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Fitness on a Budget: Burn calories, not a hole in your wallet

These budget-friendly fitness alternatives will keep you (and your finances) in shape.Use the Buddy System Many facilities offer guest passes to their members or free events for the members’ friends and family. Some (such as Equinox and Flywheel Sports) even provide a recruitment credit to the referring party. Don't have a friend with guest-pass potential? Many gyms offer trial memberships and
The scene during the Step Up Women's Network's Third Annual "Step Up For Yoga and Health" charity festival at Bergamont S...
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These budget-friendly fitness alternatives will keep you (and your finances) in shape.

Use the Buddy System 

Many facilities offer guest passes to their members or free events for the members’ friends and family. Some (such as Equinox and Flywheel Sports) even provide a recruitment credit to the referring party. 

Don't have a friend with guest-pass potential? Many gyms offer trial memberships and host simultaneous specials (such as New York Sports Clubs' 30 Days for $30 promotion). Keep an eye out for sales. And don’t be ashamed to ask the gym if there might be a sale coming up.

Buy In Bulk 

To keep you coming back, gyms may lower your monthly rate or drop an initiation fee if you agree to extend a contract, whereas studios like SoulCycle (along with a promotional Soul101 series, offering 3 classes, shoe rental and water for $85), Flywheel Sports and Pedal NYC offer discounted package rates.

“The more classes you buy at one time, the more the price-per-class drops, and if you find that you are taking classes most days of the week, typically an unlimited monthly membership may end up being your best money saving bet,” says Jessica Matthews, a certified personal trainer and Assistant Professor of Health and Exercise Science at Miramar College in San Diego.

For anyone in Boston or New York who doesn't have the funds to take on several memberships, there's ClassPass. For a fee of $99, you can attend 10 classes — up to three at each studio — per month. Formerly known as Classtivity, the "members-only" service offers access to over 50 participating studios such as Barry's Bootcamp and Pure Barre. (Tried all 50, or just one you'd like to stick to for a while? You can cancel at any time.)

Name Your Price

Having an off week (or year)? Make a contribution fit for your finances by looking into a pay-as-you-wish studio in your area, such as Yoga to the People ($10 suggested; New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley), Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga ($15 suggested; Los Angeles) or The People’s Bootcamp (New York). 

You can also try making a difference in your body and community by joining a cause-driven group like Team In Training, which benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or a variety of philanthropic walks and runs. (Some employers may even cover registration costs if enough staffers form a team to walk on behalf of the company.)

B.Y.O.E(quipment)

If you're going to be using a yoga mat, cycling shoes, towel or lock on a regular basis and they aren't provided, opt for a one-time-only purchase versus pay-as-you-go.

“It saves you money, time and possible icky germs by supplying your own props! As well, it is more earth friendly to carry your own water bottle to class with your filtered tap water from home than to rely upon the iffy water fountain situation at the gym or EEEK- buying yet another $2 plastic bottle of water,” says Kristen Eykel, a yoga specialist and founder of the DVD series “Yoga Emergency — The 12 Minute Workout”.

Bonus Tip: Whether purchasing accessories or apparel, the gym is (hopefully) not going to call you out on sporting yesterday's styles, so take advantage of those big end-of-season sales.

Think Smart (Phone) 

Take a break between gym memberships, weight loss clubs and those hefty trainer fees and swipe your way fit with a variety of low-cost smart phone applications.

“I recommend MyFitnessPal, a free application on the iPhone (the key here is to know your basal metabolic rate for maintaining your weight and for losing weight and this app does it all), but there are plenty of other ways to journal,” says Lisa Goldenthal, a certified personal trainer and creator of the Skinny Jeans Workout.

Other apps to test run include iTreadmill, Lose It! and Fitness Buddy. (Don't have a smart phone? Look for DVDs from your favorite instructors and transform your living room into a personal studio.)