We'll admit it: Between the apparel, at-home equipment, and gadgets, you can spend a small fortune on working out. But—and this is a big but—you don't have to! Follow these hard and fast rules for when you're trying to decide if you can (or should) afford something or not.
Splurge: 5 Fitness Items Worth Spending More On For many, money is tight. But when it comes to these items (assuming you're in the market for them), skimping for a cheaper model might cost you more in the long run.
1. Shoes. If you've ever bought a pair of cheap sneakers and tried to run in them, you know a good pair of workout shoes is worth every cent. The proper footwear isn't just a matter of comfort—it's a matter of safety! Wearing shoes that don't correctly support the activity you're doing can lead to muscular imbalance, decreased performance and even injury or overuse.
2. Sports Bras. The difference between a cheap sports bra and a quality one is huge. Most department stores now have a sports section for bras, so try on a variety of options and find one that fully supports you and is comfortable.
3. Pedometer. Sure, you can buy a pedometer for $5, but it won't be very accurate—and it will probably only work for a few months before you need to replace it. If you want to count your steps, plan to spend at least $25 on a more expensive pedometer that comes with instructions and requires calibration.
4. Gym Membership. Always ask for a 5- to 7-day trial membership first (which should be free). While some chains do have low rates that offer good-quality equipment, it's best to shop around. From having old equipment that doesn't get repaired, to not being clean to not being properly staffed, most of the time you pay for what you get. So pay for what you want.
5. Home Cardio Machines. Buying a good cardio machine the first time is far more cost effective than having to buy another model after the cheap one breaks down! And a high-quality model will last you for years and years to come, making its per-use cost much lower than a cheaper model. Do your online research, go to a fitness equipment store and try out a variety of models, and check out consumer reviews at ConsumerReports.org.
Save: 5 Fitness Items Worth Buying on the Cheap There's no point spending extra money if you don't have to. Look for deals on the following fitness items; you won't go wrong, but will save a lot!
1. Dumbbells. Dumbbells are pretty much dumbbells. Sure, you can spend extra money to get them plastic-coated in pretty colors or cool looking shapes, but if your budget is tight, the basic dumbbells will work just fine!
2. Workout Apparel. Nowadays, there is so much workout apparel on the market that's affordable and high in quality. The key is to find the big name brands on clearance or the smaller-named brands at discount stores. Both Walmart and Target sell high quality technical shorts, shirts and even socks for low prices.
3. Small Fitness Accessories. From resistance bands to medicine balls to yoga blocks and Pilates circles, you could spend a whole paycheck on just workout add-ons if you wanted to. When buying these little extras, start cheap. If you find that—after a few months of using it—you really love and use a particular fitness accessory all the time, then you can invest in a better quality version of it (and even then, you may decide that you don't need to!).
4. Heart Rate Monitor. Most of the really expensive monitors demand a higher price point because of advanced features (many of which the average exerciser isn't likely to use). As long as it has a chest strap, a timer, and a way for you to customize your calorie burn by entering your sex, age and weight, you should be good!
5. Yoga Mat. Hardcore yogis may disagree on this one, but if you're someone who casually practices yoga once or twice a week or if you just want a non-slip mat for stretching at home, don't bother spending more than $25 on a yoga mat. Even the cheaper mats should last you several years or more with regular use. And by then, you'll have a better idea if it's worth splurging on a fancier mat.