Michael on December 14th, 2007
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Continuing the recent theme of keeping your expenses in check without significantly impacting your lifestyle, let’s talk gym memberships.

You: Are you going to argue that gym membership aren’t necessary because you can run and exercise outside?

No. I live in New Hampshire. Recently it’s been 15 degrees outside when I’m blogging. Tough running weather.

Still, for some people a gym membership is a complete waste of money. Here’s a summary of people who I feel shouldn’t be spending money on a gym membership:

  • Those that won’t use a gym, even if they join one. You know the type: they say “If I join it, I’ll use it because I’m paying for it.” Not. Doesn’t happen. Skip it.
  • Those that have free gyms available to them at work.

You: Not much of a list.

It’s a short list, because I believe fitness is not only key to maintaining good health, but also a potential saver of significant money in the long term, thanks to potentially lower medical expenses.

You: So I’ve got the green light to join a gym?

As you’ll use it and you don’t have a free one at work, absolutely.

You: Cool.

But a few things to keep in mind. First, before selecting a gym, check out a few gyms in town. Every gym I’ve ever seen will give you a complimentary trial period (from one visit to one month) to get a sense of the place. Determine what each gym offers compared to your needs. For example, if you never swim, the pool doesn’t matter. If you love classes, make sure the classes match your schedule.

Once you determine the right gym, you can join knowing you’ve chosen wisely. Keep in mind that in many cases, there’s nothing wrong with the local Y which may cost a lot less. (Of course, sometimes there is a good reason not to join the Y, but you actually have to visit the Y to make that determination.)

But once you figure out the right gym, don’t just join.

You: What? You said it was okay to join once you find the right gym.

Yes, I did. But before you join, pretend it’s like a car dealership.

You: Haggle?


You: Really?

Indeed. Find out what membership specials they’re running or have offered recently. Find out what kind of deal you can get by joining with someone else. If you know you’re really going to use the gym and you’re not going to be moving soon, ask how much you’ll save by purchasing an annual membership vs. a month to month one.

When we moved to NH, my wife and I joined the same gym and pre-paid for the year. Our savings are tremendous. Not only that, the gym offered us the same deal the next year. We took it. Big savings for another year.

Another thing to think about with gym memberships is your health insurance. Your health insurance may reimburse you for part of your gym dues.

You: I don’t think mine does; they never mailed me anything about that.

I never received any information about it either, but I called and asked. Now I get $200 back each year. Add this partial reimbursement to the savings from joining with another and pre-paying for a year and a gym membership with a public rate of about $65 each now costs my wife and I $12.50 per month per person.

It’s the same gym. Just at a far lower cost.

That’s an example of living fiscally responsible — not cheaply. And it allows me (and you!) to live Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck. We’re still taking suggestions for ways you live fiscally responsible below.

What have you done? Spread the joy. And the savings.

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