To pay for a gym membership or not. In the day and age of personal wellness, it is all too easy to justify monthly expenses incurred in the interest of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
I mean, should any of us really be looking to cut expenses that are facilitating us exercising regularly and maintaining a sound level of fitness?
As a former gym junkie, my 20 something year old self would have replied a resounding NO to that question. Followed by a “Keep the gym membership!!!” or “If you don’t have one – go get one!”
The prospect of a home gym would have been laughable to that 20-something. After all, half the fun of the gym was going TO the gym. But I was 20-something and pre-kids, I THOUGHT I was busy, but let’s be real, I wasn’t, and as a result I spent a LOT of my free time at the gym.
Like most things in life, my perspective on home gyms has altered with age, but not without a little pushing from my better half.
When Mike and I moved into our current home, we were also moving about 45 minutes away from our former apartment. That meant new area, new gym, new routines – all that jazz.
So Mike took this opportunity to suggest we use half of our newly acquired garage space to build a home gym.
A HOME GYM? Um NO! (That was my initial, extremely open minded reaction). There’s just so many bonuses from working out in a club environment, such as:
- Socializing, you know, the kind where you’re all wearing headphones and listening to really loud music or random podcasts, and you don’t really acknowledge other peoples presence kind of socializing;
- Getting to show off your sweet Lululemon work out gear, which necessitates buying that gear more frequently to ensure you have an adequate supply to show off;
- Being ultra motivated and lifting more than you should, more time than you should, because the chick/dude on the bench next to you has been consistently lifting 5 lbs heavier than you and doing 2 more reps all workout long (for those who don’t know this about me yet – I have a minor competitive streak, so this one happened to me once or thrice)
- Having the opportunity to wipe other peoples sweat off the bench when they continuously ignore the signs that are posted everywhere asking them ever so politely to respect their fellow gym mates and WIPE DOWN THE EQUIPMENT.
Mike just didn’t understand. How could I give up ALL of that? So I took charge of finding us a new gym, one that was conveniently located in proximity to our home AND had all the bells and whistles of our former (amazing) gym. It was difficult to find.
The gym by our apartment was the bomb. Not only were we eligible for a corporate discount that left us paying only $30.00 a month, the whole facility was brand new, MASSIVE, had all new top of the line equipment, AND unlimited drop-in spin/yoga/pilates/zumba/bollywood (and many other) classes.
Okay, I never tried those last two classes – but the people who were in them DID look like they were burning some serious calories.
The clientele also happened to be a bunch of twenty-something fitness focussed yuppies, with nothing but Lulu gear as far as the eye could see (yup I was one of them – I fit right in), and we could all stop by the Starbucks located directly next door, after our workouts.
Fast forward several years, and while I’m looking to replicate my “amazing” gym 45 minutes away in suburbia land, I find that the closest thing I can get to it, is a somewhat dated facility, that still had a “ladies only” section and smelled like old rubber tires and nasty BO.
Side Note: Here’s why I don’t like ladies sections. Generally (notice I didn’t say always – but generally) when a gym has a ladies section, it’s because it NEEDS one. Meaning that you feel the need to use the ladies section due to the clientele in the remainder of the gym oggling you non-stop whenever you are trying to do back extensions or some roman deadlifts. Not cool.
Also the “ladies” section always has crappy gear, the lightest weights known to man, and is full of reclined spin bikes and thigh abduction machines. CMON!
Ok back to my story. This gym NEEDED a ladies section. I won’t blast the company, I’ll only say that their name rhymes with folds, and that this gym was full of the proverbial “roid monkey”.
You know – those gym guys who never seem to have any type of employment, because they are at the gym ALL DAY LONG (and not because they have reached Financial Freedom).
They are also the worst offenders when it comes to wiping down equipment, they hog all the benches while flexing/admiring their bi’s and tri’s while simultaneously talking at an absurdly loud decibel level on their bluetooth earpiece that went out of style the SECOND they came onto the market.
I will give them this one bonus point though – they never do seem to realize that there is an entire section of the gym dedicated to leg workouts, so that’s kind of nice.
I was disappointed in our new gym to say the least. Not to mention, it did not have a corporate rate option for us, so our $30.00 a month fee’s doubled.
I signed us up for a limited time contract, but in the months that followed I watched my gym attendance PLUMMET. By the time our contract was nearing the end, Mike and I were using our passes exactly ZERO times per month. And I was ready to admit that Mike might be onto something with this whole home gym thing.
So we cancelled our memberships and started hunting for quality gym equipment on the cheap. If there’s one bonus to buying gym equipment – its that the used market for this stuff is overloaded AND it’s generally difficult to move. Meaning you can pick up essentially brand new pieces at rock bottom prices.
So here’s a run down of what we bought:
- $1500 – Our biggest ticket item – but by far the most versatile. The Hoist V6 Cable Machine w/ adjustable bench. We bought this bad boy in barely used condition off Craigslist, and I must say, it is the cornerstone of our gym and I use it ALL THE TIME. If there is a muscle you want to work out, there is an option for doing so with this thing. It is a bit of a beast to move so we did pay for professional movers to pick-it up and reassemble it in our gym, but that $1500 price tag includes the $300 moving fee. So worth it.
- $700 – Second most expensive purchase. We bought an entire set of pre-weighted barbells. This was my must have item. I use the pre-weighted bars for 80% of my workouts, so this was a deal breaker item for me. We lucked out and found a set of 20 bars, in increments of 5lbs from 20 – 115 lbs, at a local auction. We bought the set, kept half the bars to comprise a 10 bar set in 10 lbs increments, and sold the other half on Craigslist for $500.00. That brought our total set cost down to just $200.00!
- $200 – We couldn’t find a rack to store the bars on Craigslist – so Mike went hunting at local fitness outlets. He found a sweet deal on a double sided rack to house all ten of our bars in a way that took up minimal floor space.
- $180 – We then found two very large mirrors on Craigslist for a steal of a deal at $30.00 (well it was actually three mirrors, but we broke one in transport. Those things can be hard to move!) After breaking the one, and me having horrific visions about us smashing another and seriously injuring either of us, we decided to have them professionally installed for $150.00. And we also snagged some excess free rubber matting from a gym install that was happening at a friend’s work.
- I can’t leave out that we also had the benefit of Mike already owning a set of 50 lb power blocks, essentially providing us with a full hand weight set of 5-50 lbs, adjustable in 2.5 lb increments, and a pretty scookum Concept 2 row machine. Those items originally cost him $800.00 used on Craigslist.
Once we were done with the install – I was pretty impressed. The gym looked AWESOME, and we still had the ability to park our car in the other half of the garage whenever we wanted/needed too (not exactly an essential in the moderate climate of Vancouver!).
For an all in price tag of $2880 (if we include the cost of the items Mike already had) we were pretty proud of what we had put together.
6 Years later, and I’m happy to report that I still use this gym at LEAST 3 times a week. In fact, with having had a baby in the last two years, this gym conveniently gives me the option to work out anytime he’s sleeping.
Because we take good care of the equipment (meaning we just use it mindfully, and keep it clean) we haven’t experienced the need for any repairs/replacement. Realistically, the only items that would likely require that are the Hoist (cables, moving parts etc) and the rowing machine. But neither are showing any signs of substantial wear and tear and we are very happy with all of the products we purchased!
Overall – it’s safe to say that with our current family lifestyle, both Mike and I use this gym WAY more than we would if we had a typical gym membership.
So even though the initial cost of the gym was a decent chunk of money, if you look at what we would have paid for gym memberships over that six year time frame, we’ve achieved some pretty substantial savings.
Total Cost of Our Home Gym: $2880
Total Cost of Gym Memberships ($62.50 p/mth each) = $1500 annually (for a total of $9000 of gym fees over the 6 years).
After the cost of the initial set-up, that’s still a whopping $6120 in savings, just by switching to a home gym. Even if we do have to replace equipment over time, that type of savings is more than sufficient to replace our entire gym a couple times over!
If you break it down into a cost per use (which I LOVE to do) our home gym cost per use is a paltry $3.20 (Estimating a very low usage of 150 times per year between both Mike and I. Realistically it’s probably a lot closer to 250 times per year, bringing that down to $1.92).
The best part? Every day we use the gym our cost per use continues to come down, and our savings will continue to grow year after year. Eventually, when our boys start to use it too, the savings rate will grow dramatically.
Compare that to a gym membership – where the cost per use stays static, or even increases over time. Calculated at an attendance rate of 150 times per year for Mike and I, our cost per use at the gym would have been $10.00 versus $3.20 or at a usage rate of 250 times per year, $6.00 versus $1.92.
And those are just the basic figures. They don’t factor in the inflationary price increases of gym memberships over time, nor all the money I’ve saved reducing my fitness wardrobe to some yoga pants and a hoody!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Staying active and keeping fit is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and particularly for those of us who are pursuing Financial Freedom, or Early Retirement, staying healthy should be a high priority. We all need to do everything we can to keep those future health care costs reasonable!
A home gym has the advantage of helping your maintain work-out regiment, while keeping costs predictably low.
But a home gym certainly isn’t for everyone. If you find that you are best motivated by working out in a group environment, and you are getting sufficient return on your invested monthly membership fee’s, I ABSOLUTELY think you should continue to do that.
The value of staying healthy outweighs the money saved on a gym membership, but applying a cost per use calculation can be of great benefit in determining if your fee’s are worth it.
If you prefer to maintain your fitness by running, hiking, walking, or doing any other type of free outdoor activity, power to you, from a savings standpoint, you really can’t beat that option!!!
Leave us a comment and let us know how you maintain an active lifestyle without breaking the bank!
And don’t forget to check out next week’s article where we’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of our decision to purchase a Tesla.