‘12 days of Christmas’. Does that sound familiar to you? For me, it only rings one thing: food. Last year, I started a new job when my new coworkers were just ending their ‘12 days of Christmas’ run. This consisted of each department contributing to breakfast or lunch by providing meals. The icing on the cake was the white elephant gift exchange which ended the run on the last day. As you can imagine, it is very fun. However, what I did not realize until just a few days ago is that the availability of abundant tasty food is a real killer of dietary discipline. When Christmas is right around the corner, isn’t it so much easier to justify our gluttony with ‘the holiday spirit’? To some level, we all partake in overeating during this season. I will be the first one to raise my guilty hands. How can you not with all this goodness around? Unlimited apple pies, pumpkin pies, apple crisps, eggnog, cookies, cakes, all kinds of sweets, it comes with bountifulness. If you feel like me, I don’t blame you at all. Nonetheless, let’s remember those who will be setting their fitness and weight loss resolutions on January 1st or shortly after 2018 starts. The outpouring of fitness related posts on social media will overwhelm us. The fitness facilities will be overtaken with motivated, engaged members and fitness professionals will certainly fill up their schedules. I already expect to adjust my workout schedule at the gym just to have access to the equipment without competing with so many people. Don’t even get me started with parking spaces. According to Gold’s Gym, attendance increase by 40% every year between December and January. That is a huge jump. Simply put, we can all agree that a large pool of the society will be investing in their health in the next few weeks. For financial stability going into 2018, let’s discuss how to manage that investment and where the lines should be drawn if need be.
Gyms are the primary way people engage in their resolutions. It might be the most common and most accessible tool. Before you run to that new facility that recently opened in your neck of woods, it is important to review your finances (and your goals) to ensure that joining a gym is the best decision for you.
First, review your budget. If you do not have a budget yet, this is the best time to establish one. Trust me, it will help you not only to pick the right gym or fitness program for you, but it will also help you build a strong foundation for financial stability in 2018. A budget will indicate how much you can truly afford or if you have the means to add another monthly liability at all. Maybe you have the income to afford a $150 monthly membership gym. Great! But do you need to pay that much? In my humble opinion, unless you accumulate large reserves every month, you have no credit card debt and you have a substantial savings account, I recommend skipping that fancy fitness facility. Believe me, you don’t need a high-end smoothie bar, an internet cafe, a movie theater and/or a top-notch tanning bed to get in shape.
Second, beware of registration fees, annual fees and prepaid memberships. A gym may advertise a $50 monthly fee, but you will realize at the last minute that by the way, there is a $100 registration cost. In addition to that, you will need to pay a $99 annual fee (which always surprises you). Considering all these costs, you may think you are paying $50 per month but your liability is really $67. For those of us who have been members of a gym for a few years, it might be worth reviewing the contract to make sure that the automatic debit annual fee hasn’t gone up. Did you know you could negotiate your gym membership? Oh, yes you can. With some confidence and insistence, you’ll have the upper hand. Ask to speak directly to the manager and come prepare with the terms that are manageable for you. If the gym membership offers services that you may never use (tanning, pool, daycare, etc.), request a discounted rate that does not include those perks. About prepaid memberships, never agree to those. It may sound great to save 5% now if you sign up for a 2-year contract. However, what you get in 3 months when you decide that the gym is not for you is unnecessary headache attempting to get your money back. Oh, by the way, inquire about cancellation fees.
Want to save even more on membership fees? It is worth checking out your local recreation or community centers. Many offers fitness classes to city or county residents at a much lower cost than a regular gym.
For some, joining a gym may not be an option or a preference. You can still get in shape and stay fit in 2018 without belonging to a fitness club. Getting in shape simply means ‘moving more’ (to burn calories) and eating less or better. For the casual fitness enthusiast who is not looking to bulk up, it is easy to find a home workout or fitness programs to do in the comfort of your home. By the way, you will also save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year. You may also invest in workout equipment for you home. Do your research before you swipe your credit card. Don’t buy it because it looks cool. For a lot of people, the motivation dies down around February and they give up on their goal. If that’s you, think carefully before you purchase a $1000 elliptical or bike. This is not the time to spend money you don’t have. Unless your savings can cover this expense, I do not recommend this option. A big component of financial stability is exercising delayed gratification. So, if you do not have the means now, simply delay and be diligent with your money. The time will come when such an expenditure will not rock your finances. On the upside, buying some equipment for your home can potentially save you a lot of dollars in the long run.
You are now equipped to start your 2018 fitness journey with financially stability. Being in shape does not have to break the bank!
For more tips on how to save on a gym membership, check out this Consumer Reports article: 8 Ways to Save on a Gym Membership.