Your health is priceless. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg on a gym membership. Get your frugal fitness on with these money-saving tips!
1. Timing is everything! (Never buy a gym membership in January)
Wait until February or March
As most people would assume, January is the absolute worst time to buy a gym membership. Gyms are notorious for cranking up their prices in January to meet the demand from the “holiday overindulgers” and “New Year’s resolutioners.” If you can wait until the end of February or March to purchase a gym membership, you’ll likely be able to negotiate a lower rate.
Buy at the end of the month
Another smart time to sign up for a gym membership is at the end of the month when the gym’s sales team is often desperate to close deals in order to meet monthly sales quotas and is thus more likely to offer you a good deal or special perks such as a waived initiation fee or free personal training sessions or spa services.
Use social media
Another thing to keep in mind: if the sales team at the gym tells you that the current deal is a once-a-year deal or a never-to-be-offered-again type of deal, they are most likely lying. If you’re patient, you’ll see that the gym will typically advertise this same deal (or an even better one) in just a couple of months, if not weeks. I’ve found that the best way to stay abreast of a gym’s special deals is to follow the gym on all its social media accounts.
2. Consider a limited membership
Some gyms offer a limited membership for a reduced rate. With a limited membership, you’re only allowed to use the gym during specified times (typically, during the morning or the gym’s off-peak hours). If you have a consistent workout schedule that fits within your gym’s limited membership parameters, a limited membership could be an easy way to cut the cost of your gym dues. Sometimes limited memberships are called “Off-Peak Hours Discounts.” Limited memberships are normally not advertised, so you’ll have to specifically ask the gym whether they offer it.
3. Find out if you’re eligible for a “special” discount
Here are some of the special discounts you may be eligible for:
- Student discount: Some gyms offer reduced membership rates for students with a valid student ID card. Depending on the gym, this can include all students or it may be limited to just college students. Also, some gyms offer a special discount on summer memberships for students who are home from college. While not nearly as common as student discounts, some gyms even offer teacher discounts.
- Military discount: Many gyms honor military personnel with discounted membership dues and initiation fees. 24 Hour Fitness, the YMCA and Gold’s Gym all offer military discounts; however, the specific discount may vary with each location.
- Employer/corporate discount: A number of companies partner with a local gym to provide discounted or free memberships for their employees. If your business doesn’t offer discounted gym memberships, consider bringing it up with H.R.. After all, studies have shown that healthy employees are happier and make better workers.
- Low-income discount: Some gyms, such as the YMCA, offer discounts to the low-income or unemployed.
- Senior discount: Many gyms offer discounted memberships to seniors. Keep in mind that the word “senior” means different things at different gyms. For example, some gyms will give you a senior discount at age 55 whereas other gyms won’t give you a senior discount until you turn 70.
- Medicare discount: If you’re on Medicare, you may be eligible for a discounted or free gym membership at selected gyms. Generally speaking, if you’re enrolled in traditional Medicare Part B, you most likely will not be able to receive a discounted or free gym membership. On the other hand, if you get your Medicare medical coverage through a Medicare Part C Medicare Advantage HMO or another managed care plan, you may be eligible for a discounted or free gym membership at participating gyms.
- Health insurance discount: Some health insurance plans offer members discounted gym memberships or financial incentives to visit the gym. For example, some United Healthcare plans have a Fitness Reimbursement Program, which reimburses a member $20 a month for every month that he or she visits a participating gym at least 12 times.
- Warehouse club discount: Warehouse clubs often offer members discounts on gym memberships. For example, Costco is currently offering members a 2-year 24 Hour Fitness membership for $369.99. Keep in mind that you should only commit to a long-term gym membership if you have a proven track record of regularly using a gym. No matter how cheap you buy a long-term gym membership for, it will be a waste of money if you don’t regularly use it.
4. Think outside the big-box gym
While it’s certainly possible to get a great deal at one of the big-box, chain gyms, you should also make sure to check the following, usually low-cost alternatives in your area:
- Community centers: Your local community center, senior center and/or youth center may offer community members low-cost fitness facilities as well as other perks such as group exercise classes, a pool, tennis courts, etc.
- Local colleges/universities and community colleges: Your local college or university may offer low-cost gym memberships to its campus gym for not only alumni but also to members of the general community. Also, many community colleges offer low-cost adult enrichment courses in various fitness and recreation subjects that are open to the general community. For example, my local community college offers adult enrichment courses in yoga, Pilates, weight training and martial arts.
- Churches, temples, etc.: Churches, temples and other places of worship, especially those with large congregations, sometimes have fitness facilities or programs that are available for free or at low cost for members.