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What You Need to Know About the Economics of Gym Memberships

Gym memberships are notoriously expensive and difficult to cancel, so before you sign up, here’s what you should consider.

People tend to be overly exuberant about exercising right after the New Year. We live in a country where expanding waistlines have come to define our national existence, and that affects many people’s self image. As a result, many of us desire to reverse years of poor dietary and exercise habits as part of our New Year’s resolution.

The centerpiece of these goals is typically a gym membership, although studies show that eating less is far more effective. Still, exercising is part of a healthy lifestyle, and a gym membership can be a source of major motivation.

Be honest with yourself

The problem with gym memberships is that most people don’t use them. In fact, gyms are well-aware that a significant proportion of their members will pay dues and not show up at all. In sum, your laziness is built into the bottom-line for many gyms, since you’re paying for absolutely nothing.

Many of us are optimistic that we can change our habits, when in reality, going to the gym regularly is a major lifestyle adjustment that requires a great deal of sacrifice.

Needless to say, if you’re not going to go, don’t join a gym.

If you’re not a gym rat, go with the cheap option

If you’re a beginner at the gym, there are several chains that offer cheap memberships while you get acquainted with a fit lifestyle. Gold’s Gym, YMCA, and Planet Fitness have memberships that are very cheap, and can get you going. There’s not that much money on the line if you start-out at one of these chains. If you really enjoy the gym and go regularly, you can graduate to a better, more luxurious gym.

Estimating the cost of the nice gym

Studies show that people overestimate how much they’re going to go to the gym. A good way to look at the cost of the nice gym is to average out how many times you’re going to go per month (an honest estimate), and divide that by the monthly price. If you’re not going at least twice a week, it’s likely you’re much better off with a discount gym.

Signing up for the fancy pants gym

If you’ve decided to join the most exclusive gym in town (present company included), make sure to join when there’s a special so you don’t pay initiation fees (I can’t remember the last time I paid one of those). Also, familiarize yourself with the cancellation policy of your plan.

A word for the wise: The easiest way to get out of those crazy gym membership contracts is to provide proof that you’re moving “more than 25 miles away from the facility.” To protect yourself as a consumer, it might be a good idea to have something handy that demonstrates that you live in a different city (Mom and Dad finally come through).

Takeaway: Be happy

If you splurge on the gym, make sure you’re using it as much as possible. On a personal level, I am honest with myself about how much I’m going to actually go to the gym, and am fully aware of the cost.

My present gym is the nicest gym to which I’ve ever belonged, and the monthly membership fee is more than what the payments would be on a Toyota Corolla. Nevertheless, I am glad to pay to exorbitant price because the highlight of my day is going to the gym. Should that ever change, I would swiftly cancel my membership.


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