If you’ve ever thought about joining a gym, January is the month you’re most likely to do it. Overindulgence at Christmas and the need for a new start sends thousands of us to a local fitness spot at the start of the year. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that, for many of us, these New Year’s resolutions just don’t last. By the summer many of us won’t have seen the inside of a gym for months and we’ll be paying membership for nothing. To avoid the guilt of an unused gym membership and wasted fees how do you choose a gym set up that’s right for you?
Look for free trial days
Most gyms will offer you either a free trial period or a couple of days when you can drop in and try out the facilities. Although this won’t ensure you stay committed all year, it will give you an idea of whether this gym is somewhere you’ll want to be. Go and try out the machines, experience peak times and do some of the classes. What do you think of the changing rooms, are the facilities broad enough and do you like the staff?
Don’t choose annual gym membership
If you know that your good intentions are highly likely to be on the rocks by May then just don’t commit to a whole year. There are so many other options for gym use now that you just don’t have to do this. For example, you could buy a pay as you go type gym membership where you buy gym time in short chunks in advance. Although there might be a small up front joining fee for this it means you only have to commit to a short period of time – say a month. If you can feel your enthusiasm waning after a month then just don’t buy the next one.
Just do the classes
Most gyms now offer classes separately from gym membership. If you buy your classes on an individual basis then you can drop in whenever you like and take a class. Look for a gym that offers online booking for drop in classes for the ultimate convenience. You just need to be prepared to commit a couple of days in advance to avoid losing your money.
Use a cheap gym, park gym or local leisure centre
If you’re not that bothered about the fancy extras of an expensive gym then just keep it cheap. Annual gym memberships can be 90% cheaper if you go for the gym without the pool, luxurious changing rooms and spa. You’ll still have the same access to workout facilities just without the extras that boost the membership up. Local leisure centres offer some of the most discounted gym facilities, although they may not be state of the art. Alternatively, keep it free and al fresco and find your local park gym.
Go to the gym ‘off peak’
Off peak memberships are always cheaper, no matter what gym you’re using. If you have the flexibility then choose an off peak membership and go during the day or at weekends. Mornings and evenings tend to be the busiest times at the gym. By taking an off peak membership you can avoid the really crowded periods, as well as paying less per visit.
Make sure you get all the facts up front
Gyms are renowned for confusing consumers with the small print and creating contracts that are impossible to get out of. Find out whether you have a cooling off period after buying the gym membership in which to cancel for free. Make sure you have all the information on cancellation procedures at any time of year, as well as whether there are any penalty fees. It’s important to ask about unusual events too. So, for example, what happens if you are injured or you change jobs and want to move to another gym. Do you have any options to end or freeze the membership or is it completely inflexible?
Always cancel in writing
If you do decide that a gym membership isn’t for you then send the cancellation letter in writing. This way you’ll have a record of the date you cancelled, as well as the desire to end the membership. If you don’t get a response then follow up but keep a copy of the original letter or email you used to cancel, as that will serve as the start of any notice period. If you know that you’re entitled to cancel then stop any direct debit or continuous payment authority. As long as you’re complying with the terms of the membership when you’re cancelling the gym can’t object to the payments coming to an end.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley