We are quickly heading into the time of year when everyone is desperate to shed their holiday pounds. This can translate into big bucks for the local gyms and fitness clubs. I looked it up. The figure is about $21 MILLION dollars a year spent on gym memberships just here in the US.
Sadly about 70% of these memberships are going underutilized or even unused completely – WOW! Ka-ching for the fitness clubs…
Getting into shape is absolutely a worthy goal, but not at the cost of blowing your budget (especially consider how much you probably spent for Christmas) so let’s look at it from a financial point of view. One thing to keep in mind is that the odds are heavily stacked in favor of the gym. They’re masters at manipulating
suckers customers into spending large sums of money for services they will probably never use.
First off, consider if a gym membership is right for you? I love this quote:
“I am made entirely of flaws
stitched together with
I think that describes a lot of us, myself included. We have nothing but the best of intentions, especially when it comes to exercise. But the fact is, we get busy, bored, and just plain don’t like the sweat and pain of going to a gym. So, we skip it once this week, and twice the next week. And before we know it, we don’t go at all and your fees are just wasted money.
So be honest with yourself. Are you one of the 70% who will buy an expensive gym membership and not use it? Or are you one of the 30% who has the discipline to USE it?
I’ve been this route a few times and I know perfectly well. I am in the 70%. I’m capable of maintaining an exercise routine, but for me, it needs to be easy, easy, easy. I can (and do!) exercise in my PJ’s most of the time and that works for me. I’ve got my treadmill, I have a Wii, I have a stack of various fitness tapes.
And if nothing else, I’m not too proud to just walk round and round inside my house. Or just walk around the neighborhood (although not in my PJ’s!). If I have to pack up some gym clothes, drive to the gym, and then put do a whole fitness routine – it just ain’t happening!
So if you decide that a gym is not for you, check out a few of my favorite tips for healthy eating, staying motivated, and frugal fitness.
If you are the kind of person who CAN keep using a gym membership, let’s look at how to get you a great deal on one:
1. Shop around for gym memberships.
Most gyms will offer a free one-week trial. Make up your mind to try at least three different gyms in your area. This is a great idea because you can choose the one that best fits your preferences and lifestyle. You can use that as a bargaining chip because they will know that you are comparing prices and will tailor their offers accordingly. Smart shopping 101.
2. Determine your priorities.
As part of the shopping around process, determine what features are important to you and which ones you can live without. Make a list of what is important to you – clean locker rooms, a friendly staff, well-maintained equipment, etc. Maybe you want a no frills gym like Planet Fitness. When I went there a couple of years ago, it was $10 a month, no contract, which is a pretty good deal if you don’t want the pool, and the cardio cinema, and all the extras.
Or maybe you want the deluxe version like a Gold’s Gym with an extensive array of machines, classes, daycare, pool, sauna, etc. But it’s probably more in the $45-$60/month range, if not more. Be realistic about what works for you and your budget.
3. Negotiate. Then negotiate some more.
Never lose sight of the fact that the beefy hulk or the curvy cutie trying to get you to sign on the dotted line is a dedicated SALES PROFESSIONAL. They are paid a hefty commission based on the sales they bring in, just like a used car dealer. They know all the psychological sales tricks to try and get you to spend the maximum dollar for their services. When someone comes in who has done their homework and knows what other gyms in the area are offering in terms of contracts and pricing, they are going to get a much better deal that a person who acts out of desperation and signs the first deal they are offered.
4. READ the Contract.
I died a little inside when I learned that my son and new daughter-in-law recently signed up for a gym with a two-year commitment and a large monthly fee (each!). I’ve raised him to be pretty smart about money, and my daughter-in-law is usually a very smart shopper, but we all run afoul of the emotion of the moment. A long-term commitment like that leaves the odds heavily stacked in favor of the gym.
Even if you are a dedicated gym-rat who goes faithfully every single week, if a better deal comes along with Gym X, you are stuck, stuck, stuck in a contract that is not likely to be in your favor. A month-to-month plan may not always be the cheapest, but it does give you the freedom to scale back if your budget changes, if you get bored with the program, if you don’t like the gym, or if you find a better deal down the line. To me, that outweighs the savings of a multi-year contract.
5. Timing is Everything.
January 1st is actually an ideal time to join a gym. Every place in town is offering special deals to the crowds of people who sign up based on their New Year’s Resolutions. It is kind of a pain because the gyms and fitness classes are filled to the brim for those first few weeks, but just grit your teeth and think of March when things will have cleared out considerably.
6. Now JUST DO IT!
Like Nike says – Just Do It. Once you’ve made your best deal, arrange your life so you get the benefit of all your money and hard work. Priorize your calendar so you can get to the gym as frequently as you have planned. Good fitness does have many health benefits and it improves your attitude and sense of well-being as well, so I wish you well with your fitness programs. It is a worthy goal and can add years to your life.