My fiancee and I joined a Bally‘s gym and swimming pool near our apartment in Manhattan recently. I recommend joining a gym to everyone who is able to. A gym is a great environment for working out. Going to a gym is a community activity, where you are inspired by other people exercising. It is good for both mental and physical health.
Given the current economy and market conditions, here are some tips on getting a good deal at a gym:
- Research. Go online and view the Gym’s Web site if they have one. They sometimes offer online specials: low month-to-month contracts with no long-term commitments and zero or almost-zero enrollment fees. Read the gym’s reviews at other sites and research their lowest fees.
- Negotiate. In this economy, do not agree to pay the gym’s advertised list prices, nor simply accept the discounts they are offering. Gyms are always offering discounts. The sales person wants you to sign up the same day to lock in their commission, so don’t fall for any “today only” discounts. I prefer the name your price approach to negotiating. Before you go to the gym, determine how much would you be willing and able to pay. Determine a number that is a fair and would be a win/win for both parties. Take into account what value you would be getting from the service and the market conditions. In our case, we determined that for two people a total of $80/month for unlimited access to the gym and pool would be fair for us and the gym. Negotiate respectfully and nicely. Be courteous and kind to the other party. Let the sales agent know you are serious about joining and that you will join but only if you get the deal you are asking for. You are more likely to get a happy outcome if you behave as a good human being and try to make it a win/win for both. If they don’t give you a fair deal that you are willing and able to accept, don’t take their offer. Go to another gym or set up a system to work out at home or elsewhere.
- Only sign up for a month-to-month membership, where you can cancel anytime without any penalty. Do not sign a long term contract, no matter how hard the gym sales agent try to sell you. I respectfully, nicely and firmly told them upfront that I was only interested in a month-to-month membership that I could cancel anytime for no penalty.
- Do not prepay for a year in advance. It may seem to you like that they are giving you a lower rate, but you are better off having the money in your bank account or investments where it is earning you interest, not the gym. Especially in this economy, when some gyms have filed for bankruptcy, you should not give them your money in advance. They tried to sell me this option, which I politely declined.
- Ask the sales agent to show you the prices for their lowest monthly rates. They will not show you these prices unless you ask them. The agent told me that since I asked to see the lowest prices, she was obligated to show them.
- Do not fall into the trap of buying one of those unlimited access to all their gyms in the city plan. Going to a gym should be part of your routine and discipline. Choose one gym location that is convenient to you. Ask the sales agent specifically for a membership to that one gym location only. It makes no sense to pay every month for access to other gym locations you are not going to use. They told me that for just a little more per month, I’d have access to all their gyms in the New York and New Jersey area. I politely explained that that was of no value to us and that instead, we would prefer to save money.
- If you plan to only work out three days a week, ask the gym to show you their limited weekly access plans. These plans are cheaper and if you can maintain the discipline of sticking to a schedule, such a plan will save you money. we evaluated, but did not opt for this since we prefer the flexibility of being able to use the gym all days of the week. Our goal was to get the best value for our money.
- Ask the sales agent to explain all the payments, including initiation fees, card fees, etc. to ensure you uncover all hidden costs and know the total amount of money you will need to pay. Then ask them to reduce those prices unless they are already reasonably low. They offered me a “discounted” $99 one-time initiation fee, which upon negotiation, they dropped to $49. For the second person (in a couple membership), they waived the initiation fee. They also charged a one-time $10/person membership card fee. All this for two people totaled to ~ $70 one-time joining fees, which was acceptable to us.
By using these tips, we were able to get a month-to-month, no long-term commitment membership to the gym and swimming pool for two people at $79/month, which is what some of my friends in Manhattan pay for one person per month and they are on one or three year contracts.
For those looking for even better money savings, the not-for-profit New York City Department of Parks & Recreation offers memberships to their recreation center gyms for $50/year ($75/year for recreation centers with a gym and swimming pool). Yes, you read that correct: Their annual fee is less than what most for-profit gyms charge for one month. They have 22 recreation centers across New York City. If you live away from New York City, search if similar organizations exist in your area. We explored this option before joining Bally’s. The location of their nearest recreation center was not convenient for us.
Last but not least, our most important advice to you is: Use the gym on a regular basis, on at least 2 days a week, preferably more.
Photos: The Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, India has a excellent gym with a courteous and helpful staff. We worked out there in the mornings during our recent vacation to India.
Gym memberships can be very beneficial as long as you take your time to make the right choice. Go to the gym and ask for a "day pass" that will allow you to try out the gym and give you a feel for the environment. Also, do some shopping around and try to find the gym that you like the most, that doesn't cost you an arm and a leg. There are some great gyms out there, find yours.
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