Amy Clark

Day 11: Creative Gym Membership Alternatives

Welcome to the eleventh day in our Month of Savings program. I have loved all of your comments and the conversations that have been fostered through these posts. Thank you all!

Asking someone to drop their gym membership is sometimes impossible. I have friends who have been locked into lifetime or three year contracts that have no way out. In fact, my financial demise was thanks to a little place called Fitness USA.

I had taken a year off of college and had a girlfriend who worked for the company. She asked me if I was interested in joining the gym and I really wanted to help her out. I went to the gym and they showed me around and explained all of the fabulous benefits I would get if I joined their gym. They sat me down in a private room with a huge contract and said that all I would need to do to join the gym would be to sign on the dotted line.

I asked them if it would be possible to cancel the contract when I headed to school the next year, since there would be no gym in the area. The two ladies stepped out and came back in and said that it would be possible to opt out of the contract at that time. I signed the contract, much to my parents horror, and used my gym membership regularly during that year.

I headed off to college and contacted the company to let them know I was moving. They said that this would make absolutely no difference because I had signed a three year contract and would have to fulfill the obligation.

My financial future, as I knew it, began a downward spiral thanks to signing a contract that I didn’t read or understand. Imagine receiving threatening and mean phone calls every single day for your first year at a new university. Imagine the humiliation when asking people not to answer the phone because you are avoiding the collector’s phone calls. Imagine that when applying for student loans, you can’t get a single bank to loan you money because your credit score has been smeared by a lousy gym membership. Imagine that you finally get a bank to loan you money on the condition that you will pay an extremely high interest rate. Imagine having a board review your financial applications every single year to decide whether or not you qualify for any federal aid. It was the worst year of my life.

I ended up paying the three years premium out of my textbook money, that I had worked an entire year to earn, but the damage had already been done. My credit score was horrible and it made it difficult for me to get anything for years and years, including a home and car.

Obviously, I should have read the contract more thoroughly, but I just wanted to share an example of why I will never sign a contract with a gym again. The agony that I went through was one of the lowest points in my life. Lower than that though was being a newlywed with a husband who had a bright financial future and receiving our first bill for my student loans. This was a time of great depression where I felt maybe he might have been better off without me.

My husband is my biggest fan and has always loved me unconditionally. The guilt I felt about the debt was not brought on by him, but was a burden that I have had to work through.

Talking about this time in my life is extremely difficult for me. I made a stupid mistake and suffered financial consequences that will be carried with me for years to come. I share this because I want people to understand what they could be getting themselves into if they can’t follow through on a gym contract.

I have no idea what my finances will be like in three years time. I can hope that our financial future will be secure, but who knows what the future has in store for us? Having survived a year of unemployment with my husband, I was thankful to not have contracts like that to follow through on. Please think of these things before locking yourself into any long-term agreements. If you need to have a gym membership, only pay on a month to month basis. If you realize that you aren’t getting your money’s worth, discontinue the membership.

Gym memberships are expensive and, for many people, are rarely used. If you are paying $39.99 a month to have the membership and then can only make it over to the gym twice a month, you are paying $20 per workout. Really track the amount of time you use the gym membership and then write down the dates that you visited. Divide this and figure out how much you are paying per visit. Are you really getting what you paid for?

There are creative ways to get around these monthly fees. One of the gyms in our area, for example, offers a pay per class at their gym. You can enjoy a class like yoga, pilates, or kickboxing and pay $5 versus the $45 gym membership fee. This can be a bit more advantageous to those of us who are very busy and just want to commit when we have time.

You could also see if the gyms in your area offer childcare. If they offer childcare, you could see if you could get a free membership if you devoted some time babysitting for that gym. I have several girlfriends who do this and commit an hour or two a week to babysitting and get their memberships for free. If you have to commit to a babysitting job, you will be more committed towards utilizing the membership since you are volunteering your time.

I prefer free activities that I can do with my children. We love to take walks together or I can throw on a workout tape and they enjoy doing it with me. In the evening, I can put on a workout and do a yoga routine before I head to bed.

Workout tapes can be purchased really inexpensively on Half.com. I like to read all of the reviews on Amazon and pick a tape that people seem to really enjoy. The items are used, but it costs half the price that it would in a store.

Likewise, you could check out the workout tapes from the library. This is great for the people who get burnt out quickly on workout routines and like to switch it up. Just make sure to get those back in on time, or else this could cost you some money.

Do you have a treadmill gathering dust in your basement? I think we all have some exercise equipment that isn’t being used. Using what you already have is much cheaper than paying for something else.

There are lots of ways around the gym membership and exercise can be a fun and free activity that you can do with or without your children. Whatever you do, be leary of any long term commitments and always read that fine print in those contracts!
Potential Monthly Savings: $45

Sound Off: How do you get in your exercise? What is your favorite workout tape or routine?

Published August 13, 2007 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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