1. Check with your employer first.
Many employers have "package deals" with fitness chains where employees get discounted rates as part of their employee health benefits package. I used to work out at LA Fitness for $21 a month and no contract thanks to a former employer!
2. Ask your insurer.
If your employer doesn't offer a fitness discount, your insurer may. My insurer is Blue Cross, and they offer a discount to their members who join 24 Hour Fitness. Last time I checked, my discount was $29 per month with no contract—a pretty good deal!
3. Ask about a restricted plan, and only go during off-peak hours.
A"restricted" plan gives you access to a gym during off-peak hours. You can pick the days (for instance, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) and blocks of time (for instance, 2pm – 6pm) when you want to work out, and you’ll only be charged for those days and times.
4. Let the sales associate do the talking.
Your sales associate will try to get you to talk about your career, your living situation, your income—all this to try to decipher how much you can afford. Don't tell them anything, and you retain full bargaining power.
5. Be honest about how much you can pay.
If that means saying, "That rate is more than I have budgeted for," or "Such-and-so gym offered me this lower price," say it. If they really want your business they may need to work for it.
6. Ask about discounts for paying in one lump sum.
Some gyms (such as Equinox) are known not to budge on membership dues but may discount the total price for members who pay in full for their year up front.
7. Look carefully at the "extras."
Often gym memberships are sold as "packages" even if this isn't spelled out. If the gym you want to join offers "free this and that," ask what the price would be without those freebies. Tell them what you want, and ask what the price would be for just that, and see what they say.
8. Shop at the slowest times.
If you can time your gym "shopping trip" for the end of the month, and also during the hottest parts of the year in your area, you may land a better deal. This is when membership sales slow down…but sales quotas don't. If you have the time, plan your first visit for the beginning of the month, but don't buy until the end of the month (by this point, the associate will be eager to "close the sale" and may offer you extra discounts just to sign up).
9. Say no to initiation fees and contracts.
Contracts and initiation fees are largely on their way out nationwide. Initiation fees in particular are often the first to go under the chopping block if an associate is eager to sign you up—so don't cave.
10. Walk away if it doesn’t feel right.
Just because you walk away doesn't mean the associate will give up. Give them a week or two—they may call back and offer you a much better deal!
11. Try them all before you commit.
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