It’s true – we haven’t been to the gym in 6 months. But the real problem is that we paid for a one-year membership back in April. And at $982 for a family, you might be thinking – wow, they’ve wasted almost $500 already… and yea, we’ve thought about that too. Today, we’ll look at whether we could have made a smarter financial decision by looking more closely at our fitness options.
To be honest, our gym isn’t just a gym. We are members of our local YMCA and it definitely has a lot more to offer than a gym. We’ve been members of the Y since the kids were little. They learned to swim at the Y and spent hours supervised by the Y staff enjoying the climbing walls and gym equipment while we worked out. We also spent many weekends at the Y for birthday parties. As the kids got older, they used the cardio-equipment and hit the weights. My daughter even got her first job at the Y – teaching swimming lessons after taking lifeguarding classes there. The Y was definitely a big part of their youth!
My husband and I have boring work-out routines. We stick to using the pool and the equipment in the fitness center, even though the Y has a variety of group exercise classes. We’ve only taken advantage of a small part of all the Y has to offer each year!
With all of the fitness options and other great programming available, why did we stop going to the Y for 6 months? There are actually a few reasons:
- Our exercise routine changes as the weather gets nicer here in the northeast each year. We like to be active outside whenever we can (but we are not fans of snow and cold). We generally save the Y for bad weather days through the spring & summer and most years, we have plenty of those days. But this year, we had an amazing stretch of warm and sunny weather – for months. We chose to do almost daily 6-mile walks, plenty of kayaking, and swim in our own pool rather than be stuck inside at the Y.
- We were busy renovating two apartments and finding new tenants. In order to maximize our profits, it was important to finish some upgrades in one apartment building we own. Since we DIY almost all of the work, it took time (and a lot of effort some days), so we didn’t always need another workout!
- I went back to work full-time in August and since I was missing beautiful sunny days sitting at a desk, the last thing I wanted to do was workout inside!
- My kids were busy lifeguarding, taking classes and participating in high school sports, so they weren’t using the Y either this summer.
None of these are excuses for not working out. They are simply reasons we didn’t want to go to the Y and exercise inside! We actually felt really good about our activity level most days.
But there were times when we felt like we should go to the Y because we had already paid for it. We even talked a few times about canceling our membership. But we remembered that before we knew it, it would be snowing (and yes, it did snow here this week!) And we use the Y four or five times a week from late fall through late spring.
So we just decided to let it go and live with our decision. This was the easy way out, but it doesn’t mean it was the smartest financial move.
When you think about what we paid in terms of cost per month, it certainly looks like we wasted a lot of money. But that’s not the only way to look at it. We can also look at our cost per visit. We’ve already been to the Y a total of 6 times this week (4 for my husband and 2 for me). And since my temporary job finished this week and my son finished his football season last night, we’ll probably average at least 10 YMCA visits per week for the remainder of our membership.
Let’s use 200 visits as a low estimate for the last half of the year. If you take our annual membership costs divided by 200 visits, it would come out to be about $5 per visit. If you don’t have a Y membership, the cost is $10 per visit. I also have friends who pay $5 per exercise class at other gyms in our town. That makes our cost per visit a little bit easier to take.
One thing we never considered was that the Y offers other membership options and we could have created our own “option”. Here’s what we never thought of doing:
- A 3-month membership hold for a $25/fee. We’ve found out that this is the “snowbird or summer” option. Some use it when they head south for the winter, but we could have used this for June, July, and August knowing that we prefer to be active outside those months. (Although if we chose this, it probably would have been a cold & rainy summer!)
- Canceling our membership last spring and re-joining in late fall. Knowing that we always use the Y much less from May-October, we could just join for half the year, but we would also have to pay a $75 joining fee each time. So the total cost would have been $566. If you take that cost and divide it by the 200 visits, the cost per visit goes down to just under $3. Many people would skip this option because they wouldn’t want to pay the joining fee each time. But as you can see, this option would have saved us about 40% of what we are going to pay per visit now.
- Looking at other gyms/fitness centers close to our home. We’ve never really priced out other options because we do like to use the pool at the Y at times. We should have at least checked to see what the costs were at other sites in town to do a thorough comparison.
- Stopping all gym memberships. My brother has his fitness routine figured out and he doesn’t use a gym. This can be a goal, but we definitely have to figure out some things if we are going to meet the CDC guidelines we should all be following! (Have you checked those out? Are you doing what they suggest?)
But we didn’t do any of those. We didn’t even try to change what we have done in the past. We simply defaulted to the status quo.
We understand now that we probably didn’t make a smart financial decision about our Y membership, but we haven’t “beaten ourselves up” over it either. Our YMCA is an anchor organization in our community. So the money we may have wasted is actually helping support children and adults in our community. And we’re OK with that. As public servants (education/law enforcement), supporting organizations that help people is important to us.
- Sponsors hundreds of memberships for children. This allows children to take swimming lessons and participate in wellness activities.
- Hosts classes for developmentally disabled adults each day.
- Supports “wrap-around” day care at our school helping working parents have a safe place for their children before and after school.
- Provides a “home base” for local home-school families for fitness and other social experiences.
- Serves teens by offering programs such as Never Alone that help youth find peers that have similar interests.
- Encourages health and wellness in our aging population by being offering dozens of Active Older Adults and Silver Sneakers
- Provides essential items and services to the homeless.
These are just examples of how our YMCA works to support people – young & old and those with or without resources. The Y is one of the most diverse settings in our community and we value that too. If we had simply wasted money at a gym, we’d be pretty upset with ourselves.
Will we pay for an annual membership again next spring? I doubt it. But that isn’t because we don’t value what the Y has to offer. We hope to be traveling more a lot more – especially in the fall and winter, so our cost per visit would increase even more. At least we know about some other membership options if we do decide to remain Y members!
But a Wall Street Journal article this week was a good reminder that focusing too much on financial wellness won’t really matter in the end because – “A big nest egg isn’t going to do you much good if you can’t get off the couch.”
And that pretty much sums it up – doesn’t it?
Next week I’ll be writing an update on the 8 goals I created on 8/8. You’ll see how going back to work full time has affected my progress. Some of you might predict that my (more than) full-time temporary job, along with all my side gigs derailed my great plans. But then again, maybe goals aren’t all that important anyway?
So share away! What’s your work-out plan? Do you hit the gym or work-out at home? Are you a winter warrior or winter wimp (like us)? Does your exercise plan change with the seasons? Does the money you spend on your exercise plan motivate you to keep exercising?