By Denis Faye

True or false? Six-pack abs require a six-figure salary.

Of course, that statement isn't even remotely true, but look around at our consumer society, and you'll be hard pressed not to believe it. Everywhere you turn, you're told you need this membership or that gadget or this exotic, Brazilian fruit to look and feel good.

Fortunately, the reality is that fitness doesn't require loads of cash; it just requires a little savvy and a lot of hard work. Here are a few ways to go about getting ripped without getting ripped off.

  1. Ditch the gym membership. Odds are, if you belong to a gym, it's costing you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. Is it worth it? Do you go all that often? And if you do, what are you doing there that you couldn't do at home for less?

    For you cardio freaks out there, here's an excellent replacement for that treadmill. It's called "pavement." As in running, outside, on the pavement. It's free. Stairmasters? Try the stairs! And for all you spinning fans, they actually make bikes now with these crazy things called "wheels." You can ride them outside!

    The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association estimates that the average annual club membership is $775 a year. In the same time frame, you can do four rounds of P90X® at a fraction of that cost—and it comes with a nutrition guide. I challenge you to find a gym that lays out a complete meal plan for you.
  2. Don't drink bottled water. With prices 1,900 times higher than tap water, the $35 billion bottled water industry is one of the greatest scams of the 21st century. It's just water. A few select brands might be trucked in from some exotic mountain spring, but for the most part, bottled water comes from municipal sources—and oftentimes, it doesn't meet the same standards that tap water needs to meet. In October 2008, the Environmental Working Group sent 10 popular brands of bottled water to the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory for testing. They found traces of 38 low-level contaminants, including Tylenol®, arsenic, industrial chemicals, and our favorite, bromodichloromethane, which was found in levels exceeding safety standards for cancer-causing chemicals under California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. And where'd they find that particular pollutant? Wal-Mart's Sam's Choice brand. Yum!

    So drink from the tap. It's cheaper and the Environmental Protection Agency holds it to higher standards.
  3. Eat seasonal fruits and veggies. If you buy strawberries from New Zealand in the middle of winter, who do you think is going to absorb the cost of shipping that fruit halfway around the world? The farmers? The supermarket? No, it's you who pays extra for produce purchased out of season, so avoid it if you can. Eat peaches, tomatoes, and cherries in summer. In winter, go for cauliflower and citrus. Not only will you save a few bucks, it'll taste better. It's probably riper and hasn't been sitting in a refrigerated cargo hold for a few weeks, where it loses valuable nutrients, according to a study out of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. In the study, researchers learned that spinach, even stored at a chilly 39 degrees, still loses significant folate and carotenoid content after just 8 days.

    If you really want to save even more cash, cut out the four or five middlemen, and get your produce at your local farmers' market.
  4. Avoid fancy body fat scales. It is possible to accurately measure body fat, but not without thousands of dollars of hydrostatic testing equipment and a ton of certification. A $60 body fat scale just isn't going to give you much accuracy. In fact, it isn't going to give you any accuracy at all. What these scales do is called bioelectrical impedance analysis, which includes measuring your body density and doing a series of calculations to predict what your body fat might be. In other words, it's guesswork.

    It's a safe bet to assume that guess will be +/-5 percent off. This is still useful because the guesses will probably be consistent, so while you won't be certain of what your body fat is, you'll know if it's dropping or going up. But you'll get roughly the same information using a $15 pair of calipers, so save yourself some cash and just buy one of those instead.
  5. Ride your bike for transport. Fitness aside, the math here is obvious. Let's say you buy yourself a splashy urban bike, like a Trek Allant, for $539.99. First off, you'll be able to use this thing for years. I have about 13 years on my old Diamondback Response SE, and it still gets me where I need to go in style.

    Now let's say you'll be biking to work instead of driving, and it's a 10-mile commute. That's a total of 20 miles a day, and we'll assume your car gets 20 miles per gallon, or a gallon a day, which is currently about $2.30. That's $11.50 a week or approximately $598 a year.

    Wait a minute! You just paid for your fancy bike and actually pulled a profit!

    Or let's say you'll be forgoing public transportation. In San Francisco, a monthly public transportation pass is $45, so $540 annually. Again with the profit.

    So I've already put up an incredibly compelling argument, and we haven't even discussed the fact that you'd be getting a ton of great cardio 5 days a week.
  6. Skip Starbucks®. If you frequent this type of joint, it means you drink one of two things. Coffee or something else. If you order a Coffee of the Week or Pike Place Roast, you're indeed ordering coffee, but it's costing you a couple bucks per cup, whereas it would cost you pennies to make at home. And if you're dead set on that Starbucks "quality," they sell the beans in handy take-home bags.

    Drink anything else on the menu, such as a Vanilla Rooibos Tazo Tea Latte or a Coffee Frappuccino Blended Coffee, and you're not really drinking coffee, no matter how many times they cram the word into the title.

    True, there's coffee in there, but you're drinking coffee in much the same way wolfing down a banana split is considered eating a piece of fruit.

    For the record, a Grande Coffee Frappuccino Blended Coffee is 240 empty calories. A Grande Vanilla Rooibos Tazo Tea Latte with 2 percent milk would be 200 empty calories. Both are more than a can of Coke.