This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Budget for fitness without a contract

Posted by Matt

My goal in posting this article is to dissuade at least one person out there from joining a health club. I've belonged to at least three or four different health clubs and have never been happy with any of them. I'll shoulder some of the blame for not doing enough homework to find the right kind of club, but I usually just wanted to find whichever one was closest to my house, figuring that that would make me more likely to stick to my regimen. Given that the larger club chains have the most locations, I usually ended up with one of those and the terrible contracts that came with them.

Most of you probably know how they operate already:

  • You pay a huge upfront fee
  • You pay a sizable monthly fee (usually around $30/month)
  • You are required to pay this membership fee for a period of one or two years (or pay another exorbitant fee to terminate the contract).

Congratulations to the clubs for coming up with such a great business model. Most people gripe about it, but the clubs still seem to find LOTS of people to join. I joined a club several years ago that was just down the street from my house, but I hope it will be the last time I ever make that mistake.

My contract period ended in 2006. Since then, I've been getting letters from the club asking me to come back at a greatly reduced rate; $8.25 month! Why couldn't I have been paying that all along? This is another example of their deviously effective pricing. Obviously, they want you to pay as much as possible, but considering that they are not getting ANY money from me right now, they are trying to bargain with me a bit. If you really decide you want to join a gym, I'd suggest you negotiate the terms. They often run specials where they waive the upfront payment and my experience shows that their pricing is arbitrary and contains a lot of wiggle room.

That being said, I STILL don't think most people should join a gym. If you are like me, you might go regularly for a few weeks or months and then lose interest. Unfortunately, you are locked into that contract and have to pay whether you go or not! Such a waste; I always hated that.

Don't get me wrong, I see the value in keeping active, so here are some alternative suggestions:

  1. Find an active hobby. This is what I did. I play indoor soccer now and love playing so much that I almost never miss a game (and I NEVER regret the cost).
  2. Clean up your house. This is a two-for-one. Could your house use a little picking up anyway? (If you're spending money on a housekeeping service, shame one you.) I don't know about you, but I often break a sweat when I'm doing a whole house cleaning.
  3. Play with your kids (if you've got them). My young son has me running up and down the street with him almost every afternoon.

Another option you might be thinking about is purchasing some fitness equipment for use at home. I know a very small number of people who actually use their home equipment. Take a quick look at Craigslist and count how many treadmills and stair climbers you see listed as "Great condition; hardly used!"

I'd be willing to wager that most expenditures on home equipment are a waste of money, but if you do want to try it out, consider testing yourself first. Try to come up with a comparable exercise that you can do at home without equipment and see if you can stick with that three times a week for a month or two. If so, then a machine might be a safe investment in your health. Or you may just find that you are happy exercising without equipment; win-win.

Just don't join a gym!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have achieved your goal, Matt. You have dissuaded me from ever, ever, joining a gym! And I will make a point of staying active so I can enjoy my young grandson while he's growing up!