Sporty womanFor a few years I was really good. I just simply didn’t go into the Lululemon store. I had heard people say it was addictive, and the thought of spending a lot of money on a shirt I was just going to sweat in seemed ridiculous. But then one December day I strolled in and was like a kid in a candy store. Spending $58 on a running shirt seemed perfectly reasonable.

Soon I found myself going to Lululemon every weekend. After running and working out in t-shirts and shorts for years, I was suddenly obsessed with finding the coolest leggings and a shirt that matched. I convinced myself that because I was working out more, I deserved the right apparel. Every time I left a yoga class, I would go to Lululemon. A vicious circle was born.

Apparently I am not alone in this. “Lululemon” has almost become its own verb (as in “to Lululemon”), in reference to the action of working out regularly in the pricey tops, pants, and shorts. Over time, I started to realize that my workout was killing my bank account – and not just in terms of the cost of the apparel! In looking for solutions on budgeting my fitness needs, I talked with some experts. Here’s their best advice on avoiding the “Lulu hole”.

Eight Ways to Save on Your Workout

1. Look for free trials

Andrea Woroch is a consumer spending expert. She says to look for trials at workout classes or gyms. Test something out before you buy an entire package. Smaller classes like Barre or Pilates may offer a complimentary session, and a gym might provide a week or even month-long membership.

2. Consider time versus money

Harrine Freeman, CEO of H.E. Freeman Enterprises, suggests predicting how many times you will go to the gym per month. Then, make an assessment to determine if the membership cost is worth the price. If you pay $120 for three months but only go to class once a week (or month!) you should probably consider a cheaper option.

3. Pay as you go

Look for pay as you go workout facilities. According to Freeman, members who paid at each visit were 17% more likely to stay enrolled past one year compared to members who committed to one year upfront. Paying as you go also ensures that you won’t be charged when you don’t make it to the gym.

4. Ask your employer  or insurance carrier about fitness deals

Some companies offer health club membership discounts for employees while some health insurance companies provide rebates for proof of working out.

5. Look for discount clothes

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and many stores now have workout lines that look like Lululemon but for much less money. Try T.J.Maxx, Gap, Marshalls, Target, American Eagle and Dick’s Sporting Goods for cute and affordable workout alternatives. You’ll still look great because it’s all about how you rock it!

6. Use daily deals wisely

Woroch says daily deals for workout classes or studios can make you think you’re saving, but you need to be careful. Take advantage of such offers, just stick with one at a time until it expires before jumping onto the next deal so you don’t waste it.

7. Freeze it

For warmer months, see if your gym will allow you to freeze your membership so you can take your workout outdoors.  A neighborhood jog, a climb at your local state park, a swim in the ocean, lake, or river are cheaper and much more exciting than a 30-minute elliptical session.

8. DIY your fitness

Thanks to the internet, working out on your own can be virtually free. YouTube videos and free online fitness websites such as Tone It Up and Blogilates offer numerous resources to help you learn yoga and other exercises by yourself. Consider inviting your friends over to hold your own private fitness class. Magazines, such as Women’s Health, Shape and Self, also provide great ideas for working out with minimal equipment.

With a few tweaks it is possible to save on your workout budget, and still look and feel great.