Gym Membership: Money Down the Drain?

My relationship with gym memberships has always been a bit rocky, to say the least. I took out my first gym membership at the age of 23. It didn’t take long for the sales team to convince me, that I simply must sign up for their 12-month package that included the usage of the gym, saunas, steam rooms, swimming pool, different classes, relaxation room and entitled me to a glass of fresh orange juice at the end of my workout. It was “a steal” for as little as £72.00 per month. I ate it right up! Now, back then I lived outside London in a town where the average cost of a gym membership hardly exceeded £30.00. But I didn’t want “the average”; I wanted “the best”! Talk about high maintenance.

I remember being extremely determined to start my training and I was doing very well. That is, for the first 3 months. After the initial excitement, my enthusiasm started to wear off and instead of going to the gym 3-4 times each week like I used to, I could barely make myself go there once a week. Two more months of my inner struggle and I stopped going altogether. I kept paying for my gym membership for another 7 months and during this period I think I went to the gym about 5 times, which means the cost of ONE workout session was over £100.00. Scary stuff!

But the worst was still to happen… My contract ended in January 2009 after 12 months, and I was relieved I didn’t have to pay for my membership any longer. Exciting, right? WRONG! What I didn’t realise is that I had to let the membership team know three months before the end of my contract that I was planning to cancel altogether, and this clause was in the terms and conditions of my contract. Did I read their terms and conditions when I signed the contract? Yep, you guessed it right, of course I didn’t! You can imagine my frustration when they informed me my contract rolled over, and if I wanted to cancel it I had to give them a 3-month notice. Whattt?! I complained but they refused to waive their charges. I was tied up into a contract for another 3 months (I didn’t go the gym once during my last 3 months with them) and had to pay another £216.00. My contract finally ended in April 2009, and I swore I would never join the gym again, EVER!

I started jogging and bought a workout DVD along with a set of dumbbells to exercise at home. The great part was I could stop working out whenever I wanted, and this would not cost me a penny. In September last year I joined the gym again. I paid to join and use the gym for the initial period of 4 months, but my current employer reimbursed all costs as part of our Personal Development Program (to think of it, my job kinda rocks!). I enjoyed being able to go to the gym again, and I was working out about 3 times each week after work. Until one day in November when I broke my toe during a spinning class. Ouch! I was unable to walk for the first two weeks after the injury, let alone work out. Either way my doctor banned me from working out for 8-12 weeks. My gym froze my membership in view of my sports injury until I could go back to the gym in February this year. Now, my employer only pays a certain amount each year under the PDP and I’ve used my allowance for this year in April which only meant one thing – I had to stop going to the gym as there was no way I would extend my contract and pay myself (seriously, the fiasco of 2009 still hurts!). So, I went back to jogging and working out at home.

I was invited back to the gym for free during the whole month of August (some sort of promotion to ex-members), so I took my colleague with me and went back. I will not sign up again until January next year when I am able to benefit from the PDP through work. The gym my work pays for is near the London Stock Exchange in the City of London – you can imagine how expensive it is, and there is no way I can afford to pay for it from my own pocket. I would never sign a long-term contract again, and if I had to pay from my own pocket I would only go for pay-as-you-go option which the majority of gyms don’t offer. To me, a gym membership is not a need. I enjoy going for a run or working out at home, and if I can save pennies by doing this, I’m totally going for it 😉

Do you have a gym membership? Have you ever had an unpleasant gym-related experience?

Gym Membership Money Down the Drain - Girl Counting Pennies

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  1. Some gyms around my house are outrageously overpriced… the one 1/2 mile down the street is $50/month with a minimum 18-month commitment. But for what I want to use (nautilus-type machines) I can get a month-to-month membership at Planet Fitness for $10/month. I’ve been a member for the last 3 months, and it’s the first time I’ve ever felt like I’m really getting my money’s worth out of a gym membership!

  2. I haven’t had too much of a bad experience. Geez three months seems like a lot. The ones I’ve dealt with usually just need a month. My last membership was just over a year ago and like yours it was pretty fancy. $110/month..ah but I miss the eucalyptus steam room. Heavenly! I though for sure I’d gain 100 pounds by not going to a gym, but I run on the beach, play beach volleyball, and do fitness apps at home for a total of about 5-6 days per week. Not too bad and it’s all FREE!

    1. Three months is a lot for a notice period. I should’ve properly complained and taken the matter further if needed. To this day I think this is outrageous. Wow, look at you and your workouts! 5-6 days a week, this is great! I can only do 3-4 max.

  3. My horrible gym story is very similar to yours. I joined a fancy gym where I paid $600 cash upfront for 18 months. During those 18 months I went to the gym maybe 7 times. Ouch. Apparently my contract also stated that I needed to give them written notice not to renew 2 months before my memebership expired. I didn’t do this and they started calling me saying I owed them money and would send my file to debt collections. I said go ahead and try since I paid you cash. My file never went to collections. I finally beat the evil gym 🙂

    1. 18 month contracts should be banned! I’m glad you didn’t have to pay for another 2 months. I should’ve refused to pay too, but I was a chicken back then and didn’t know the law. I’m sure there’s a loophole somewhere, gyms are simply taking advantage of people, think of all the people who join on 2 January every year (this is when I joined btw ;)).

  4. That’s definitely frustrating about the rollover plan, as well as three months’ notice. I think I had that for my first gym, and not surprisingly that chain no longer exists due to its poor customer service. I go to a pretty standard one and it’s useful since it’s close to my work so I can work out and shower there, or run outside and shower there (plus, it saves on my water bill since I go almost every weekday). I ended up lucking out, too, since I was ‘grandfathered’ in the Super Sports (read: super nice) gyms that I frequently go to, and only paying half of what new customers pay. But I realize that if push came to shove, the gym is definitely a want and the first on the chopping block if I needed to cut corners.

    1. I was very upset, but then again it’s my own fault for not reading their terms and conditions properly. I learned my lesson and to this day I read every word if I have to sign something. Wow, that’s awesome that you go to the gym every weekday! My current gym is also just round the corner from my office and is open Mon-Fri only. I agree that if you shower at the gym you save on water bills. It’s a bit different in my case, since all my bills are included in my rent so I can shower all I want 😉

  5. I used to pay £60 per month for my gym membership and like you I signed up for a year. Oh how convinced I was that I was going to make use of it 3-4 times per week… I did that for about two months and then I kept finding excuses not to go. I think I was more in love with the idea of going to a luxury gym in a fantastic old building with arched ceilings and a steam room than actually exercising! And I did feel a little intimidated by all those toned bodies that never seemed to break into a sweat. I cancelled it shortly after getting married lol! I do need to start up exercising again but I don’t think I’d be able to part with that sort of cash anymore!

    1. I think a big part of me enjoyed the luxury surroundings too and back then I didn’t care how much money I was throwing away as long as I could maintain my “expensive” lifestyle. What can I say I was young and careless. I love working out (as much as I love chocolate) so I really must exercise somehow. If you decide to work out at home, I highly recommend Jillian Michael’s DVD “30 Day Shred”. I’m not a fitness expert but really it works wonders 🙂

  6. I’ve never been a member of a gym, always have used the local community centre gyms or university gyms.

    But I have heard of the horror stories of signing up for semi-shady memberships that have all sorts of sneaky clauses like you mention and others in the comments have mentioned, and that leaves me with a bad taste for membership based gyms.

    Don’t think I’ll ever join one of these types of gyms as I don’t enjoy sneaky contract language. Community centres have an easy set up where you buy a number of passes and they last for years, so you can go at your leisure and pay for what you use!

    1. I think the same. Now. Back then I thought I simply must join an expensive gym as going to a fancy gym would keep me motivated and focused. Well, I was wrong and I won’t be making this mistake again. I’ve never used a community gym and I’m sure there is nothing wrong with community gyms but somehow I’m not sure I will like them. I’m really enjoying working out at home, I’ve got a great DVD, plus I can always go for a run. I barely ever use weight machines anyway (you’re probably the opposite) so really, I’m not missing out on anything. Apart from the atmosphere I think.

  7. We have had gym memberships before. Now we enjoy cycling and walking as well as doing bits in the garden etc. I pay to take the kids swimming but thats it, dont miss it at all.

  8. Oh no! That is a terrible story – what a joke that you have to give 3 months notice! Ive just signed up to a gm for the first time in years – but I went with a no contract deal where I only need to give 48 hours notice. It’s pretty budget but I don’t like the idea of contracts. Which will actually be the subject of my next post! Great job on the new website by the way 🙂 🙂

    1. Hi Elesha, thanks so much, I’m so glad you like my new website! 😉 I don’t like the idea of contracts either, I must sign a new contract for my flat every 3-6 months (as opposed to it just rolling over) and it’s driving me crazy. Hopefully, one day I will be free and will never have to sign a contract again! 48 hours sounds like a reasonable notice period to me! 🙂

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