Finances & Money

Ways to Save Money #8: Drop the Gym

This “Way to Save Money” hits close to home because both my wife and I have a gym membership at Bally Fitness. It only makes sense that we can get our exercise at home by running around the neighborhood, doing exercise tapes, pushups, situps, etc., and even buying a small weight set. In fact, we visit the gym less than once per month on average.

But let me explain why we’re keeping our gym memberships. First, we only pay about $25 per month for both of us. However, that special price came at a high cost as the first 3 years of our memberships cost us $100 per month. The first year, I was at the gym about 3 times per week to life weights, use the elliptical and especially to play racquetball. The usage during the second and third years decreased dramatically as we dealt with our wedding, our first home, job changes and other stresses. In 2006, though, we used the gym about 2-3 times per week to train for the marathon for 6 months.

So right now, we’re basically donating $25 per month to Ballys, or $300 per year. We often talk about going to the gym, and even though there’s a Ballys about 2 miles from our home and also Stacie’s work, we seldom go. But the biggest deterrent to canceling is the relatively low monthly cost. We could never get another gym membership for $25 for both of us, and the Rockville gym has a track, racquetball courts, a pool and hot tub (but you’ll never see me in either), and loads of cardio and weight equipment. Heck, we can barely buy a new treadmill for $300! It’s all right there for the taking, but we consistently fail to take.

And that’s the essence of this way to save money: cancel the gym because the vast majority of us never use it. In our area, and many others, a gym membership costs at least $30 per month with a $100+ “initiation fee”. More likely you’ll be spending $40, 50 or even $70 for a monthly gym pass, and you’ll be locked in on a 1, 2 or 3 year contract (like we were). You could get a barely used treadmill off Craigslist for a few months’ membership costs, and a set of weights for another 1-2 months cost. Heck, we got our treadmill next to a dumpster 3.5 years ago and it still works fine!

There are other workout alternatives in most urban and suburban areas (and even some rural areas) that are much cheaper than a standard gym, or even free. Try out the YMCA, or see if your local college has a month-to-month rate for town residents. Some community centers have aerobics classes for $10 per month, or if you don’t want your local community seeing you in your tights and thong a la Jane Fonda, your local library should have some VHS/DVDs you can borrow. I know our Comcast OnDemand has new workout programs every few days.

And if all else fails, just run, walk, bike or crawl around the block a few times. Just make sure you wear some clothes this time because I didn’t appreciate seeing all “that” last time. You know who you are…

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Great suggestion, my wife and I canceled our memberships this past weekend. We weren’t using them and paying $60/mo for the privilege. I Think this is why gyms are so profitable; most of their members never actually show up but they are never late with paying.

  • Two years ago we cancelled our combined $80/mo gym fees and bought a really nice Smith Machine (home gym/weight set) for the basement. With additional weights & such we spent maybe $1500, but now it’s totally paid for itself and then some because our children are about that age where they can start to use it too. Next on the list is a treadmill for cardio.

    This is great for people who know they’ll actually use it regularly over time though, not people who just think they will. 😉

  • This is so right.

    I bought a treadmill with grand ambitions, like walking while watching TV etc, and it was left unused after 3 or 4 weeks.

    I have joined gyms and given up.

    For those of us who want to just get and keep fit, there are enough free avenues as brisk walks etc.

  • My employer actually reimburses gym memberships as part of its morale, health, and welfare program up to $60 per month. So my membership is $40, my wifes is $30, so we only pay the $10 difference per month. $70-60=10. The catch is that I have to use the gym 8 times per month, or else I pay the whole membership out of pocket (70 bucks). The gym has to send usage reports to my employer to verify. They give me two off-months per year in case of travel, etc. But paying $10 versus $70 sure is motivation for me to continue going to the gym.

  • Man, I think that is one of the toughest decisions – you basically have to admit defeat before you figure that it’s more profitable to cancel.

    I don’t have a gym membership but I do have quite a bit of old sports equipment in my basement which hasn’t been used in several years…I can’t let it go but I guess it’s not really costing me anything either (except for space).


  • We currently use the gym but it’s $20/month for 2 of us. I go daily. DH goes once a week.

    Unfortunately your info on cheap alternatives can be misleading. The YMCA near where I live is $100/month or more for 2 people. Beutiful gym the YMCA near my house, but it’s expensive.

  • I am thinking of picking up a membership to a martial arts studio down the street because I’m a fatty and haven’t been able to lose weight on my own. Maybe I’ll try the free spinning classes at my office before going down that path…

  • Ryan, I also get reimbursed for my membership by my employer (no strings attached unlike yours), except that it’s at 50% until I’ve worked there for 3 years, then it’s 100%. But right now since I only pay about $12/mth, that’s not a huge check at the end of the year, and I have to pay taxes on it anyway.

    LaL: The YMCAs I’ve been to are rather run down and only cost $10-20 per month without a contract, but I guess each might be managed separately?

    Heidi: I’d recommend doing the spinning rather than martial arts. Low impact and high cardio. Also, if you get a good instructor then they can make it very engaging.

  • One should make sure they are looking at the long term personal impact of giving up the gym. Sure it makes sense if you aren’t using it at all. However, if you don’t participate in physical activity 3 times a week studies show you will have more health problems (increased expenses) and a shorter life expectency.

    Personally, this is one area where I am not cheap. I have a gym in my building and I belong to the gym at work (only 10 bucks a month) and I ice skate 2-3 times a week (at least 10 bucks a session)


  • I only use my gym membership 3-4 times a year because I’m currently living in a location where my gym (24 Hour Fitness) is no where in sight. However, canceling it would be a bad idea as I only pay $50/year for the rest of my life. I had to plop down $700 for the first three years though. I’m still hoping that I’ll move back closer to one again one day.

    I like the gym because once you set foot in one, there’s usually no turning back and you don’t feel like slacking off. I have my treadmill at home and I thought I would be good about using because of how conveniently located it is…but that wasn’t the case. =(

  • Like many other people here, I also cancelled my gym membership due to the rising cost of gas. Even though I was a regular at my local 24 hour fitness, I needed to save money for other things (GAS!!).

    I’m not terribly upset by this because I purchased some dumbbells and an exercise band for strength training. I live near the hills so it’s great for running and walking.

  • I cancelled my NY Sports Club membership and tried using it’s like a free online personal trainer that tells you what workout to do every day so I’ve been saving $79 a month by not going to the gym. I definitely recommend cancelling the gym membership.

  • Yeah, the YMCA in my area (D.C. metro area) is more expensive than the local gyms! $60 per month for the basic no-frills one (outside pool); if you want the one with the indoor pool it’s $110 *with a student discount*!!!

    I’m now all into P90X and training for a mini triathlon.

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