Dieting on a Budget

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Dieting on a Budget - $5,000 Money Saving Mama Challenge

frugal ways to get in shape
Dieting on a budget? Need some cheap exercise ideas? Want to know how you can find cheap health and fitness equipment? Great! That's what we will be discussing this week.

Just about everyone tries to lose weight after the holidays. After the sweets devouring of Halloween and the all out feasting of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, it's no wonder that losing weight tops most moms' lists of New Year resolutions.

This page will talk about ways that you can do this - frugally. Read on for a fair heaping of cheap exercise ideas for the money-saving mamas out there.



Dieting on a Budget Tip: Gym Memberships

If you feel that the best way for you to successfully reach your fitness goals is to purchase a gym membership, please take the precautions necessary to avoid getting locked into a contract that you may not want to keep. Despite what you may think, there are gyms out there that do NOT require you to sign a 1-2 year agreement. Look for them! Also make sure that you read the fine print (and I mean actually read it; don't just believe what they tell you it says). Some cheap exercise ideas concerning what to be on the lookout for are:
  1. The total cost of membership. This is the total amount that you will end up paying once the contract is over, not just the monthly payment, and includes sales taxes and other fees.
  2. The cancellation policy. For example, are you allowed to cancel within a certain trial period? Are there any cancellation fees? Are there any special situations under which you can cancel beyond that specified period (e.g. if you move, if the gym relocates, if the gym goes out of business). Is cancellation immediate or is there a delay in its being implemented?
  3. The length of the contract. Also ask if there are month to month contracts or pay-per-session options.
  4. Whether verbal agreements are included in the written contract. Most of the time, whoever is orchestrating the enrollment process may offer you "special offers" to entice you to join the gym. If you agree to these special conditions, ensure that they are included somewhere in your contract.
When choosing a gym to join, make sure you shop around for the best deal. Don't get talked into joining a gym until you have done your research, asked for any possible discounts, and determined that it is the best option for you and your budget.



Dieting on a Budget Tip: Weight Loss Programs

Another option that many people utilize is joining a weight loss program like Weight Watchers. When considering these types of programs, the same rules as stated above for finding the right gym will apply. Avoid contracts where possible, search for any discounts that they might offer, read the fine print, and comparison shop before you make your final decision. You can also benefit from free weight loss programs such as My Fitness Pal that help you to keep track of what you eat on a daily basis and track your weight loss progress.

Dieting on a Budget Tip: Cut Out Liquid Calories

Are you an avid soda drinker? Need 2 cups of coffee to get through your morning? These are calories that are not nutritionally filling and that are eating up money in your budget. The cost per unit for these beverages may not be much, but it adds up. And so do the calories. By eliminating them you will not only cut down on how much you are spending, but you will be cutting down on the empty calories that you ingest on a regular basis.

Dieting on a Budget Tip: Cook at Home

One of the mistakes that many dieters make is believing that processed is better. They buy shopping carts full of the frozen and prepackaged meals that stores (and diet programs) promote. I won't go into the health aspect of processed foods (that's definitely a page all of its own) but even avoiding that, there is no doubt that buying these prepackaged foods is more costly.

Let's say you purchase a prepackaged meal that consists of a 4 ounce piece of chicken, brown rice, and green beans. You may pay $3-$4 for this one meal. However, if you had bought the ingredients separately and prepared them at home, you would get a lot more for your money. Not only would you have (more than) enough for a meal for yourself, you would be able to prepare at least one meal for your entire family. And that's not even counting the rice - a bag of which most people can stretch into several meals, depending on their family size. By planning out your meals and preparing them at home, you will save more money and will probably even waste less food (because, let's face it - not all prepackaged foods are tasty).

Dieting on a Budget Tip: Make It a Family Affair

When you are making a concerted effort to be healthier - whether it is through diet and/or exercise, get your entire family involved. Just on the nutrition side of things, having your entire family eating the same healthy meals will prevent you from having to cook separate meals for you and for them - thus saving you money and instilling healthy habits (so it's great all around). On the exercise end of things, perhaps making exercising as a family a priority, you will get more creative in the activities that you try. Going for family walks/jog, playing group sports such as tennis or softball. Having people to work out with definitely opens your list of cheap exercise ideas.

Dieting on a Budget Tip: Cheap Health and Fitness Equipment

One of my cheap exercise ideas when it comes to cheap health and fitness equipment is to buy used and buy local. The best method I know of doing this is to get on websites such as Craigslist, Freecycle, and even local online yard sale groups that abound on Facebook and look for free/cheap exercise equipment. By looking for this equipment locally, you cut down on the shipping and tax costs that you would have to pay if you were to utilize websites such as Amazon or eBay (which are options as well). Another benefit is that you are usually able to negotiate on the price with people on Craigslist and the like. Especially if you are willing to come pick the item(s) up.

Dieting on a Budget Tip: Have an Accountability Partner

Let's face it, the most expensive diet or exercise program out there are the ones that you pay for but don't even use. If you know you are the type of person who will buy a gym membership or join a weight loss program, participate fully for a few weeks, and then lose the motivation to continue, you should really consider finding an accountability partner who can help you stay on track. Whether this is a fitness coach who offers free support, a friend or family member who is invested in your health, someone that is a member of the same gym/program, or your significant other, make sure that they know your goals and your fitness plan and that they will help you stick to it by either working out with you or getting in contact with you on a daily/weekly basis to check on your progress. Sometimes, when we don't have internal motivation to do what we need to do, having some external motivation can make all the difference in the world.

Dieting on a Budget Tip: Be Resourceful

When working out, you don't have to have the same expensive equipment that they have on workout videos or at the gym. Be resourceful! Need weights? Try lifting a full gallon of water, canned foods, sacks of potatoes or onions, etc. If you have a small child, do a few reps of lifting them (it's a game for them and exercise for you). Instead of buying an expensive elliptical machine , get a regular bicycle. No need for a treadmill-just walk/jog/run around your neighborhood. Instead of buying a pull-up bar to install in your house, walk to a local park/playground and use the monkey bars there to do your chin-ups. Speaking of going to the local park, you don't have to travel very far or spend a lot of money to find exercise. In fact, cheap exercise ideas are all around you.

Go to your local community center/parks & recreation office and see what options they offer. Push your child in a stroller around different neighborhoods. Go to the local swimming pool during the summer and see if any local universities allow have their pool open to the public during certain hours. If you have a friend that lives in an apartment or housing complex that has a pool, see if you can come visit for pool time once a week (or more). Go to your local park and play tennis, softball, basketball, or even extreme Frisbee. Any kind of sports activity will get you burning fat - and you don't even have to pay for it (except for the equipment, which you can find for cheap at Goodwill, yard sales, on Craigslist, or a variety of other places). Check out exercise videos from your local library or tune in to exercise programs on TV. Losing weight doesn't have to drain your pockets.

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So what do you think? Which of these cheap exercise ideas will you be using this year? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Join the discussion by posting in the comments section below.

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Sneak Peak at Next Week

Like this section on frugal weight loss? Next week we'll be talking about how to prepare a family budget.

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