10 Ways to Cut Your Fitness Membership Costs

I’ve seen the signs. Fitness clubs and gyms are working it hard and flexing their marketing muscles to get you sweating in their facilities. January is the fitness industry’s big month to sign up new members, and some are offering fat incentives to get you to sign on the skinny dotted line.

If you’re in the market for a shiny new gym membership, it may be wise to read the fine print and know your rights before agreeing to a fitness club contract. No one wants to be stuck paying for a membership they can no longer use, for whatever reason.

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But if you’re revved and ready to burn a few calories, here are ten ways to get fitter while saving some cash on a fitness club or gym membership. Yay, fitness tips!

1. Scrutinize Promotions

Most gyms and fitness centers start the New Year with various promotional deals to entice new members to join. Get in the game by touring around town to find the best fitness deal for your dollars. Make a list and compare membership fees, contract lengths, termination terms, locker fees, facility offerings, class types, hours of operation, equipment types, and peak hours. If all things are equal, don’t be afraid to flex some muscle and negotiate a better rate by playing one gym’s promotional offer off another. Some gyms may have some wiggle room and will give you a discounted or promotional rate.

2. Weigh in with HR

Break free from your cubicle and head to your human resources department for information on corporate fitness passes. Chances are your employer has a group or discounted membership at a local gym. These days many companies are on-side when it comes to battling the bulge and want employees to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle. So it could be well worth your time to ask your company if you qualify for a fitness discount. Just be sure to skip the elevator and take the stairs when you visit HR. Smile.

3. Go Back to School

Ok, don’t sign up for a second (or third) degree just to score a free gym pass. Silly! If you’re a graduate from a local university or college, you could go to the head of the class and land an alumni discount. Head to your Alma Mater with your alumni card in hand and get some fitness for less. Now that’s smart thinking!

4. Get Physical with Non-Commitment Passes

Ask your preferred fitness facility or gym if they offer non-members no-commitment passes. To get you hooked on fitness many gyms offer special passes to let non-members visit on a trial basis for a few days or a week. Give these passes a go and try out the club and facilities before signing for a membership. You’ll find out fast if the club’s locations, programs, and hours of operation work for you.

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5. Ask for Your Discount

Does your gym offer a family, student, or seniors discount? Many gyms want your business and will give you a discount if you qualify. Before signing the contract, be sure to bring your student card or driver’s license to prove your age or student status. Being studious, over 65-years-old, or a member of a family could carry a fitness benefit in the shape of big savings.

6. Find a Fitness Friend

If you’ve got a fitness fiend of a friend then ask to join them for a workout. Many gyms and fitness centers offer their members guest passes to entice friends to join. If you’ve got a friend with membership benefits at your gym of choice, ask for a guest pass to try before you buy.

7. Get a “Specialty” Membership

It makes little sense to pay for a pool pass if you only want to use the weight room. So ask for a specialty membership to restrict your use (and user fees) to only the activities you want. Many gyms offer “add-on” fitness fees for squash courts, weight rooms, hot tubs, classes, and pool.

8. Go Off-Peak

If you work flexible hours, then you could avoid the gym lunch rush by opting for an “off-peak” membership pass. Many popular gyms offer a less expensive membership option if you’re willing to sweat it out during the daytime or on weekends.

9. Check Out Your Community Recreation Center

Consider skipping boutique and fancy fitness memberships altogether by choosing to work out at your local community center. Many community centers offer affordable monthly and drop-in rates, making it cost-effective to choose only the classes you want without all the extra initiation or towel fees. Depending on where you live, your YMCA/YWCA may also offer affordable membership rates to help you keep costs down.

10. It’s Fun to Volunteer at the YMCA!

I’ve never tried this, but a few of my friends earned a free YMCA fitness pass by volunteering their time at the YMCA/YWCA. Spending a few hours a week giving facility tours could land you an all-access fitness pass without tapping your wallet. Besides, if you’re going to spend time working out, adding an extra hour to your gym visit is not an impossible task to accomplish.

If spending even a dime for a gym membership blows your budget, then check out these 10 Frugal Ways to get Fit this Winter and even 10 Free Ways to get into Fitness this Summer. My free Printable Workout Log has also been insanely popular this week.

Your Two Cents: Got a frugal way to cut the costs of a gym membership? Ever get caught by surprise fitness club fees?

Your two cents:

  1. Aaron January 14th, 2010

    I think you need to include one more way to cut the cost of a membership: buy someone else’s membership.

    I shopped around on Kijiji for a gym membership and found many good deals. I saved 50% by paying someone to transfer their membership to me. $300/year sure beats $600/year.

  2. Lance January 14th, 2010

    Hi Kerry,
    Ah…that time of year…when everyone is thinking “gym”! I’ve setup a home gym with a set of free weights and a treadmill to get my workouts in. I like the flexibility of just being able to go to the basement when I want to workout. That said, there were upfront costs to make the room and buy the equipment. It’s all good now, though. And when it’s nice enough I get the bike outside, or run outside. For pool workouts, I use a local school that has open swim times (which reminds me…I should pick that one back up!).

    Great thoughts here – there are definitely ways to save on gym memberships!

  3. a2 January 14th, 2010

    I joined the health club at a local hotel. It has everything I wanted for equipment and a nice, small pool. Costs about the same as a regular health club BUT because it is primarily for hotel guests, it is open every single day of the year with extended hours, the place is usually almost empty, and (best of all for me) the users are all shapes and sizes, so I don’t feel intimidated. I love my gym!

  4. Kingdom January 15th, 2010

    I completely agree with the home gym concept! I have no excuses for not working out because my treadmill is in my living room! I never have to wait to use the equipment, I can listen to whatever music I want (or watch TV), and I don’t have to worry about all the crazy germs on the machines and in the locker rooms. It is incredibly convenient to jump into my own clean shower after a work-out. I bought some inexpensive free weights but recently got some resistence bands that are even more versitile. The cheap tradmill works great for only about $800. It has already paid for itself in about a year, considering how much I use it!

  5. Chiot's Run January 17th, 2010

    I used to have a gym membership and loved we. We went every day. But we moved about 10 years ago and the closest gym in probalby 30 min – too far to drive. We have a treadmill & some weights in the basement that get used quite often. My favorite way to stay fit is running/walking outside and gardening. I grow my own food so I save on my grocery bill and my gym membership bill.

  6. guinness416 January 20th, 2010

    I’ve got a couple for you.

    Friends of mine rent in an apartment building with an indoor pool. It’s a building with a lot of elderly people so the pool doesn’t get much use, we’ve had it more or less to ourselves the couple times we’ve used it. Cost: zip zero.

    We’ve been playing tennis in a school gym for like $90 for ten weeks for the last couple winters (free summaer parks is a better deal, obviously, but hey). It’s not US Open quality surface but definitely beats the annual fee + monthly fee + court fee + dress code some of my friends have at their club.

    And to your point 9, I found a squash club in a rec centre not far from where I live. It’s in an area some would call pretty dodgy (quite poor, run down, the centre is well hidden, etc) but has great facilities and is very very cheap!

  7. DC @ Dollar Commentary January 20th, 2010

    Here’s another one for y’all; Trial memberships. While you’re not actually a member, many gyms offer the first month free or at least a free trial period. Conceivably, if you’re really strapped for cash but are addicted to working out, you could just hop from gym to gym, never paying a membership fee of any kind. Not incredibly honest, but there it is.

  8. The Rat March 5th, 2010

    I just recently changed to another gym because they were offering a 3-month pass for under $50 and I jumped for it!

    Nice post

  9. Yeshanu August 26th, 2010

    Coming really late to this, but here’s my two cents worth:

    If you already belong to a gym, try negotiating a discout anyhow. If they say they can’t do it, tell them you can’t afford the fees and have to quit.

    I was a member of a well-known chain, and ran into financial problems. I tried to quit. They immediately offered to reduce my fees by 1/3. I took that, but later had to quit because I got laid off. They came back with an offer that reduced the fees again–if I’d decided to stay, I would have been paying half of what I’d originally paid! I have that rate available for another month and a half if I find a job by then, and it’s less than $30 a month.

  10. Andrew Hallam July 23rd, 2011

    I’ll admit: I’m way too cheap for a gym membership. For more than 20 years, I’ve done chinups off tree branches, and at playgrounds; pushups on grass; ab exercises wherever the ground is soft and I don’t look good enough to look like a showoff, so I can do it in public!
    Kerry, I have been enjoying your blog. You are from Kelowna, yeah? I live in Singapore, but I used to enjoy bike racing around the Kelowna area. I remember a mini stage race that we used to do in the mid 80s: a road race in the morning, culminating in a time trial up a beautiful mountain with switchbacks at the beginning, then straightening out (without lessening the grade) to a finish at the top. I believe it was called Knox mountain, or something like that. No gym membership for that either. Loved those days as a kid!

  11. Chris April 19th, 2012

    If you are a Costco member and near a 24-Hour Fitness: Costco sells a 2-year membership for US $350 (at the moment – ha! – it used to be $300). Still, it’s only $14.59 per month. And, if you buy it online, you can use whatever “money-back” credit card you like to get a bit back. I use our Discover card, so I get a $3.50 “rebate”, which I frequently use at Amazon once I’ve got $25 saved up ($25 at Amazon gets you free shipping).

  12. James November 27th, 2012

    Just in time for me to get off my but and back into the gym. Another great idea is to try and get an office discount if you can get a few co-workers to go with you.

  13. Passerby August 18th, 2013

    I would include two more:
    a) Work out at home instead – You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren introduced me to the idea. Really reccommend it.
    b) Pay cash ONLY. I had a membership at Bally’s (loved the gym itself), and I bought a six month, nonrenewable membership. Stated right in the contract that they would not automatically renew or charge me for anything. Six months later I get a letter in the mail straight-up *telling* me that they are going to charge more money against my bank account. Had to call my bank and report my card stolen, will never go back. Whatever you do, don’t let them have your bank or card numbers. They will steal.

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