Exercise: Go cheap or spend some cash?

In my endless quest to save money for a mortgage and business investment, I will look at any expenditure and really ask myself if it is needed or not. I have questioned this with my main expense nowadays – the gym. Do I really need to be spending the better part of £60 on a relatively premium gym on a monthly basis? My analysis leads to mixed conclusions.

Exercise on a budget?

To start with, I thought to myself what the alternative would look like. Firstly, I mainly go to the gym for building muscle. This means I would still need a gym, but I could cut down to one of less expense. From experience, this leads to overcrowded gyms with relatively poor equipment. Can I justify the premium price on just better access to quality equipment?

Cardio can be done at home or in parks. Something that would get me moving and losing weight still and can be a lot more convenient. Workout DVD’s can start for as cheap as 99p on Amazon and therefore provide a good and cheap way to get active in the comfort of my own home. Free or relatively cheap applications can also provide workouts for me to follow at home.

Weights and other equipment for building muscle are way to expensive to justify buying myself. In addition, I simply wouldn’t have enough room to store and use them.

Result: If you are looking to exercise on a budget try getting some cheap DVD’s or applications to show you some workouts. This is good for losing weight, however for those looking to build muscle – you will likely need a gym membership. It’s then up to you to place a value on the need for better equipment and a less crowded gym to workout in.

An analysis on what I get

An analysis of what my £60 a month membership involves is also of critical importance. For this fee I get unlimited access to the gym equipment, tennis, squash and badminton rackets and courts, access to an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and steam and sauna rooms. Quite a nice package. There is lots of gym equipment, I use a fair portion. That works in favour of me keeping this membership. I don’t use the tennis or squash courts but I really like playing badminton as a form of cardio. I could likely find somewhere else to play badminton but it’d be at an expense. With a cheaper gym membership costing around £25 anyway, I doubt I would save much when I added on a membership for something that would give me access to a badminton court.

The swimming pools and spa areas (Jacuzzi, steam and sauna room) are something I also use relatively frequently. Swimming pools exist at most gyms, but the offerings here are far above those of other gyms. I find myself going in the spa area most days to relax and unwind and that is beneficial for me as it makes me calm and motivated. The spa area and the gym itself also acts as a form of entertainment. It stops me spending money on going out for tea, going out for drinks, going to watch films, etc.

I use the membership a lot too. Roughly 4-5 times a week for a couple of hours every day. Breaking it down it ends up around £3 a day if I go 5 days a week. That’s just a coffee from a shop. A better use of my money if you ask me.

Result: Quite a clear winner for keeping this membership under this. For yourselves, look at the features of the gyms you are looking at and conclude what you would realistically work. If you need something basic, save yourself the money. Work out how often you will use the gym also, if you will go often then it might be worth going for a gym which will provide a better location for you to spend your time.

Comparing to my current situation

Looking at where I am currently in my personal finance journey, I am doing quite well at saving. I’m well ahead of the average person my age for building my savings and having an idea on where I want to go and what I need to do to get there. As a result, I am in a relatively lucky place to the point where the difference of around £30 a month doesn’t make or break my situation. I can take or leave the difference, and any extra money saved would likely be eaten up by other things instead of directly getting saved.

When I reach a certain age (I have around 2-3 years left before this) the membership price goes up to around £140 a month. A relatively decent gym in my area costs about £45 a month even at this age. It is clear that the £140 a month gym is a lot more of a costly decision in this instance and I can save myself around £100 a month when I reach this age. I will miss out on the badminton but that is about it. As a result, I cannot justify continuing that gym membership at the new price level. I will need to downgrade.

Result: For now, I can justify the price. When the price increases I cannot. If you are looking into gym memberships, see what it is costing and how this money would otherwise serve you. If it is a big chunk of money and you could spend it better elsewhere, then be cautious and think hard about the decision you are making.

For now I will be keeping my membership at the current gym. However, I will not justify the increase in price and will eventually move to a cheaper gym. I feel I can rest easy in my decision without it having a major impact on my personal finances for right now. I hope my analysis on my current thoughts regarding gym memberships is also useful for you in making a decision.


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