If you’ve ever heard someone mention the word “frugality” it might conjure up images of the old, “don’t eat, drink and smoke” adage, or a “no food, no money” pledge.
The common thread is that the phrase suggests you’re spending money on things you can live with, not on things that might be of benefit to you.
Fitness and health are both big business in Australia, with the country having the third-highest number of Australians with at least a four-year fitness degree.
But how do you balance your financial obligations with your time spent?
“Frugality is about prioritising things that can help you with your health and wellbeing and you can’t afford to go without,” said Michelle Leib, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Adelaide.
“I would say that you need to pay close attention to what you spend your money on, and be flexible.”
“People often equate a lifestyle with being frugal, but it’s actually a very different thing.”
The most common culprit is the cost of training and maintaining a gym membership, with fitness equipment costing around $2,000, plus gym memberships for $1,500.
In 2016, Fitness Australia surveyed fitness equipment owners and found a third had seen their gym membership prices rise from around $700 in 2011 to around $1.5 million in 2017.
As a result, Leib said, you need “to be very aware of your expenses when you’re in the market for equipment”.
“If you’re going to spend $800 or $900 on gym membership and you’re a busybody, you can be really selective about what you do with that money,” she said.
Leib said that if you’ve already done your homework, you should have a plan for your monthly payments, and avoid spending money “on stuff that may not be useful”.
If you don’t spend your time training and running out the door at least once a week, you’re likely to end up with a gym-stash of fitness equipment, and that’s probably a bad sign.
But that’s not the only issue with spending money you can afford.
You may also be tempted to spend it on food, which can be a double-edged sword.
You could end up spending more on food than you need, said Leib.
If that happens, she said, consider taking out a loan to buy more equipment or investing in a gym.
The advice is not to rush into buying equipment.
“If you’ve got a gym and you want to start running, you’ve probably got to buy the equipment, you know,” she added.
There are some tips you can follow when shopping for equipment to make sure you’re paying for the right stuff.
“One of the things you should be looking at when buying a gym is whether you’re buying for a one-time purchase or whether you need some kind of recurring purchase, and if you do that, you may need to make changes,” Leib advised.
Some brands offer gym members for free, while others charge you $5 a month or more, but all gym members must pay for gym equipment.
Leib suggested you think about what type of equipment you want.
Read more about gym equipment, including equipment that costs $2k, $5k or more.
If you do end up going the gym, Leiba said you may want to check if it’s a “real gym” or if you want more space, “which will allow you to be more flexible in how much space you need.”
You may also want to consider using an online training program to find out what you’re comfortable with, such as a free one-on-one session.
Find out if your gym is open to the public “You don’t want to spend more than you’re able to afford, but you need flexibility and you need space,” Leiba advised.
“You might want to find a gym where you can actually exercise, and then go home and go to bed.”
Leiba said that for many people, gym membership isn’t about paying a monthly fee, but instead about taking part in “community activities”.
You can use an online fitness course to get a feel for what you need and how it might work for you.
You can also choose from “personalised training programs”, which will help you plan your workout in advance and get the most out of it.
Use a social media tool to find other people you might be interested in meeting, and follow up with them to see if they’re open to participating in your gym, or if they’d be interested to see you on the course.
It’s not just about buying equipment, but about the quality of your experience in your workout as well.
“What’s great about fitness