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Gen Y money: Why I’m not wasting my money on a gym membership

Welcome to our Gen Y money blog, where a recent grad chronicles her real-life journey to becoming a financially independent adult.

Starting an entry-level job has introduced plenty of welcome changes to my life, like a regimented schedule and a steady paycheque. In my line of work, however, it also involves a lot of sitting.

I've never been Joe Fitness, but the combination of hunching over a desk for 40 plus hours a week and the absence of my free student gym membership have made me realize how inactive I've become . It's also made me aware of how much money I'm spending on said regime – or, more accurately, how much I'm not spending.

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An acquaintance mentioned he spends $130 on his monthly gym membership, describing his gym as less of a workout facility and more of a fitness "experience." Although he couldn't confirm whether or not the barbells were plated with gold, he assured me that this fee does include a towel service.

I'm definitely not anti-gym, and overall, I support investing money in fitness as it ultimately improves health and longevity. But why spend money on something when you can essentially do it for free?

As I try to squeeze any extra dollars towards paying down my student loan, I can't justify forking over upwards of $1,500 a year on a gym membership. Although I could likely get a better deal by finding an inexpensive gym or through my workplace's corporate discount, it would still add up to a cost of around $500 a year. Budgetable, but still, money I'd rather shovel into my student debt pit.

Fortunately, fitness is one of the easiest things to do inexpensively – all it takes is a bit of research, trial and error, and motivation.

Over the past couple of years, I've taken on running as my sport of choice. I've never been a particularly talented runner (let's just say my 5K personal record makes the average sloth look like the Flash), but it's a great way to get outside and clear my thoughts. And, aside from basic gear, it's essentially free.

As with most things in my life, I turn to the Internet to help educate myself on proper running technique and training procedures. I use a free running app to help me track and improve my progress. I've also found a number of other excellent and free online resources to help me round out my overall fitness regime.

Simple Google searches have brought up exercise tutorial YouTube videos, more free apps, and online workout plans that not only satisfy my fitness level, but also don't require a lot of equipment or space. I'm quite happy with the workouts I've been able to accomplish in my tiny apartment (although my downstairs neighbours will probably tell you otherwise).

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I've also had luck finding inexpensive fitness classes on Groupon. Last year, my roommate and I signed up for a 10-week Zumba program to get us through the dark and icy Toronto winter. When we crunched the numbers, we figured out that it was almost more expensive taking public transit to and from the class than the actual cost of each individual class itself.

My current exercise budget is roughly $150 a year, most of which goes toward running shoes. If I need new workout clothes, I'll pull from my clothing budget. And, of course, I try to support my overall fitness by eating as healthy as possible while staying within my grocery budget.

For me, exercising is something that requires more time and energy than it does money. Maybe one day I'll be able to join an "experience" gym or shell out the dollars for a hard-core fitness program or better equipment. At the moment, however, it's simply not conducive to my lifestyle.

Student loan repayment is a marathon. My physical fitness doesn't bite into my financial fitness, and it's helping me keep a steady pace as I trudge my way to the finish line.

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