Cancel Your Gym Subscription (Wealth Tip #44)

Money Saving Tip #41: Cancel Your Gym Subscription

Are you one of the many people who joined a gym but never uses it?

The success of these gyms is built on this phenomenon.

There are many people who join gyms, perhaps with good intentions at first, or maybe they already know they are paying a premium for the convenience of having a gym they can go to when they want knowing they may not fully justify the monthly fee – but just how far from justifying the monthly fee, do we realise? It gets paid by direct debit so it’s easily forgotten about.

Fitness First, Bannatynes, Virgin, Reebok, Golds, David Lloyd … there are many successful chains of private gyms so they are all doing quite well out of us.

Or maybe you do get your money’s worth or are not a member of a private gym – in either case then this article’s not for you.

The fact is though; there are many many people out there who this does apply to and my family were a classic example…

My Family Example

In our case, we used to go mainly for the kids – we’d go swimming, let them play in the small outdoor play area and often have a bite to eat and perhaps a couple of over-priced drinks in the cafe.

We could easily afford it but it really wasn’t worth the money. We did (my wife and myself) do the odd class as well – circuits, boxacise, well that’s about it actually, I was going to mention 3 or 4 classes but thinking about it circuits and boxacise is all I can come up with. I think in total I went to about 3 circuits classes and I don’t know how many boxacise classes my wife went to.

We were members of the gym for about 6 years (!!) and after the induction I think I only twice ever used the gym (yes, it was around about new years time, the same as everyone else). We only ever really used the swimming pool – and even that was just to watch our two young children swimming as they were too young to leave alone. Oh and I did use the sauna a little bit.

I’m sure we weren’t alone – in fact I know we weren’t – this particular gym had lots of families who would go there with their kids and just hang out in the cafe. A very expensive hang-out. We paid about £175 per month for the whole family – something like £72 pounds each for myself and my wife and £15 each for the kids.

For the occasional swim.

The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back

Then something happened that made me wake up and smell the coffee.

Even though at the time I had a very well paid job and the money wasn’t really an issue, I still didn’t particularly like wasting money which I was starting to believe that this gym membership was doing. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my mountain bike was stolen from the gym’s secure, guarded, CCTV covered bike racks and they refused to compensate me.

I bought a brand new bike after proudly riding around on a rusty second hand thing I’d ressurected myself from an abandoned bike – I felt I deserved a new bike. Anyway, I bought a half decent ‘Ridgeback’ hybrid bike for about £350. On the day I bought it I rode it to the gym with my son on his little ‘Specialized’ bike. We passed the security guard who watches over the car park and bike rack, locked them up in the bike rack directly opposite the CCTV camera looking at them and went into the gym. 10 minutes later the gym manager came running after me informing me that she thought my bike was being stolen. We ran out to glimpse 2 men in the distance with what looked like my bike.

I went after the thieves in my car but didn’t catch them. Despite the security guard, the CCTV. people seeing the bike being taken, the bike being locked in a supposedly secure cycle rack, I was pointed to a sign that said ‘vehicles left at owners risk’ and told the police had been informed but beyond that the gym couldn’t do anything for me. They wouldn’t even give me the CCTV footage as the faces couldn’t be made out, the cameras were only really intended as a deterrent. I asked if the bike could be covered on the gym’s insurance – no. I told the gym I’d been a good customer for many years and if they were happy to negotiate a couple of months free membership it would make up for this unfortunate incident as that would cover the cost of the bike (i.e. 2x what I had been paying them every month for years £175 = £350, the cost of the bike!). I thought this seemed like a very fair and easy way for them to compensate me for this unfortunate event which happened on their premises, under the eyes of their CCTV, their security guard etc.

They offered me a couple of day passes (worth £10 each) as a compensation/good will gesture but nothing more.

I told them politely that they could therefore keep their membership / offer our places to someone else. The same day I made this deal with my family:

“We can now do anything we like every month leisure-wise, with total freedom and we will just pay-as-we-go. I bet that we won’t spend an average of anything even close to £175 per month.”

I was right.

We started rock climbing for example and really enjoyed that – quite expensive on it’s own at around £18 for the family each time, but still nowhere near how much we were paying to be members of the gym. We ended up doing much more and paying a lot less. And I bought the exact same bike again the next day (much to the amusement of the shop I’d bought it from).

Slight aside: To replace the gym which I never used I also actually built my own at home but that is a different story & not the subject of this article – I’ll write another brief article about this later as I want to tell you about some of the pros and cons of that and what to consider (flooring, equipment etc). This resulted in me doing exercise every single day – just because of the convenience.

So if you’re a member of a gym and you don’t really use it – consider leaving and trying to spend as much just doing what you like when you like (especially if you were paying for a whole family like I was) – you probably won’t spend as much.

Questions & Actions

  • Are you a gym member?
  • Write down how often you use the gym on average each month.
  • Now write down how much you would pay for these activities if you did them on a pay-as-you-go basis
  • Which is cheaper – the gym subscription or the pay-as-you-go model?
  • What equipment do you use at the gym?
  • Would you do more exercise/find it easier if you had some gym equipment at home? (more on this to follow including all pros and cons in a future article)
  • Do you own a bike? Do you use it?
  • Do you use a running machine at the gym? Is there a park near your house where running (for free) in the open air would be better?

Previous Tip: Cut Down On The Over-Priced Coffee
Next Tip: Grow Your Own Vegetables


Cancel Your Gym Subscription (Wealth Tip #44) — 15 Comments

  1. I have a gym membership that I rarely use because I am not comfortable going to the gym alone. That’s why my next target is to find a gym buddy.

  2. I know several people who have gym membership but never got the chance to use it because they are uncomfortable exercising alone. I think it will be much better to have a gym buddy so that you won’t feel left out while inside the gym.

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  4. What a bad situation to get into. That’s amazing that people would steal a bike in front of cameras and a guard. They must know that it is all a show. I think you did the right thing by leaving there after getting such a bad experience.

    I’ve been using a gym for many years and I’ve thought about giving it up so I could save money. The biggest thing holding me back though is that I use it regularly. I go between 1-3 times a week to the gym. I lift weights, swim in the pool and have even gone to a couple yoga classes with my wife. If I didn’t actually go that frequently, I’d find it hard to actually justify the cost.

    Although one thing my wife and I have been trying to do is get the membership through our insurance which will make it just a little bit cheaper. I don’t know why we haven’t looked into that yet, but it could save us $20 a month.
    Steve recently posted..Is Searching for Happiness Making You Unhappy?My Profile

    • Yeah but it turned out pretty nicely in the end and opened us up to some new things (e.g. which the gym didn’t provide).

      Wow – great point, I hadn’t realised that you could save money by getting gym membership via your insurance. That’s a good tip. Is that driven more from your insurance company (presumably health/life) or the gym & do you know if it’s particular to your location/gym or insurance company or anyone should be able to get a similar deal?

  5. What a funny and sad situation with the stollen bikes. The gym lost more money in the end by not helping you out with a few months free membership.

    I was a member at a gym like you were and we enjoyed many of the same amenities but mainly only used it in the summer for the kids swimming tennis etc. I quit that gym because it was expensive and I rarely used it.
    Instead, i started going to a kick boxing only gym and actually loved it. I went 3 to 5 times per week which surprised me because i never went so often in my life. I did that for almost 4 years until 2010 when we started on our adventure and left California.
    Now that we are in france, i haven’t found a gym to go to. Instead we are doing a lot of walking and i do yoga and Pilates at home. I don’t use any equipment except for a medicine ball and we are planning on doing some indoor rock climbing soon.
    I want to join a boxing gym here in france if i can find one. I actually miss having an instructor. i tried to do kick boxing at home and thought about buying a floor bag but it’s just not the same. My husband has joined a swimming club her in marseille and does masters swimming which he uses 3 times per week.
    I doubt we will join a traditional gym unless they offer kick boxing for me on a regular basis.
    Annie Andre recently posted..Adventures In France Video #3: Who Moved My Cheddar Cheese?My Profile

    • Yes but it ended up being to my advantage because I was paying too much for that gym and with the resulting decision we got to try even more cool things on a pay as you go basis.

      Indoor (and outdoor) rock climbing is awesome. Especially with kids. I think most kids like climbing and it’s great for fitness. My old climbing wall in London had a wall the called the monkey wall where you could free climb all the way to the top without fear courtesy of big handholds and a huge crash mat. It had an overhang at varying degrees so a great upper body workout and because it was free climbing no need for a partner to belay you. Boy I miss that monkey wall 🙁

      Sounds like you’ve gotten yourselves well sorted in terms of being focussed on what you want. Bravo! I love it. Let me know how you get on with the climbing if you do start. I used to love it – I’ve eased off a lot now – I still go but it’s really about the kids now. I’m the guy who stands at the bottom holding the rope.

      What is ‘masters swimming’? Just really good swimming?

      • Masters swimming is like a class with an instructor but in the water. Usually they train together a few times per week and then compete. Your wife may know. They have a master swimming program in the US and it’s clled the same thing in France too.

        I used to enjoy indoor rock climbing, but i’m not sure about the outdoor climbing. I think like you i will do it mainly for the kids. It’s always about the kids. 🙂
        Annie Andre recently posted..Adventures In France Video #3: Who Moved My Cheddar Cheese?My Profile

        • ah ok, thanks!

          That’s my learn a new thing every day sorted for today then (actually I learned a couple of other handy things today thinking about it but that’s a different story).

          I always liked the idea of being a good swimmer but never really managed it. I am awesome at breast-stroke but can’t do anything else.

          Now my son teases me because he is great at diving and I’m rubbish.

          take care Annie, a bientot!

  6. I just started using the gym regularly. And I actually don’t have to pay a penny because it comes as a package deal with the apartment I rent 🙂

    But yes, when in college, I was a member of the gym and just visited it like once a month or even less and when I went to cancel my gym membership, they told me that they will offer me package deals. But I was just better working out with friends, going for a jog, or a walk and that didn’t cost me anything! 🙂

    As for your other question, I use the treadmill and the cross trainer regularly. I live in a big busy city and there really aren’t any running spaces nearby so I prefer the gym.As for working out or at the gym, I prefer out but only if I have company!
    Hajra recently posted..Will they call you over for a Bloggers Party?My Profile

  7. Alan,

    I was a member of a gym close to my house, I did go all the time, 3-4 times a week. I would do the exercise machines and then I eventually moved to swimming laps. I enjoyed the time for me. But things changed when I began the swimming. You see, kids are apparently allowed in the small pool at the same time as lap swimmers. This is not good. The kids would consistently cross my lane and splash a lot. Their father would not do anything about it. I complained to the gym twice. The gym did nothing. The 3rd time I revoked my membership.

    I joined a nicer, bigger, more mature gym and have been there for 4 years. I would go here and there. Take months off then go again 3-4 times a week. BUT really didn’t start actively using it until last November. Why the change? Well, I was soon to have a monumental birthday and got really tired of not being fit. I do circuit training and yoga 3-5 times a week. I am finally fit. I don;t look it but I have muscles and endurance now. If I can just stop eating crap. 🙂

    You know what keeps me coming back? Besides the fact I feel real good, I get to know the instructors and other members, then I am accountable. If I don’t come around they ask why.

    Eventually I may get bored there, I mean the weather is getting nice outside. So I will probably start going outside more to workout, like hiking and biking. But i like to switch it up so I’ll stay a member of the gym.

    Allie recently posted..Blogging Success: Failure Is SuccessMy Profile

    • Hey Allie,

      perhaps then you qualify for a special exemkption on this one per paragraph 3 😉

      but there are lots of people who just pay and don’t go… (or at least don’t go much),

      for those people, pay as you go is definitely a better option,

      you get a special pass on this one – I’ll let you keep your gym subscription but only if you promise to keep going… 😉
      Alan recently posted..Watercress: The Forgotten SuperfoodMy Profile

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