I started Drunk on Opportunity when I was a broke graduate student training for a marathon. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to balance a crazy schedule with healthy habits…on a very tight budget.

Thankfully, my grad school bet paid off and now I make a decent living and get to spend my nights and weekends at leisure (instead of in a classroom or waiting tables). Today, I can afford boutique fitness classes, organic groceries, and still pay my rent. I am aware of how privileged that makes me. I’m also cognizant that I was privileged when I was a broke student. It was temporary. I made the choice to invest in myself and my education. For many people (friends, family and colleagues among them), struggling to make ends meet is a permanent reality.

Keeping that sobering reality check in mind, I’m sharing a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.

This is one of my favorite roads to run


Running/walking outside
It’s free. It’s also one of the most rewarding things you can do for your health. Moving outside is good for your body and soul (especially if you can do it near some trees – oxygen high)! I started running when I couldn’t afford a gym. At the time, I HATED running. Today, I can’t wait to hit the pavement.

Community gyms and recreation centers
I am a proud, card-carrying member of the New York City Recreation Centers. I’ve raved about the network of centers before, but I can’t understate their value. I pay $150 ANNUALLY for access to dozens of centers across NYC with fitness centers, classes, pools (indoor and outdoor), indoor tracks, gymnasiums and more. Many towns and cities have similar centers, so google your neighborhood!

YMCA and JCC’s
My local YMCA (at face value at least) is expensive, but they offer sliding scale pricing and great discounts for students, teachers and seniors.

Web- and streaming-based classes and workouts
You Tube my friends! There are tons of great workouts available for free on the interwebs. A word of warning – there is a really wide range of quality here. Know your body and your limits. If it feels weird, don’t do it. Better to play it safe than injure yourself trying to do reverse push-up jacks.

Planet Fitness, Blink and other discount gyms
Minimum frills = minimum fees. You won’t find fancy equipment or cool classes, but if what you need is a treadmill and a complete set of weights, these are great options. I have yet to find a discount gym that isn’t clean, well-lit and staffed by friendly folks.

Introductory classes and rates
If you’ve developed a taste for boutique classes that don’t fit your budget (like me), I recommend this strategy. Here’s how it works 1) find a studio you haven’t been to 2) purchase the new student deal 3) when you use up your new student discount, find a new studio you haven’t been to 4) rinse, repeat. In New York, you can do this forever, but you may run out of options in other parts of the world. The perks: fancy classes and studios at half the price. The cons: you have to keep trying new spots and don’t get to establish a regular routine. The risk: you may fall in love with a studio and find yourself paying out the eyeballs to keep going there (future post).

Mining your budget
Sometimes, it’s just important to prioritize fitness in your budget. Perhaps you’re most comfortable at your local yoga studio, or you’re motivated to go to your gym because of the luxurious locker rooms. Maybe the only convenient options between work, picking up the kids from school, and home are on the pricey side. This is where you have to get creative. At a holiday savings workshop (hosted by yours truly) I recently did a “savings treasure hunt” of my monthly spending habits. I realized I could save $60-$100 a month just by cutting out my afternoon snack/coffee habit. With an extra $100 a month I could afford a nice gym membership or a handful of boutique classes. (I could also just keep my rec center membership and sign up for more races! Or save every month and go on an extra vacation!)

I get it. Living a healthy lifestyle can be really expensive. It doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to go to Crossfit or Brooklyn Bodyburn to look and feel amazing (in fact, you might avoid injury by skipping some of the trendier fitness fads). If you love your pricey routine – by all means, go for it – but you’re not missing out if you save your pennies for other things. I’m here to tell you that it’s YOUR choice and that there are reasonable options for every budget.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these tactics! Where do you cut corners when it comes to fitness? Where will you never compromise?

I splurge on the occasional Compu-Trainer sesh at Ride Brooklyn

About the Author Aubrie Fennecken

Aubrie Fennecken is the Chief Alchemist at Opportunity Kitchen | work + wellness strategist | nonprofit fundraising expert | providing productivity and self-care support for mission-driven humans

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