awareness, calculations

The Great Yoga Calculation

The Great Yoga Calculation-2

Ok, folks, this has been a long time coming. I’ve changed a lot of my spending and saving behavior over the past ten months or so since I had my *Aha!* moment of finally becoming financially conscious. I’ve started tracking my spending religiously, contributing to my Roth IRA each month as well as to my Betterment account, and, as you may know, I’m committed to a ban on purchasing restaurant food and takeout for the month of October.

BUT. There are still several* consistent monthly expenses in my spending tracking spreadsheet that need to be talked about, and the first one on the list is yoga.

I have many, many good things to say about yoga, but I will try to contain myself for the most part. Suffice it to say that doing yoga has had a hugely positive impact on both my physical health and my mental/emotional health ever since I went to my first yoga class back in October 2010 (oh hey, it’s my 5-year yogaversary this month!). The type of yoga I do involves stretching and breathing, but also a ton of strengthening work (I often have sore muscles the next day). So those are huge pros.

The major—actually, for me, the only—con of yoga is that it is expensive. Or at least yoga classes are expensive. I go to classes, rather than doing yoga at home, for a couple of reasons. The first is that even if I tell myself I’m going to do yoga at home, the fact is that I simply won’t, or I will only do it for five minutes because I have so many other things I feel like I need to do. (I have tried this many times.) The other is that I get a ton out of being in a space together with other students, and learning new things and getting encouragement and adjustments from a teacher. Not every yoga class/teacher is like this, but I’ve found several teachers whose classes I love.

So, how much does yoga cost me? Well, to be honest, I had never looked closely at this until now. I don’t have a monthly membership at a specific studio (there are two in Boston that I like and alternate between); rather, I buy classes in packs of 5 or 10, and I try to stock up whenever there is a sale (sale classes are $10 each; non-sale classes are $13-$15 each), so it varies widely from month to month, but here are the totals for the past ten months since I started tracking my spending:

yoga add up

So on average, I’m paying $83.30 per month, or just under $1000 for the year. (And I typically go twice a week, though some weeks I can only make it once.)

Ok, so $1000 is a lot of money, especially for someone like me whose paycheck is pret-ty small. Then again, health is extremely important, and if I choose to ignore my health—whatever that may mean—I will be quite literally paying for that choice at some point in the future.

So let’s compare my current yoga expense, at $1000 per year, to some alternative exercise-type options:

  1. Walking: $0 per year. Walking is my primary form of transportation, so I already do a ton of it, probably around 5-8 miles per day. And it’s fantastic, but for me it’s not quite sufficient as a sole form of exercise.
  2. Running: $0 per year. Or, let’s say maybe $100 per year for shoes, or $200 if you do a couple of races. I do run sometimes, but I find it difficult to fit it in during daylight hours, and I’m a little nervous to run at night. Plus it doesn’t involve strength training.
  3. Becoming a member at a nice gym: approximately $1200 per year. I’m sure this varies widely, but a friend of mine who belongs to a beautiful gym for women only that has tons of cool classes—i.e., the type of gym I’d join if I were going to join one—said that this is around what she pays. It could be a little more with annual fees, etc.
  4. Becoming a member at Planet Fitness: $264 per year. So this is a lot cheaper, but there are no classes. And at this point I know myself well enough to know that, for better or for worse, if there aren’t actual classes with an actual teacher, I’m either not going to show up to exercise or not going to work very hard.
  5. Buying my own weights to lift at home: around $30-$200 total, depending on how many and which weight(s). This is a cheaper option, but again, I’m afraid I wouldn’t actually use them much. Plus I hate the idea of bringing more large heavy objects into my house, and into the world for that matter.
  6. Taking advantage of some kind of yoga work-study program, where I would get free classes in exchange for working at the front desk of the studio: $0. Mrs. Frugalwoods of the amazing Frugalwoods blog does this and is a huge advocate of it (you can read her take on it here). I think this might be an option for me in the future when I have slightly more time on my hands, but probably not right now while I’m in the home stretch of my dissertation, ha!

So, to sum up those calculations, I’m currently paying less for yoga than I would for a nice gym membership, but more than I would for most other exercise options.

The upshot for me, at least at this juncture, is that I’m not going to stop going to yoga classes. The health benefits, for me, are just too compelling. I choose to view it as an elective, self-funded preventative healthcare plan. However, as soon as I get this dissertation finished and have a chance to take a breath and revamp my routine a little, I’m going to revisit this question again.

In the meantime, at least I finally know how much I’m spending. As always, awareness is everything.

*The others are my horrible Sprint phone bill of $86 per month,
and my T (subway) pass, which is $66.75 per month.

Do you pay for yoga or other exercise classes? Do you have suggestions on what else I could do?
Feel free to comment below!

14 Comments on “The Great Yoga Calculation

  1. Investments in your health is always a good idea. Are there any yoga teacher training programs in your area? That could be a way to expand your practice and earn some extra income.

    1. That’s an interesting idea. I actually had considered doing a teacher training course at one point, but the fee for the course was $3000, which I couldn’t (and still can’t) really afford. I do think that it would be an amazing experience though. Maybe someday, if there’s a cheaper course or I win the lottery! 🙂

  2. I run or walk because it’s pretty inexpensive, but any cost of health is an appropriate cost (in my opinion).

    It seems like you may be pretty aware of yoga poses, could you follow or watch yoga workouts on YouTube? Or purchase a yoga video? These should be less expensive options.

    1. Yeah, that’s a good point. I do think it’s ideal if you have a teacher who can watch what you’re doing and give you specific feedback, but this could be a good option if I maybe wanted to attend class a little less often and do home yoga a little more often (i.e. more than never, which is how often I currently do home yoga!). What I should really do is borrow some yoga DVDs from the library and see how I like them, just to try it out.

  3. Does your employer or health insurance company offer any reimbursements to help offset the expense? I, too, think that investments in one’s health are wise. I used to practice yoga regularly and I’d like to get back in the habit–I might try following videos like Shirria suggested.

    1. Ah, I wish! Grad student stipends unfortunately don’t offer much in the way of benefits, other than basic health insurance. Luckily, I’m graduating in two months and (hopefully) getting a real grown-up job after that, so maybe things will change!

  4. Oh my gosh, I go back and forth on this question all. the. time. I love yoga, and it’s one of the most effective forms of exercise for me in terms of strengthening, not getting injured and generally feeling fantastic afterwards. I’ve been pretty spotty with my class attendance over the summer, but as we get into winter I’m looking at going more often and the total cost, haha. The studio I like does a work exchange program, but it’s a 4-hour shift once a week for the equivalent of what would cost $100 a month (i.e. unlimited classes.) My frugal side says win, my practical side says “You can earn way more than $100 in 16 hours a month.”

    I’ll let you know if the pendulum actually swings one way or the other and I make the call! Awesome post 🙂

    1. Hey Des! Thanks so much for commenting. I’m so glad you understand my plight here. 🙂 And like you, I go more often in the winter than in the summer (partly because I’m one of those people who has a super hard time staying warm, and so spending an hour and a half in a nice warm room exercising is the major highlight of my day when it starts to get colder out).

      Wow, I feel like 16 hours a month is a lot. I haven’t actually looked into the number of hours required at either of the studios I go to, but I was assuming it would be less than that. Yes, let me know if you end up making a decision either way or come up with a different brilliant solution!

  5. This doesn’t seem that out of control to me. It’s good for you, and if you won’t practice alone (I have sympathy for this since I won’t either) you won’t. By all means, look into work-study programs, but I wouldn’t freak out about this. The T pass too — I mean, what can you do? You kind of have to have a public transit pass.

    You must ditch that cell phone bill though! People swear by Republic Wireless. I didn’t like it that much so instead I joined my BFF’s “family plan” (which doesn’t require you to be actual family.) We each pay $25 a month for unlimited talk/text and a perfectly adequate amount of data. It feels so good to have a reasonable phone cost after years of crazy bills.

    1. True, it is good for me, and I think it’s probably worth it…$83 per month just seems like so much money! As for the T pass, I actually used to bike everywhere, so I guess I feel a bit guilty that I’m not doing that currently. But it can actually be pretty miserable to bike in super cold/icy/rainy/snowy weather, and biking restricts what clothes you can wear (to some extent), so I kind of got tired of it and switched to the T.

      I too have heard great things about Republic Wireless. I need to actually do the math to figure out what the break-even point would be, since I’d have to pay an early termination fee for Sprint…stay tuned for a future post on that!

  6. So… I TOTALLY get this. I love yoga, and I have tried all of these things. I used to belong to a gym that had yoga classes included (well, two at different times, actually- 24 Hour Fitness and Crunch). These classes suck, I’m just going to be blunt. If you’re used to a yoga studio, it’s just not the same. The other classes are good, but for some reason, yoga is off. You have the bright lights, the work out room usually has a class wall and there are constantly gym goers walking by- it’s just so distracting.

    I’ve tried YouTube, DVDs, yoga routines ripped out of magazines… There is really no reason this shouldn’t work. However, I do it and I give up a few poses in. It’s really distracting to try to figure it out on your own, to look at the right place to see your laptop, to not quit and go play with your dog. And that’s if you can even get yourself started!

    Seriously, the ONLY way I will do yoga is if I go to a studio. I used to always guilt trip myself about buying passes, etc and would not do it if I got a Groupon type deal.

    I completely scored with the deal I have now. You may already do this, but I would sign up for email lists for all the studios near you that you like. An unlimited membership at my studio is $99 a month, or a 10 class pass is $80. One time I got an email saying they were having a flash sale and the first 10 people to take them up on it would get unlimited yoga for $29 a month, for as long as they wanted to keep paying. I jumped on that and got in! I could not be more happy 🙂

    1. Oh. My. Goodness. I have never heard of anything like that before. That is amazing.

      I know, I can’t believe how difficult it is to practice at home, and I don’t even have a cute distracting dog! Like you say, there’s no reason why DVDs and youtube videos shouldn’t work…but somehow they don’t. Plus my house is kind of cold in the winter, and going to a nice 78-degree studio is basically the best thing ever.

  7. At FinCon, Fidelity was giving away yoga mats. I took one since I do a lot of body weight workouts at home. On the plan back home, a yogi master (not sure the legit name) said I should take up yoga. He said yoga is more mental than physical. It just uses the body as a distract so you can let your mind relax. You have pushed me even more towards doing yoga.

    1. Nice! That’s so interesting that you got a free yoga mat and then got some encouragement on the plane home as well. I would definitely recommend trying it out, at least a couple of times. There are lots of different styles of yoga, so you may want to try some different classes to figure out what you prefer, but if you can find a style and a teacher that you connect with, it can be a really great practice/hobby/exercise/challenge!

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