Really.. it’s fine.
Contrary to some of the other personal finance advice you might read out there, you’re not committing some kind of financial suicide. The frugal police aren’t going to come bust you.
In countless articles I’ve read, one of the first areas they always suggest you cut out of your life is that “high-priced” gym membership.
And I get it. According to USA Today, the average price of a typical gym membership these days costs just under $60 per month.
And to make matters worse, 67% of them go unused. For those people , that’s just plain silly. I’ll send you my PayPal address if you want to give away $60 every month.
But what about all the people who actually DO use their memberships? Are they being ridiculous for paying to go to the gym? Couldn’t they just work out at home and accomplish the same thing?
I don’t necessarily think so … I’ve been there, and I’ll tell you why.
The Failure of Our Home Gym
When my wife and I met in college, we were both really good about going to the gym. Then after we got married and we bought our first house, I made a small investment into some free weights and a treadmill. “I’ve done it!” I triumphantly thought … Now we won’t need to pay a whole bunch of money every month for gym memberships!
For a while it worked. Sorta … My wife and I would go through streaks where we’d work out. But it would only be for 20-30 minutes tops. And between work and all the other stress in life, it was WAY too easy to just let our downstairs gym collect dust most days.
Then last Fall, my wife and I decided to give the local Planet Fitness a try. What a difference that’s made! Now we both go regularly 3 or more times per month as a way of staying accountable for putting the membership to good use.
It started out as $20 per month and has now increased to $40 per month since we started bringing our two teenage kids.
Though I realize that’s roughly an expense of $480 per year, I’m not at all fazed by this. Not one bit.
First, there’s the fact that our overall health has improved significantly! Since joining I’ve already dropped 25 lbs and am starting to regain some of the stronger physique I had all the way back in college.
On top of that, going to the gym has become a wonderful bonding activity that my wife and I can do together several times per week; each motivating the other to become more fit.
So how does that break down into dollar and cents?
Having Fun Together for $1.33?
I could argue that financially going to the gym is one of the cheapest activities around that you could spend your money on.
For example, take the average family of 4 going to dinner. This can be a very fun night out together. But with our two teenage children, it costs us generally $50-$80 by the time we get our bill. That’s quite an expensive activity!
Going to the gym, on the other hand, costs our whole family $40 for the month. Repeat: For the month!
This means if you calculate out the dollar amount spent per visit, we could literally go there every day as a family for approximately $40 / 30 = $1.33 per day. I can’t even take myself and my wife out to get coffee for $1.33. The only activity that even comes close is when we used to take our kids (when they were small) to the local park to play (free).
Now, of course, unless you’re some kind of gym rat, no one is going there 7 days per week. So let’s use more realistic numbers. As I mentioned, on average we’ve been going 3 days per week. We’ll call this 12 times per month. Now we’re up to a whopping $40 / 12 = $3.33 per visit. This is still almost nothing when you put it in the perspective of the cost of all the other activities you could be doing.
We already covered “eating out”. What about going to:
- The movies = Easily $50+
- The mall = I don’t even want to guess how many hundreds …
- Miniature golf / Bowling / classic family outing activity = $50+ again
- Go to a local carnival = $50+ (wristbands cost $25 apiece now?)
- A water park = Probably more like $50
- Just about anywhere…. = Likely $50+ per visit
Therefore, financially I conclude that among the majority of the other activities you could pick to occupy your time, going to the gym will likely be one of the cheapest when you actually calculate out the amount of money spent per visit. The condition, of course, is that you actually USE your membership regularly.
But that’s not even the biggest reason why I argue that it’s okay to go to the gym …
You Should Spend Your Money How YOU Want To
The biggest point I’m trying to make here is this: YOU are in charge of what you spend your money on.
In the wide-world of personal finance, you often hear a lot of opinions about what you should and should not spend money on. Sometimes you hear so many different ones that your brain begins to wonder if there’s anything acceptable to purchase.
The answer is: Of course there is! But its up to you to figure out what that something is. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a gym membership or trying out the latest craft beers, going to rock concerts, ukulele lessons, traveling to exotic locations, … whatever! The choice is yours.
Again, this is all assuming your financial household is in order. As long as you’re hitting your money goals and thinking long-term, you should be able to enjoy the excess. Enjoying the fruits of your labor here and there is what keeps you fresh and motivated to work even smarter.
Don’t be derailed by the noise of others. Let them spend their money they want, and remember that you are allowed to do exactly the same.
Photo credit: Flickr