Are Gym Memberships a Good Deal?

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Gym Memberships

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
good intentions”

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.

Here are some other posts you might enjoy:

Will Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?

5 Fabulous Products to Make Weight Loss EASIER

New Year’s Motivation – My BEST Weight Loss Tips

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  1. I totally agree with you, Thanks for such an informative post, I think at first I was of that 70% I left the gym after using it for 1 month but again after wasting 2 weeks I joined the gym and still I am continuing, I love fitness and I love to be fit always. Thanks for posting.

    1. Thank you. That’s awesome. I’m glad someone is enjoying the gym and getting the benefit of these spaces.

  2. Yup, I can’t get up, get dressed and make it to the gym. I have found the only way I work out is if I remove as many barriers as possible which means I had to buy an elliptical. It works though! I’m pinning this post to my workout board. Thanks for sharing!

    1. The elliptical is my torture device! After about 2 minutes, it feels like someone has BRAIDED my thigh muscles and by 4 minutes I’m about crying. Glad it works for you. Thanks for the pin!

  3. So agree with you and the short contract versus the long contract. The one my Hubs just signed is for 6 weeks, then month to month… Or none at all. He has agreed to eat what I cook and prepare YEAH!!! I lost all those pounds by eating healthy and walking…. He needs a little more motivation…. Well he starts tomorrow, hoping he has the willpower and the correct motivation to go the 6 weeks, I will be cheering on from the sidelines, OH and getting him up in the morning 🙂 That is my job in the grand scheme of things!!!!

  4. Getting fit is always a great goal and your tips certainly help someone evaluate whether they should go for that gym membership. There are lots of ways of improving your fitness and a gym can be a smart motivational choice for many. Thanks for the help!

  5. Great tips! I’m actually just about to start gym shopping to help me with marathon training through the winter. I have two gyms within walking distance, so one of those will be where I end up, but I’ll definitely play them against each other. And definitely no contract – I don’t need a gym when it’s not snowy and icy out.


    1. Marathons? Wow. My nieces do those. It’s a great way to keep in shape. And you’re smart to play them against each other. I did that last week when I was helping my son buy a car. Thanks for visiting.

  6. I attempted to join a gym when my second child was born – luckily, I did a three day trial and realized quickly that I wasn’t getting a 1yo and newborn to the gym each day! They’re 2 and 3 now but, when given the choice, I still chose to have a trainer come to the house instead of training at the gym. The idea of a membership and the classes appealed to the old me who loved that, but the new me was honest enough to realize the extra time it took to get us all ready would keep me away more often that not.

    I’ll have to check out your links for doing it all at home, since I think this will be my preferred method for a while!

    1. That’s a good awareness! Trying to get anywhere with little kids is tough, especially the gym. Pretty soon it will get easier – but at least you are taking care of yourself now.

  7. Agreed – gym memberships can be hit or miss unless you’re pretty savvy about it! I’ve always made sure to shop around, but one thing I would recommend is the haggling! At many gyms – especially the smaller ones – the price is negotiable. Then, it’s a matter of being diligent in going. I have limited space to work out at home, so I’m always using the gym otherwise I wouldn’t get much exercise especially in the winter!

    1. I agree completely. Not everyone is comfortable with haggling, but I think it’s always worth a try. They can only say no. Thanks for stopping by.

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