Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Physically Fit, Not Flat Broke

If getting physically fit is on your to-do list for the New Year, you may be contemplating a gym membership. Good for you, but please be cautious. This is fitness gyms’ biggest season for signing up new members. While you’re polishing off that last plate of holiday fudge, the sales force is gearing up to drain you dry when you sign an ironclad contract that is long, involved and full of legalese.

Before you haul off and sign a long-term, high-priced contract at a fancy gym, step back and explore your options.


Your employer may have a corporate gym membership for employees for a significant discount without long-term obligations. Many employers offer this because they know that fit employees stay healthy.


Some plans have fitness and exercise programs as part of an overall health care program. Call customer care if you don’t want to wade through your policy.


Large hotels often have onsite fitness centers. While they do not always advertise it, it is not uncommon for the local residents to use the facilities during certain off-peak hours for a very reasonable fee and no need to sign a contract. Check the websites of hotels in your area.


Is there a sizable family-oriented church in your community? Many are building family fitness centers. A church I’m familiar with offers a year’s membership for an entire family in their membership for just $40 — and that includes child care for little ones.


Most communities have a YMCA or YWCA facility that offers reasonable rates for membership on a “pay as you go” basis.


It’s challenging to beat the health benefits of walking, jogging or biking. You could save your money and get in shape for free in the great outdoors. Or make a deal with yourself that when you’ve walked 2 miles a day for six months, you will have earned a gym membership.

Once you’ve determined your options for getting fit, compare the benefits and costs of each. Match quality of the service with your need. It’s silly to pay more for a gym with a pool if you are not a swimmer.

If there’s a contract involved, ask to take a copy of it home with you to read. This will be neither fun nor easy, but better if you know what the fine print says now rather than when it’s too late to negotiate. Make sure any verbal agreements have been added to the copy you are taking for consideration.


You want to check out the gym thoroughly before making any financial commitment. Two to four weeks of free trial membership is reasonable.


Fitness salespeople are notorious for the breathless, sign-up-now-or-never presentation. Remember, if this deal is available today, it will be available tomorrow. Don’t let their sense of urgency rob you of your good sense. Take it slow and easy.


Some gyms now offer this type of arrangement, and I applaud them. With a 30-day notice, you can walk away. If you move out of the area in six months, you don’t want to be stuck with a three-year gym contract.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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