Slim your body without busting your budget with eight proven ways to save money at fitness facilities
Swimsuit season is just around the corner. Ready to rock your bikini like never before? It’s time to hit the gym—double time. But don’t just sign up at the fitness facility closest to your home or the one delivering flyers that promises the most results. Joining a gym affects your wallet just as much as your waistline. “It’s worth doing your homework and comparing a couple places before you lock yourself into a contract,” says Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money savings expert financial expert. “Gym sale associates use pressure tactics and offer lots of deals to get you to sign up—but nearly 67 percent of gym memberships don’t get used,” she says. Don’t get stuck paying for something you don’t want—check out her tips to help you save serious money on gym costs. (For starters, you can save money by trying The Top 21 Free Fitness Classes in America.)
Most health clubs offer a free week so take advantage of as many complimentary memberships as you can. Not only will you be working out for free, but you’ll be able to really decide if this is the gym for you. Do they have the classes that you want and the times you prefer? Take notes and see what’s equipment is available and when there tends to be crowds. “Truthfully, a gym sales associates will probably pressure you to commit after your first day by offering a limited-time discount,” says Woroch who warns not to fall for the trap. “Ultimately, you'll lose money by taking the deal if you realize the gym isn't right for you,” she says.
Before you sign a gym contract or enroll in a new fitness studio, look for deals online. Groupon and LivingSocial often have trial or deeply discounted gym memberships and personal training. CouponSherpa.com offer coupons and free passes for health clubs including 24Hour Fitness. “You can jump around from gym to studio to bootcamp by taking advantage of new monthly offers,” says Woroch.
Woroch points out that warehouse clubs often offers deals on local gym memberships. Just like with that giant container of cashews or coffee, if you go big, you can save. “You’ll probably have to spend more upfront and buy a one-year or two-year membership, but for those who go to a health club regularly, this is a great way to save money in the long run,” she says. For example, Costco features a Gym Membership and Wellness page with deals like $369.99 for a two-year all-club membership to 24-Hour fitness. That comes to approximately $15 per month with unlimited use of this national chain of gyms.
Paying a flat monthly fee typically works out to less money per visit than a punch pass. However, a recent study from the University of California at Berkeley found gym members who choose a contract with a monthly fee over a 10-visit pass paid $600 more annually. “If you don't have time to hit the gym everyday, paying per visit may offer a better value and will also save you potential early-termination fees if you want to cancel the membership before the contract is up,” says Woroch.
“Sure, you can get a lower monthly rate if you commit to a two-year contract, but you'll pay more overtime if you don't use it or want to switch facilities,” says Woroch. “While you'd like to become a fitness devotee overnight, creating new healthy habits takes time.” She suggests trying the membership on a month-to month basis before you sign up for a year to see if you will actually use it on a regular basis.
“One-on-one personal training sessions are pricey, but if you split the cost of the sessions with a friend who is at the same fitness level, you can save half of the cost of training session,” says Woroch. (Or try consider these affordable 5 Digital Coaches to Help You Reach Your Health Goals.)
Typically, fitness centers have membership goals for each month. “Gyms want to gain new members and retain the ones they have,” says Woroch. “At the first of the month, these sales goals don't seem as daunting to employees as they do in the last week of the month,” she explains. So sign up at the end of the month, when most gyms are willing to make a deal. Likewise, if you can use your free trials and some Groupons to tide you over, summer and fall is a better time of year to score a great gym membership deal. “Summer time is slow for most gyms, so look out for special promotions during this season,” says Woroch.
Ready to pull the trigger and sign a contract? Get as much bang for your buck as you can. Try to score a lower monthly rate and get the initiation fee waived. But don’t stop there. “Ask the membership associate for the first month free, more guest passes, extra personal training sessions, free towels, complimentary childcare and discounts on spa packages (if they’re available),” says Woroch. (And now that you scored that cheap membership, learn these smart Money-Saving Tips for Getting Fiscally Fit.)