Frugality & Gym Membership

As a person in pursuit of frugality on my mission to kill all personal debt, I have a confession to make: I’m keeping my gym membership. Not even for the gym that I can use at a discount through my work. I’m going to the more expensive one that DH goes to. The one that specializes in karate instruction for kids and first rate cardio kickboxing and bags & drills classes for adults.  There. I said it.

In so many frugal personal finance and debt blogs, gym membership is presented as just one of the many things in our consumer society that deplete our bank accounts unnecessarily. After all, why join a gym when you can cycle, walk, or run right from home? Why join a gym when you can set up weights and a treadmill in your garage or basement?

As I unpack the reasons why I choose to keep a gym membership, let’s consider Fruclassity Commandment #4:

  • Prepare a budget for value-based spending. As you manage your money towards debt-freedom and/or financial freedom, spend wisely. Differentiate between “wants” and “needs”. Which “wants” can you eliminate? …What does value-based spending look like for you? REMEMBER, nobody else needs to approve of your spending values …

Does gym membership fall into the category of “needs”? No. It’s a “want”, and it’s one that many frugal types do without. Does the money I put down for my membership represent value-based spending? YES!

Here are 7 reasons why gym membership represents value-based spending for me:

  1. Let’s start with the obvious one: I get to wear boxing gloves! Unlike DH, I am no black belt, but I have discovered a love for karate moves – however imperfect my execution of them. In my experience, there is no stress release like it. There is just something enormously satisfying about landing a solid punch or kick.
  2. I slack off when I try to do physical fitness on my own. This is a lesson that has been reinforced for me time and again over the years. Even this past winter, I thought, Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ll be able to motivate myself to work out 3-5 times a week on my own. Wrong again! I started out with a keen determination, but before too long, I was making excuses, and I went for weeks at a time with no workout.
  3. I am more likely to work out if there are limited, scheduled class times. For over a year, I went to a gym that was much bigger than the one I go to now. With multiple locations and a schedule that offers many options, I thought I had it made. But it didn’t work for me. Again, it became easy to make excuses. I can go to the next class, I’d think. Or I’ll just go tomorrow. With the more limited schedule of my current gym, I don’t have the option of making excuses. Cardio kickboxing starts at 7:00! Time to go!
  4. I recognize and value the level of excellence I find at my gym. Not all gyms are created equal, and they don’t have to be. To become fit, a good balance between cardio and strength training is all you need. But while I don’t require excellence in every area of my life, I really do value it at my gym. The instructors who teach our classes are National and World champions in karate, and the workouts they give are fantastic. Many of the members who are in their 40s and 50s are in better shape now than they’ve ever been in their lives – like my own DH. And speaking of age, I love the age range at my gym – from under 5 to over 70. Talk about life-long fitness!
  5. I’m happy to support gym staff in their area of expertise. There’s a big push towards self-sufficiency in the personal finance bloggosphere, and while I understand and respect that point of view, I don’t entirely subscribe to it. I value independence, but I value interdependence even more. The staff at my gym are far better than I am at motivating me to become fit. I don’t mind relying upon them. And I’m glad that they can earn a living by fostering good health. I’m glad that after spending years to become masters of their craft, they are able to draw an income from it. The 6 staff members are all young enough to be my kids, and being a mother and aunt of millennials, I find it heartening to see 20-somethings succeed in their chosen career.
  6. I get overall physical fitness at my gym. Any one hour class involves flexibility, cardio and strength; it works out upper body, lower body, and core. Without fail, I leave after 60 minutes drenched in sweat, completely wiped out – and high on the resulting endorphin rush.
  7. DH and I usually go to the gym together. Last week, on our way to a workout, DH said to me, “This is my favourite part of the evening – driving to the gym with you.” Pretty sweet, don’t you think? Like many working couples, DH and I don’t have tons of time to spend together, but our shared trips to the gym have a bonding effect.

I once read a post by Femme Frugality in which she asked readers whether or not we thought that she should go on an inexpensive cruise. I voted against it. “If you want to set yourself up for financial freedom in the long run,” I commented, “start loving simple staycations or get-aways close to home.” Femme Frugality responded by saying, “I love dissenting opinions! Honestly, I don’t spend money in pretty much any other area of my life. I hardly ever buy new clothes. I haven’t had my hair done in over a year … But travel. Ah, travel. It’s something that’s completely worth the money to me …” Her answer gave me an Ah-ha! moment. Travel is something that I have essentially given up as we make our way to debt-freedom, but that doesn’t mean Femme Frugality has to do the same. She has cut spending in many areas of her life. She’s allowed to be frugal and still travel.

Each one of us chooses where to cut and where to spend. As long as we’re making conscious, well-considered decisions, it’s OK to say “Yes” to what we really value. So I take back what I wrote at the beginning of this post. My gym membership is not a “confession”. It’s my conscious choice. My well-considered decision. It aligns with my values. I can pursue frugality on my mission to kill off all personal debt – and still have a gym membership.

Do you have a gym membership? Are there other areas where you spend more according to your values?  Your comments are welcome.



18 comments on “Frugality & Gym Membership

  1. Yes, I have a gym membership and I’m very happy with it. It’s not an expensive gym (under $30/mo for both my wife and me), but it suits my needs perfectly and gives me access to equipment that I simply don’t have the money and space for in my home. And while I don’t take classes, I do find that having a place to go for my workout is a motivator. I completely agree with value-based spending, and my health has become a very important value in my life.

    1. That’s a good value to have, Gary! And it’s great that both you and your wife share it. I agree about the “place to go” aspect of a gym. If you’ve taken the time and effort to get there, you’ll follow through. Treadmill in the basement? That wouldn’t get the same follow through from me. Thanks for your comment.

  2. As long as you continue to use it, then there is no problem at all with the expense. It’s when you have a cost that has no value associated that it’s time to cut it out.

    1. I remember a friend of mine saying once, “I bought the gym membership, but now they tell me that to get fit, I have to show up too!” There are plenty of gym memberships out there that aren’t used. Thanks for your comment, Money Beagle.

  3. That’s awesome, Ruth. Way to open up. I was just thinking about this the other day. In an uber-frugal moment, I thought I couldn’t justify the added expense of a gym membership when I could just work out at home. Then, I took my kids to the Y playground, looked around, and instantly felt inspired to be more healthy. More and more I think saving isn’t about saving – it’s about waiting to spend money on the stuff you really care about. Go kick some butt.

    1. Thank you, Laura! I appreciate so much what you say about feeling inspired to be more healthy when you went to the Y. I can absolutely relate to that experience. And yes, “waiting to spend money on the stuff you really care about” – that’s it! An all-out ban on non-essential spending can serve the purpose of allowing us to discern what it is we truly value – which is what your uber-frugal mode did for you. Now that you realize it, I hope you go for a membership at the Y : )

      1. We live 25 minutes away from our closest Y, but it’s definitely something I’m considering more as the kids get older! (And I would TOTALLY love to take kickboxing lessons!)

  4. We used to have a Y membership. I do miss it. You are definitely doing the right thing, Ruth. Like you, I am pretty inconsistent with exercise on my own. I’ve only recently begun to get serious again, and this post is very inspiring. I may just scout out a gym around here. There are a ton of them. 🙂

    1. There is a huge variety among gyms and what they have to offer. I hope that you manage to find one that suits you and that helps you to be consistent in your workouts. Thanks Kay : )

  5. Spending on health is always a good investment in my book. And if you’re actually using it, shoot, you’re way ahead of most people who pay for memberships. 🙂

    Thank you for the shout out! I was getting so many people telling me to go on that cruise I was getting palpitations thinking about the small cabin, so it was good to hear from someone who didn’t want me to go in all seriousness! We ended up deciding not to do it because we wouldn’t enjoy it due to the claustrophobia and open water fears, but we did take up a couple other trips for the near future. Well-budgeted trips. Value-adding trips. 🙂

    1. Well I’m glad you’re getting your travel in! And I have no doubt that your trips will be budgeted and value adding : ) I’ve never been on a cruise, and I wasn’t even considering the claustrophobia angle. I’m sure that the trips you’re planning involved lots of room : )

  6. I’m in the no gym camp, but it’s not like I spend no money on fitness. I probably have about $2K worth of sports equipment and another $3-4K that I’ve given away over the years. Also, growing up my parents did have a gym membership, and I would spend my entire summer there, playing tennis and swimming in the pools and what not.

    If we ever live close to a gym, even a fancy gym, I might consider a membership again. However, if I could really have what I wanted, I would take an entire room in my house and build a free weights section.

    1. Hannah, if I had a whole free weights room in my house, I’m afraid I wouldn’t even use it. I don’t know what it is about the psychology of fitness that makes all of us operate so differently from one another, but for me, the act of going to a destination to work out seems to be a necessary motivation to work out. I hope you get your home gym eventually : )

  7. I think health and fitness are important. They keep us on an even keel, you know what I mean? 🙂 I think it is fine to spend money on a gym membership because you value it and it is important to your overall well-being!

    1. You are right in saying that is it important to our overall well-being. I think that mental health is as positively impacted by workouts as is physical health. Thanks for your comment, Mackenzie ; )

  8. These are all great reasons to keep your membership! I’m a big believer in the fruclassity notion of value-based spending. Since I much prefer to exercise outside, I do not have a gym membership anymore.

    1. I like to exercise outside too, and during the summer months, I definitely do. There are some periods during the winters around here when outdoor exercise is difficult to do. One thing I like about the gym, even during the summer months, is the all-round workout. Not just legs – as with the outdoor running and cycling that I do – but also arms and abs, flexibility and strength. Thanks for your comment, Amy!

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