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Ask Chuck: How to get fit and save money in 2024!

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

I want to lose weight and get in physical shape this year. I need to join a gym, but I have a limited budget. What is the best way to save money on a gym?

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Fit and Frugal


Dear Fit and Frugal,

Getting fit is a common goal for many people at the beginning of a new year. Whether losing weight, gaining strength, improving balance, or enhancing bone health, a gym membership can be beneficial and pay great financial dividends over a lifetime.

My wife and I desire to be healthy, maintain our vitality, and minimize risks associated with lethargic lifestyles. We try to eat well but need to do better. We walk regularly and enjoy hiking when we can. Ann likes working out at home to YouTube routines. I like access to all the machines and free weights, so I joined a local, private gym at the urging of one of my sons. First, I participated in their free trial for seven days, and then I joined. My membership is structured without a contract. I pay only month-to-month and can cancel anytime.

Getting a good value for your gym membership

The cost of a gym membership varies according to the gym and its location. Here are some tips:

  • Check area gyms and ask for a free trial or temporary plan.
  • Ask your company to cover the fee.
  • Recruit friends/coworkers for a group discount.
  • Check with your local college/university.
  • See if your health insurance will cover the cost.
  • Community centers have equipment and classes.
  • Fitness classes are often offered at area churches.
  • Some local parks have outdoor fitness equipment.
  • Recruit a walking partner or join/start a hiking club.
  • According to the owner of the gym where I joined, most people will go more frequently if they live within three miles of their gym.

Check and compare gym prices online. Ask friends and neighbors where they go. Investigate discussion forums to research costs. Take time to read reviews of your potential choices. Request a tour of possible gyms and ask lots of questions. Consider how far the gym is from home or work and what time of day you want to exercise. Ask for a non-commitment trial. Most gyms will provide a one or two-week pass for facility use.

Month-to-month plans allow you to leave without extra fees but can cost more per month. A contract is usually a better deal unless you move, get injured, stop going, or want to go to a different gym. But it can be a hefty one-time fee. Ask for unique discounts like military, student, or senior citizen. The pay-as-you-go option may actually save you money in the long run until you develop a regular routine. You will get to know employees and learn about discounts or promotions.

Many gyms have sales quotas. You might find them willing to deal privately at the end of the month. Take advantage of membership promotions. When negotiating, explain that you have shopped around and would like them to meet the fees of a competitor. If not possible, see what they can offer. If you pay for the year upfront, they may reward you with a decent discount.

You can also ask what they will offer with the amount you can pay.

Some people suggest negotiating late in the day and/or late in the month. Avoid sign-up or registration fees. Read a contract thoroughly. If you join and a membership promo is later offered, ask the gym to give you that reduced rate. 

Here is an article that may be helpful if you live near one of the large gym chains: Big Box Gym advice. January can be the worst month to join because people try to keep resolutions and work off excess pounds gained over the holidays. So, prices go up, and the facilities get crowded. However, some gyms offer promotions, knowing that people are eager to get started.

If you cannot join within your budget, do not be afraid to tell them. Be willing to walk away. Never sign up for something you cannot afford.

Alternatives to gyms

If your budget doesn’t allow it, you can get in shape without joining a gym. Lose weight with a diet plan and find someone who wants to go on the journey with you to stay motivated. You can save money by cutting out fast food and sugar. Walk, run, bike, hike, and take the stairs at work. Park where you have to walk farther. Buy or borrow some equipment and find a YouTube workout you like. Set specific, attainable goals, and post them where you will see them daily. Form a group to encourage one another and offer tips. Our Crown staff started a Slack channel for that this year.

Priceless returns on investment

I read that 50% of the people who join a gym drop their membership in the first year. The truth is that joining a gym will only do you good if you go regularly. Be sure you stay committed to your goals, remembering that long-term health is a huge cost savings and an increase in the quality of your life. However, the real priceless returns are training to become more Christ-like. Paul wrote this advice to the younger Timothy:

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance" (1 Timothy 4:7–9 ESV).

I have to wonder if Timothy was considering how much time to spend working on his physical strength.

Financial fitness is available right now through a Crown budget coach. Get started now, and experience financial freedom in 2024!

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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