With regular workouts, you stay fit and control medical bills. Because of this, gyms provide a healthy value. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also trim some fat here.
10.1 Avoid Monthly Dues
Health clubs present a big savings opportunity because the average membership costs about $500 per year. Cobble together several alternatives, and you can dodge this monthly hit to your finances.
□ 10.1.1 Rent Apartments With Gyms Attached
Many apartment complexes include workout rooms. Live there and skip the club membership. If your current place lacks a gym, band together with other tenants and ask the manager to fill a spare room with cardio machines and free weights. If your landlord oversees other properties, ask if any of them have fitness centers you might use.
□ 10.1.2 Outfit Home Gyms
For cardio exercise, hunt for used Nordic Track ski machines, which burn calories fast because they work both the lower and upper body. Find them online or at garage sales for about $25. For strength training, look for used dumbbells and benches. Parents offload this excess weight as soon as the kids leave home.
□ 10.1.3 Outfit Ultra-Portable Gyms
If you lack room for cardio and dumbbells, use Appendix 1 to run the $200 TRX suspension trainer through its paces. The TRX has received rave reviews, but beware of secondhand equipment because the manufacturer has recalled two early models. For details, visit TRXTraining.com.
□ 10.1.4 Substitute DVDs for Classes
Borrow workout videos from friends or libraries. These provide cheaper motivation than classes.
□ 10.1.5 Visit Friends With Home Gyms
Workouts with partners deliver better results. So you don’t overburden anyone, visit several different buddies each week.
□ 10.1.6 Exercise Outdoors
In winter, snowshoe, skate, or ski. In other seasons, walk, hike, jog, kayak, rollerblade, or bike.
□ 10.1.7 Visit Parks
Many parks feature Par Courses, Fit-Trails, or Vita Courses. These provide stations for pull ups, pushups, crunches, and the like. Look also for outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts, bike trails, rinks, and nature trails.
□ 10.1.8 Switch to PAYG
Drop the gym membership, but visit occasionally at the daily rate.
10.2 Slash Monthly Dues
If you still want to belong to a club, consider these tactics.
□ 10.2.1 Join Public Rec Centers and YMCAs
They cost less than private gyms and often provide better facilities.
□ 10.2.2 Join at Local Campuses
Perspire for less at college health centers.
□ 10.2.4 Buy Limited Memberships
Some clubs offer lower rates if you exercise at off-peak hours or agree to stay off the tennis courts.
□ 10.2.5 Search for Special Offers
Clubs run frequent specials. Visit their websites.
□ 10.2.6 Seek Reimbursements
Your health insurer or employer might pay part of your club dues in order to contain its health care costs.
□ 10.2.7 Seek Member Discounts
Check for discounts at the websites of any groups to which you belong. This includes warehouse clubs. As I wrote this, Costco featured a two-year certificate to a national chain of fitness centers for only $350.
□ 10.2.8 Shop at Month’s End
At many clubs, the sales force must meet quotas. You get better deals if you join late in the month.
□ 10.2.9 Ask for Price Matching
Club A charges lower dues, but club B is closer to home so you would prefer to join there. Ask club B to match club A’s price.
10.3 Beware the Contract
Health clubs are notorious for one-sided contracts that work you over before you ever start working out. Bad agreements are costly, so take precautions.
□ 10.3.1 Try Before You Buy
If you join a club you hate, you’ll waste money because you’ll never visit. Ask for a trial membership.
□ 10.3.2 Read Before Signing
Never rely on what a salesperson tells you. The written words trump any oral promises.
□ 10.3.3 Skip Enrollment Fees and Pre-Pays
Ask the club to waive these charges. To document the waiver, cross out any mention of the fees or prepays, enter your initials near the cross-out, and write in “WAIVED BY CLUB” before you sign.
□ 10.3.4 Know the Length of Membership and Renewal Terms
Does the contract bind you for a full year or for even longer? When your initial term expires, do you switch to a month-to-month membership or do you automatically renew for a full year?
□ 10.3.5 Know Your Cancellation Rights (Under Contract)
Does the agreement discuss whether you can cancel if you lose your job, suffer an injury, travel abroad, or move away?
□ 10.3.6 Know Your Cancellation Rights (Under Statute)
The laws of many states guarantee the right to cancel within a few days after you sign a health club contract. To see whether your state grants this remedy, run this internet search: “health club cancellation rights [enter your state here].”
□ 10.3.7 Retain a Copy
Useful in any later disputes, especially if the contract contains handwritten changes.