Gym memberships can be really expensive. While the average monthly gym fee comes in around $60, fitness centers in large cities like NYC can charge closer to $130 per month just to use their facilities (and that doesn't count the exorbitant initiation fees). And with so many great ways to get a full workout at home, it poses the question — is a gym membership really worth it?
Along with saving money, you can also save time by achieving your fitness goals at home. So, stop spending an hour at the gym and start living more frugally. By following the tips below, you can get more from your membership, or find out why it might be time to break up with your gym altogether.
1. Shop Around
Find out how much each gym charges in your local area. You can check Yelp to find out which gyms are nearby and start your search from there. Compare prices, perks, and gym availability to find the one that works best for your needs.
2. Take Advantage of Free Trials
Ask your local gyms if they offer free trials. Often, they will offer free classes or membership options (such as a free day or week) so that you can test out the gym before starting a membership. Adding these various trial offers back-to-back can amount to a month of free gym memberships, and in the end, you can really decide if it's worth it to join.
3. Look for Deals or Coupons
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial can help save you a lot on a gym membership. In fact, you may be able to save up to 85% on your membership with one of these deals. It's worth a look to see what's available in your area. You can also visit your local gym's website and social media pages to see if they are offering any coupons or discounts at the moment.
4. Inquire About Discounts
Often, fitness centers offer discounts that aren't clearly displayed for everyone, so you will need to ask about what deals they are currently offering. If you are a student, senior, or work for a large corporation that may have a deal with your local gym, make sure to mention that to see if there are any discounts available to you. Some gyms even offer discounts for members who exercise on off-peak hours (such as late at night).
5. Join With Your Spouse or a Group
Most gyms offer a group discount. If you can sign up with a friend, your spouse, or a group from work, you might be able to save big bucks. If you have a friend or family member that subscribes to your gym, make sure to mention that they referred you. You both might be eligible for perks or a discount thanks to the referral. Some of these discounts can save you 10%–30% off your membership, so it's definitely worth inquiring about.
6. Inquire About Corporate Memberships
Ask your employer if they offer any deals with a local gym or fitness chain. Your local gym may even have corporate membership options. Joining with some of your coworkers at the same time can also lead to group rates and discounts.
7. Check Your Health Insurance for Deals
Some health insurance plans offer discounts on gym memberships. You may also be eligible for a reimbursement from your insurance company if you join a participating gym or fitness center. Call your health insurance representative to see what's available to you.
8. Sign Up During the Slow Season or End of Month
Gym membership prices tend to drop during the slow season, which takes place in the summer and toward the end of the year. If you can wait until this time, you will find better rates, or you will be more likely to negotiate a discounted rate. At the end of the month, many gyms are also trying to meet their monthly sales goals, so if you can't wait until the slow season, at least wait until the end of the month to see if there any good deals.
If you find the perfect gym, but it isn't in your budget, see if you can negotiate with the membership associate. They may be able to provide discounts or other suggestions on how you can save money on your gym pass, training sessions, guest passes, or other items that come with your gym membership. Many gyms are also willing to drop the initiation fee if you pay upfront, which can save you hundreds of dollars. If they can't save you money, maybe they can throw in some free classes, training sessions, gym passes, or other freebies.
10. Don't Splurge on Extras
Stripping away extra amenities and options you don't need (such as group classes you won't use, water bottles, and other small bonuses) will save you money and ensure you get exactly what you need from your membership. Many gyms also offer a la carte pricing.
11. Don't Sign a Contract
Once you sign a contract at a gym, you are locked into that contract for up to a year. If possible, choose a month-to-month agreement or a shorter-term agreement so that you don't end up paying for a gym membership that you may not use.
12. Put Your Membership on Hold
If you are planning a vacation or business trip, make sure to put your membership on hold. Your gym will not refund you for time that you don't spend in the gym, so make sure to let them know when you're out of town so that you aren't paying for days you can't use.
13. Skip the Gym Altogether
The best way to save money on a gym membership is to skip it altogether. After all, statistics show that approximately 2/3 of people who join a gym don't even use their memberships. We've included some ideas below on what you can do instead of spending an hour at the gym.
Exercise at Home
Exercising at home can provide the same results that you can expect from the gym. A healthy at-home workout plan can also help you avoid bad weather and lazy days when you simply just don't want to travel to the gym. (See also: 36 Workouts You Can Do in Your Living Room While It's Cold Out)
Try an Exercise DVD
Exercise videos aren't what they used to be. Nowadays, if you put in the time and effort that the exercise video or program requires, you will absolutely see results. The trick is to find the right video or program that can provide the results you want, using a style that keeps you interested and motivated. Invest in some dependable gear, such as quality running shoes, an exercise mat, resistance bands, a yoga block, free weights, kettlebells, and whatever else you need to successfully complete your at-home workout program. This will help you get the most from your workout DVDs.
Take Up Running, Hiking, or Biking
Running, hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities are completely free and are extremely effective at burning fat and calories. Make sure to invest in quality running shoes, customized to fit your running style. If you aren't sure which ones are right for you, go to a running store near you and ask them to evaluate your running style and challenges. They can help you choose the right shoes to help you go further, faster.
Download Free Workout Apps
There are thousands of free workout apps available to you. All you need to do is download the app and follow the instructions. You can find complete workout regimens, customizable programs that are designed for your particular fitness level, or apps like Couch to 5K, which can help you meet your goals of running a marathon faster. Some other popular free fitness apps include 7 Minute Workout, Simply Yoga, DailyBurn, Nike Training Club, GymPact, Fleetly, JEFIT, and RunKeeper.