Paying for a Gym Membership

I am a yoga addict. The benefits are plentiful- increased flexibility, lower stress levels, great strength training, better body awareness…I’m obsessed! (Just ask my poor boyfriend: every time he has an ailment I tell him that yoga will fix it).

Downward dog is wonderful, but paying $20 per drop in class is not. I find that paying for a month up front isn’t a better deal either- I just feel stressed about not going enough and wasting my money, and more stress is not what yoga is for! But I do believe that physical fitness is an area that it is worth spending money on, if it makes you more likely to stick to healthy habits. I sometimes do free yoga podcasts at home….but by “sometimes” I mean it’s happened twice in the past year. Evidence shows the free version is not going to work for me, so it is worth it to spend a little money to help me keep up with yoga.

Compounding the conundrum is the fact that getting to the nearest yoga studio would add an hour to my workout every time I go (car free living has a few downsides). I usually don’t have a spare hour in addition to my yoga time, so the chances of me going to that studio are slim….what to do?

Luckily, there is a gym on my block that has a few yoga classes each week. The gym itself isn’t especially appealing to me (rows of machines to help you exercise….I’d rather be outside!) but the unlimited yoga for a relatively low monthly rate is just what I’m looking for.

So I stopped into the gym and asked about their rates. This gym’s claim to fame is that if you pay an up front fee, you don’t have to sign a contract. You pay a month-to-month rate, but you can quit at any time. This sounded pretty reasonable to me, because I do know that unused gym memberships are a major way that Americans waste money. I also found out that there is a plan where I could pay a slightly lower monthly rate, but I would have to commit to a year. Here are the options:

  • Pay $99 up front and then pay $35 a month for as long as you want to be a member. No commitments here!
  • Pay $360 for the year (which comes to $30 per month)

Because I am me, I decided to crunch some numbers. I have already decided that I miss going to yoga, and I am going to spend some money to bring yoga back into my workout routine. Drop-in classes at the near-ish yoga studio are $20 each (and not as convenient). Do I want to keep it flexible (yuk yuk) and not commit? Or should I spend $360 up front?

Check it out:

Months Gym with no contract Gym with year commitment
1 $134 $30
2 $169 $60
3 $204 $90
4 $239 $120
5 $274 $150
6 $309 $180
7 $344 $210
8 $379 $240
9 $414 $270
10 $449 $300
11 $484 $330
12 $519 $360

At no point is joining the gym without a contract cheaper on a per-month basis. The first month alone costs $134!!! (6.5 drop in classes!!!) If you quit the gym any time before 7 months of membership, you will have paid less than the $360 needed for a year’s membership….so technically you would be saving money, but you also would have been paying a much higher rate for those 7 months ($50 a month!). After 7 months of membership, you are just plain overpaying! What might seem like a good deal at first (no commitments! How appealing!) is actually just a scheme to keep you from realizing that paying for 7 months of “no commitments” will cost you the same as 12 months on a contract…and signing a contract is like getting 5 months of gym time free!

I decided that the $360 up front is the best deal for me. $360 is the equivalent of 18 drop-in classes at the near-ish studio- so if I go to 1.5 classes a month (3 classes every two months) I will be breaking even. I try to go to yoga more than 3 classes every two months, so I think this will be the best choice. Now, off to get my downward dog on!




  1. Woohoohoo! Go you! I cannot tell you how many times I hear people justify NOT doing a regular physical activity like yoga or pilates because they are trying to save! The benefits are waaayyy beyond your wallet (at least, they are to me!). The only thing I’d mention is if you HATE the new place’s yoga…well, that won’t be good – not all yoga classes and instructors are created equal!


    1. You are absolutely right! Once I went to a new studio and in an hour and a half we did three poses….the instructor was a talker!
      I already scoped out the classes with a free 3-day pass, I think it will work out just fine!


  2. I totally agree, I am based in the UK and so many people are signing up for pay as you go gyms not realising they could be spending way more money than they need to. It is important to find a gym that suits you and what you need, exercise is growing continually so hopefully we can find areas for specific classes to suit individuals without charging them for all the extra’s they don’t need….and also the ability to try places before you sing up. The last thing you want is a 12 month contract in a place you hate.


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