Shaping Up the FRUGAL Way

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It’s a New Year. Inevitably, millions of Americans will – once again – resolve to lose weight and get into shape. They are going to join a gym! Guess what? Eighty percent to those who sign up in January will be gone before the end of February! Here are some other interesting statics on gym membership: (source:

  • The January surge – ‘resolution seekers’ will swell gym attendance this month by 30 – 50%
  • The second week in January is typically the busiest week of the year
  • Only 50% of gym members visit more than 100 times a year
  • Gym or YMCA individual membership runs $20 – $65 (or more) per month but there is generally a $100 ‘initiation fee’. Quit after a couple of months and you’ve paid dearly for your handful of visits!
  • Monthly membership fees are usually charged to your credit card or automatically deducted from your bank account; it’s easy to overlook them, meanwhile they add up month after month and year after year…

Don’t get me wrong. I am not discouraging anyone from joining a gym. Regular exercise leads to improved well-being, both physically and mentally. And the gym can provide an important social setting as well. But there may be lower-cost options that are right for you. Consider your choices carefully. You want to attain both physical and fiscal fitness:

  1. Partner up – walk, run or bike with neighbors or friends. Make exercise a social event. Plus, a partner or group can provide the accountability you need to exercise regularly.
  2. Shape up at home – get workout DVDs from the library or watch videos on YouTube. There might be a minimal expenditure for equipment (stretch bands, hand weights, etc.).
  3. Check out local high school pools – does your school district open its pool to the public? This could be a very reasonable alternative to a gym or YMCA. Example: the Upper Darby, PA High School pool, charges $45 for annual membership plus $2 each visit.
  4. Join the USMS (US Masters Swimming) – if you want to kick your swim workout up a few notches, join the USMS and be prepared for a vigorous workout. Annual membership is around $50. The USMS chapter near me holds practice at Villanova University most weekday mornings for $6 a session. Happiness is swimming a mile before 7AM!
  5. Take advantage of community/public pools – the City of Philadelphia operates the 50 meter/Olympic-size Kelly Pool in a lovely section of Fairmont Park. Admission is free to all and there are 3 dedicated lap lanes. Unfortunately, the pool is only open approximately 10 weeks during the summer. In contrast, outdoor pools at the International Swim Center in Santa Clara, CA are open year-round (I’m very jealous!) Noontime swims for the public cost $5.
  6. Investigate fitness classes offered by your community or school district – Jane and I are signed up for Pilates through our school district. It averages about $8 per 60 minute session. And guys, Pilates is not some namby-pamby chick thing; it’s tough stuff!
  7. Does your employer provide a fitness center or subsidize membership? A gym located at your workplace can be very convenient and probably cheaper than other gym offerings (or maybe even free). Plus, there is a trend among employers to offer wellness incentives that decrease employee’s healthcare copay.
  8. Ask your health insurance provider if they offer wellness incentives – example: Independence Blue Cross in the Philadelphia area will pay up to $150 per year towards gym membership.
Photo credit: jerryonlife via / CC BY

May 2017 be the year that your bod and your finances shape up!  Cheers, Paul

© 2017 Paul J Reimold



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