1. Try it before you buy it. Many gyms let nonmembers work out for a week or two at no cost, in hopes they’ll then sign up. Ask. Some gyms don’t advertise these deals. This way you can get weeks of free exercise before committing to the best gym.
2. Consider a hospital gym. Some hospitals sell low-cost entry to rehab centers or staff gyms. Expect only basic equipment. But some have tie-ins with local swimming pools or other facilities.
3. See if your employer or insurer will help. Gym discounts are a common workplace perk, so check with HR. And many health insurers offer premium discounts to gym members. The idea is to encourage you to be healthier, if only to help a company bottom line.
4. Know when to ask. Like car dealerships, health clubs may have monthly membership goals or quotas — and staff may get commissions for new sign-ups. You should always try to negotiate a better-than-offered price — but you may find yourself in a stronger position at the end of the month, when pressure to meet quotas can raise willingness to wheel and deal.
5. Pay as you go. You may need to quit a gym (not because you’re slacking off, of course, but because a better deal opens up somewhere else). So consider avoiding the most common type of membership, an annual contract that automatically dings your bank account or credit card each month. This can be hard to cancel; usually you have to pay until the contract ends. A month-to-month contract with a “cancel anytime” provision may cost more per month but be easier to break. What’s more, research actually finds that monthly members are more likely to stay enrolled than people on annual contracts.
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