
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Losing My Marbles

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      ba dum tss! Guess I needed you to proofread this post before I released it. That would have been a nice addition.

  • Kevin McCrossin October 10, 2018 at 9:28 am

    I debate this cost a lot, and can see it both ways. I do think it is possible to motivate yourself, build a quality home gym and save money. For me, I work from home so my gym time doubles as my social hour. I save in other areas of my life b/c this is one thing I truly enjoy. I have also paid off all my debts other than mortgage…your health is one of the best investments you can make. If you can make it work at home that is awesome, I am sure at some point I will convert. I have found via Craigslist many people who sell equipment at very low prices

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      I know many people who pay for a gym membership, use it, and absolutely love it. But so many people pay for a membership and don’t use it and to me that is just a silly waste of money. I completely agree that investing in your health is crucial and if that means paying for a gym, do it. But I also feel that there are other, cheaper options out there too that can also work for some people.

  • freddy smidlap October 10, 2018 at 10:47 am

    we bought a decent stationary bike about 12 years ago when it felt like we were rolling in dough. i don’t use it (i have a gym at work for free) but mrs. me uses it all winter long in buffalo. it’s hard to get outside to work. we’re about to get rid of one of those pull-up, dip, push-up power tower things that was in the house when we got it.

    nice job on quitting that gym. i just run around with the dog.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…From the Wrong Side of the Tracks to Financial Independence

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      I can see that bike coming in clutch during the winter. Guess I really shouldn’t complain when its in the 50s here and I am cold in my gym.

  • Doc G October 10, 2018 at 11:06 am

    I used to love the social aspect of the gym but now mostly work at home or go for a jog outside. Strangely I don’t miss it much. The equipment was a great score.

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      I am so thankful that we acquired so much awesome equipment for free. I’m still looking for a used bosu ball in good condition and a few other items, but I’ve learned to make do with what I have for the most part. I do miss the social aspect of the gym I used to attend, but it definitely wasn’t worth $200 a month.

  • Daniel October 10, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Nice if you have the space! But I don’t and the cost isn’t excessive (19 biweekly for access to all the local Gold’s gyms). That and when I do heavy lifts I find reassurance that there are people around me, not that I have ever needed assistance…..

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      Totally understandable!

  • Dave @ Accidental FIRE October 10, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Weren’t we just tweeting about P90x and Insanity? 🙂 It’s like you timed this.

    I’ve never had a gym membership, ever. Never paid a dime. Granted once in a while I used to use the gym at my office for a treadmill or weights. But over time I started to hate working out indoors and now do 90% of my exercise outdoors. Sometimes that just means burpees on my patio.

    • Mrs WoW October 10, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      Think I saw some remnants of this discussion on twitter the other day, but alas it was Mr.Wow who was the one doing the tweeting… Ah the magic of burpees. I love and hate them all at the same time!

  • Ariba October 11, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    There are tons of exercise videos on Youtube that you can watch for FREE. I mean you cannot even get bored with so many options.

    And not to forget, you can always go for a run or do a jog in your nearby park, which again is super healthy and FREE

    • Mrs WoW October 15, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Yes and yes, you are completely right. There is so much out there that is free, which in my opinion is the best type of workout :o)

  • Ms. Fiology October 11, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Woah on the cost of building that gym! Total score.

    So I seem similar to you in this department, at least the former you. I love the accountability of the fitness classes. Currently, my boss pays for my gym membership so no need to cancel. I am very lucky in that department.

    However, if it ever changes you’ve inspired me to know that I can push myself equally as hard in a home gym.
    Ms. Fiology recently posted…Surprising Amends – It’s never too late to reconcile with people from your past

    • Mrs WoW October 15, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Definitely keep utilizing the membership if you aren’t the one paying for it. Must be nice.

  • Mr. Tako October 14, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Great post Mrs. WoW. I too used to be a regular gym rat, but the price was so high I eventually gave it up…. and saved myself a ton of money in the process.

    I get by with considerably less equipment than you guys, but a lot of my workout has shifted to doing yard-work these days. Regular morning walks are also part of my workout ritual.

    Nothing like the best gym in the world — the good ole outdoors!
    Mr. Tako recently posted…Famous FIRE Blogger Tragically Dies Falling Off Boat

    • Mrs WoW October 15, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      Yes to the good ole outdoors! Can’t beat free and beautiful right?

  • FlikTeoh October 14, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks for the insights!

    We were just in the middle of whether to sign up for the gym or having one at home!

    We also happen to have an extra room which stays empty in the past two years since we moved in. Why didn’t I think of turning it into a gym room in the first place?! 😝

    P/S: I reckon that it’d be a plus if you also have a treadmill at home!
    FlikTeoh recently posted…How to Turn Baby Crib into Toddler Bed: Baby Cribs Ideas

    • Mrs WoW October 15, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      I actually do not have a treadmill and to be honest do not actually like running on one. Fortunately, I live in Southern California so I can pretty much run outside all year round, so there is no need for a treadmill anyways. Would love to see pictures if you do end up turning that room into a gym!

  • wishicouldsurf October 15, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Hey Mrs. Wow! It’s been a bit since I commented. I think this is an amazing life hack and I’ve gone back and forth with the working out at home vs. the gym and I have to say that I LOVE working out with people. I do a circuits/boot campy class a couple of days a week, sometimes 3, and hot yoga 4-5 days. I do business consulting for both in exchange for my free workouts, but I honestly love being around other ppl when I’m exercising. I have done plenty of training alone, but the community of it makes me happy, so for the time being, I’m trading my time for exercise. I also love that when my form goes awry, someone corrects me – “hey your deadlifts are too squatty, or lengthen and then twist and hold your core tight”, also makes me feel like I’m getting more out of the workouts because my form feels like it’s constantly improving. I know enough to concentrate on form when I’m by myself, but I feel like I get more out of it with a coach. Free equipment was quite a score, BTW!

    • Mrs WoW October 15, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      I definitely understand the importance of community when it comes to working out as I had a great support system at my old gym. That was one of the hardest things to do away with when I ditched the monthly membership. As long as the decision to have a membership is based on value, then I do not have an issue with people attending a gym. But if the decision is based on “this is the only way to stay in shape”, then it needs to be reconsidered. Thanks for stopping by again, it’s nice to see your name pop up. To think that Chautauqua was already 1 year ago!

      • wishicouldsurf October 17, 2018 at 4:42 pm

        Agreed. It’s a luxury for sure, not necessary and with your pile of sweet equipment, I bet you get a heck of a workout (though I’m sure you could still figure out a way to crush it without). Unreal that a year has gone by since Ecuador. I’m wicked sore today, BTW. Must have been all those darn kettlebell swings and other moves I did yesterday.

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  • Katie October 31, 2018 at 10:49 am

    We moved out to the country a couple of years ago and since then have struggled to maintain aspects of our fitness. I’ve been thinking about what we could do and this post is super inspiring. Now if only we could get so lucky with the gym equipment.

    • Mrs WoW November 1, 2018 at 6:06 am

      Glad I sparked some inspiration for you. There’s a ton of stuff that you can do without equipment so don’t let that hold you back. YouTube has some great videos that doesn’t use any equipment and just your body weight. My go-to is burpees. I do 100, in reps of 10, and in between reps I do some squats or abs. Maybe I’ll write a follow up post on exercises I do to give you some ideas.

      • Katie November 1, 2018 at 10:23 am

        That would be awesome!

  • Danielle Ogilvie November 11, 2018 at 6:34 am

    How great and timely for you guys! I wonder, would you still go with the same decision without the space and the free gym equipment?

    • Mrs WoW November 12, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      Honestly, you don’t need much space or equipment. While it is nice to have mats and weights and all that jazz, all you really need is a plot of ground and your body to get in a good workout.

  • Who else loves No Credit Check Finanicng – Brians Nationwide Merchant Services Team | Total Action Merchant Solutions December 6, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    […] I’m not saying that fitness club memberships are a waste. If you enjoy swimming laps, then belonging to a gym with a pool (or the YMCA) is probably more economical than owning a pool, and can be used year round. Again, it really depends on the value gained from the service. Check out this post on staying in shape without a fancy gym membership. […]


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