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Can’t Afford Your Gym Membership? Here’s How to Cope.

Financial IQ

Gym membership fees are one of the hardest expenses to cut, but your fitness doesn’t have to suffer. There are good options for cutting this expense that’ll cause less pain than lifting a barbell. These fitness budgeting tricks should help no matter whether you belong to your health club for the machines, group motivation or the simple hope you’ll use the facilities one day.

Advice for everyone: First, think about why you can’t afford your membership. Is it because your gym is $100 per month, but you could actually do with a  less expensive gym? Is it because you spend an additional $100 to $300 per month on optional classes — even though you can only afford the gym membership, itself?  Or, is it because there are other lifestyle expenses you could trim? There are clear solutions  to each of these issues. Check into less expensive gyms, limit fee-based classes and services and evaluate all your expenses (check out How to Set a Budget Tailored Just For You for a roadmap for tweaking your monthly budget.)

Second, don’t chuck your membership until you negotiate. According to IDEA Health & Fitness Association Executive Director Kathie Davis, you may be able to reduce your costs. Meet with a membership coordinator and remind them how long you’ve been a member. Ask about lower rates for off-peak gym usage, discounst for longer contracts, or if there are any new member specials you could finagle into a loyal member discount.

Finally, determine what it will cost to get out of your membership. If you can’t afford your membership after evaluating cost reduction options, research what it costs to cancel. For instance, if there’s a $250 fee to cancel and you have five months left of a $50 per month contract, do not cancel until you have fulfilled your five- month obligation. Also, double-check that you are not enrolled for automatic renewal. Review your contract carefully for any other caveats.

If you decide to cancel, Davis recommends the following alternatives based on your fitness focus.

For Weightlifters:

—  Hit up garage sales and Craigslist for home gyms. It’s not uncommon for people to buy complicated home gym equipment and never use it. You could give unused complex workout systems a happy new home for less than $100 bucks. However, measure your space first. You don’t want to pick up a treadmill and weight stack that requires a total of 6′ x 6′ of space when you only have a corner of a room available.

— Purchase free weights, a chin-up bar or other inexpensive equipment pieces. Set a total budget for all fitness purchases and stick to it.

 Advice For Group Fitness Buffs:

— Utilize IDEA FitnessConnect to find inexpensive or free group classes by zipcode.

Join a walking or sports club. Or, start your own mini-club by asking  friends or coworkers to walk, skate or run with you at regularly scheduled times.  

For the Weight Conscious:

— Create a routine. Write down how often and how long you plan on walking or jogging.

— Buy a pedometer for $10 or less to track your steps all day long.  

 For the Occasional User:

— Carpe diem with your current gym membership before you decide to quit. Have you tried yoga, pilates, or kickboxing? Lift weights. Try a free training session if available. With the information you gather, you’ll know what to look for in less expensive gyms, or what you’d like to do on your own.

— Join a sports league. Often, the occasional gym user might prefer the competitive side of fitness. Check your community center for sports league postings.

Money shouldn’t hinder achieving optimum health. With a bit of research, you could have a personalized fitness routine —  for less cash than you imagined!

Reyna Gobel is a freelance journalist who specializes in financial fitness. She is also the author of Graduation Debt: How To Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life.

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