Before you know it summer will be here! There’s a word that brings joy and conjures dread in equal proportions. Yes, it’s a lovely season, warm and festive but it’s also that time of year when we (shudder) wear swimsuits. My happiness at seeing the sun is usually slightly marred by the regret of over indulging in a multitude of culinary delights over winter.
People swarm to gyms in droves during spring, keen to drop their winter weight and I am perpetually one of them.
Though while the gym membership is often the first expense to cut down, why is it that we don’t instead look to find ways to save money on gym memberships instead of completely culling from our expenses?
Here is a guide to saving money on gym memberships for those wanting to avoid perpetually opening and closing memberships at gyms.
The art of negotiating your gym membership fees
The single most important factor in any negotiation is knowledge and as we live in the age of information; use it to your advantage! Check out the gym’s website, check their competitor’s websites, ask your friends, work colleagues and social media etc. The more data you have about what a “good” gym membership price is the stronger your position for starting to negotiate or haggle on gym charges.
Having more than one gym in your area also gives you a lot of leverage as a consumer. Have a good read of the contract to see exactly what you are getting for your money.
Is there something there you don’t want or need? Ask if you can waive it in exchange for a lower fee. Is there a sign-up fee? Ask the gym to waive it, or to attempt to lower your monthly gym membership costs.
Maybe you could get the whole gym package (spa, sauna, swimming pool) for the rate of a standard gym membership? Could you get a discount if you signed up with a ‘friend’?
The basic rule in any form of ‘haggling’ is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get, so ask the question, the worst they can say is ‘no’ but the next gym might say ‘yes’.
An example of haggling on gym memberships in action
My new gym wanted me to have a personal training package with my new membership. I told them I already know what I need to do and I can do it without being yelled at. I told them I wasn’t willing to pay for the package and if they were saying it was mandatory I would simply go elsewhere. Of course, this was a brazen lie as there are no other gyms in my area but magically, my annual membership fee was reduced by $240.
Remember, if you are going to haggle – be certain you want the gym membership. You don’t want to get cold feet at the last second after making the gym staff run around to win your business.
Hot tip: Remember to check the cancellation costs of your gym before signing up. If you do one day need a spare $100 per month, you don’t want to be slugged with cancellation costs.
Play hard to get when it comes to signing up to a gym
A negotiation is a little like dating. If you come across as desperate, some people will take advantage of you. If you tell the gym salesperson they are the only gym in your area and you need a gym membership today, you’re making it a little too easy for them. Pretend you’re not that keen, you can wait and you might just go elsewhere and they will be falling over themselves to win you over.
Ask for added bonuses and benefits from the gym
If you belong to a gym, a couple of times a year you’ll be asked if you would like to refer someone. In order to increase their membership, gyms realise the best means is face-to-face referrals and they’re willing to reward you for it. You might get a month of free membership, or extra benefits for referring a friend.
Hot tip: remember to ask your friends if they are looking for a gym membership, one of you may as well benefit from the process.
Asking for less or asking for more at the gym
If they’re absolutely positively not going to budge on the price and you’ve tried all the tricks in the book, you can always ask them to sweeten the deal. If they won’t charge you less, can they give you more? Maybe throw in some free merchandise, like a towel and a drink bottle? How about a personal training package? Or a month for free?
Remember you can try before you buy with most gyms
Even before signing up, it can be an excellent preventative to trial a gym for a couple of weeks. It might seem like the easiest thing in the world to walk half an hour to get the gym. But give it a couple of weeks of 5am starts and your interest might die off. Or perhaps the gym doesn’t offer the classes you like, or the weights room has a distinctly unfriendly atmosphere of men grunting. You won’t know until you try, and you could save money by going the extra distance to assess if it truly is something you want to sign up for.
Your health insurance may reduce your gym costs
Most people don’t know that if you have private health insurance, chances are that a part of your gym membership will be refunded as a preventative health measure. Check your policy and claim the refund if you are so lucky. You could save as much as 10 – 20% on gym fees. Money for jam.
Look for low cost gyms and memberships
I’ve previously trialed a very exclusive gym. It was beautiful, like a dream gym. There were relaxation rooms, hot yoga rooms, tonnes of blow driers in the change rooms- it was an experience. But experience comes at a cost, and you have to be sure that you are getting your money’s worth investing in a state of the art gym. I love visiting it, but would prefer to save my money. Local council run gyms are usually very modest price-wise, and PCYCs are even better. Or if you’re seriously cash-strapped, Google your nearest outdoor gym. They’re free.
Freezing your gym membership temporarily to save money
I have looked back at my calendar and realised that particular months are more busy for me than normal – meaning my ability to even remotely attend the gym are hindered. I always knew you could pause your membership indefinitely for a small fee, though never looked into it.
Why is it that I know I am frantically busy in April and May yet still keep paying my fortnightly gym membership? Bit silly of me honestly. I have opted to freeze my membership in the middle of winter when I know I won’t be going. That’s a good 3 months of savings by been realistic with myself. Rough calculations show that I will save $210 by freezing my membership.
The only catch when freezing your membership is that often gyms will charge you a fee to pause your membership so be certain that it won’t out-weigh the savings you will make by freezing it.
Still can’t afford the gym? Try these options
Now that the sun is shining, there are no more excuses. Outdoor gyms are a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors and get fit. There’ll be no-one screaming as they throw down their weights, just some rowing machines, some clearly set-out weight training machines and perhaps some monkey bars. There are 60 outdoor gyms in Sydney alone, and all free. It’s the cheapest way to head to a gym around, and you’ll get your vitamin D dose for the day as a bonus. Outdoor gyms are maintained by local councils, so check out your local council website for more information.
If your pals prefer to spend their Saturday mornings nursing their hangovers or heading into the office, and you can’t find anyone to exercise with, why not check out fitness meetups? These are online websites, based around each city, where groups can post activities they’re doing and invite others to come along. A quick look at the Sydney page showed yoga, afternoon walks, Saturday morning runs and many other options. It can be a great way to meet people and get fit for summer.
Join a walking club
Walking is not only a great way to stay active for all age groups; it’s also a wonderful way to stay in touch with the great outdoors and this amazing country we live in. Walking clubs might sound a bit geeky, but after a couple of afternoon strolls around the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk, or a day in the Blue Mountains, you might change your mind. Some of the best clubs include Sydney Bushwalkers and Wild Women On Top. Walking clubs charge an annual fee of around $100, making it come of the cheapest fitness around.
Yoga in the park
Whether it’s on the shores of Balmoral Beach or celebrating the full moon, there are plenty of options if you want to calm your breathing and stretch out some tired muscles. Most classes are free, or ask for a food or gold coin donation. Attendance is casual, so you won’t be forced out into gale force winds or high tides.
A quick search of Gumtree showed up lots of frugal fitness ideas: walking groups, personal training groups, fun runs, hula hoop groups. Often, these are fitness options that require as little as $5- 10 per session. Keep your eyes on the community section for your local city, you’ll be amazed at the variety of options available.