January, the start of New Year's resolution month, sees a healthy uptick in sign-ups at gyms and specialized studios offering such things as Pilates, kickboxing and yoga. But money-saving expert Andrea Woroch in Bakersfield, California, said recent statistics show 67 per cent of people who join don't use their memberships at all.
With the average monthly fee at $58, that means a potential waste of up to $700 a year or more, she said.
"Gyms across the country see the increase in January and it continues into March as people are still trying to hit that resolution," Woroch said. "Losing weight is the No. 1 resolution. Getting fit is in the top five, but many people really don't know how to get there."
If you're looking to kick-start, save money or can't decide on an approach, Woroch offers these tips:
MAX OUT TRIALS
Finding the right gym fit is key. A great way to check out classes, instructors or an overall environment is to take advantage of freebies. Woroch said most gyms offer three free days to a free week. Salespeople may try to entice during trial periods with limited-time discounts, but don't bite if it doesn't feel right. Move on to another gym until you find the right one.
"You want to test out the equipment, go at the time that you typically think will fit into your schedule, whether it's after work, at lunch. See what the crowds are like," she said.
Think of your gym membership like buying a car, Woroch said. Salespeople have quotas and that puts you in the driver's seat. Nothing is set in stone, she said. Perhaps you can score a lower monthly rate or have the initiation fee waived. Ask for the first month free, more guest passes, extra personal training sessions or complementary child care.
"There's always wiggle room," she said.
Is there a nagging voice in your head declaring: "You'll never keep it up!" You might get a lower monthly rate when committing to a two-year contract, but you'll pay over time if you don't go. A punch pass may be a wise choice, Woroch said. She cited a recent study that found people who choose a contract with a monthly fee over a 10-visit pass paid $600 more a year. If you know you won't go every day or find that you prefer outdoor activities instead, paying per visit could also mean avoiding early termination fees down the line.
"Then you're not bound to a contract or you can't go for a week or two weeks because you're travelling for work, you won't lose the money," Woroch said.
WHO IS FAMILY?
Family membership deals abound, but such deals aren't always limited to actually family, Woroch said. Joining might be more fun with friends, but trust comes into play in terms of payment. Pick one person to make the monthly payment and come up with a reimbursement plan. That could mean each person sends the designee a check, transfers money via Paypal or pays in one lump sum for the year. Make sure to work it out ahead of time.
"More and more gyms are just looking for numbers at this point," Woroch said. "They've loosened up on who your people are."
COUPONS, WAREHOUSE CLUBS AND DAILY DEALS
Look around. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial often offer deep discounts up to 70 per cent on local gym memberships and personal training. Warehouse clubs also offer deals but you usually have to take a one-year or two-year membership for those. CouponSherpa.com offers coupons and free passes for health clubs. Monthly flexibility will allow you to jump around from gym to studio to boot camp until you find what you're looking for, Woroch said.
"This is a good way to leave room to re-evaluate," Woroch said. "You can save a little for three or four months before signing a contract."
Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie