Do you want to improve your personal fitness while avoiding expensive gym fees? If so, you’re not alone. There are ways to get a cheap or free gym membership to supplement exercising at home or outside.
While many gyms charge sign-up fees and high monthly costs, there are options to exercise for cheap. It’s easy to find gym membership specials and pay less than the average monthly fee of $40 to $70.
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What Are the Best Ways to Get a Cheap Gym Membership?
It’s frustrating to come across a gym that charges a king’s ransom in fees before you have your first workout. Here are some tactics to exercise for free or save money when you purchase a gym membership.
1. Use Groupon to Find a Deal
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are valuable resources to use for gym membership deals, especially at the beginning of the year. You can find the latest offers in the site’s health and fitness category.
These discounts can vary, but they’ll typically save you at least 20 percent.
For example, in my area, Groupon offered half-off aerobics classes at one of my local gyms. Instead of almost $200 for ten classes, I would only pay $99.
Even online classes are eligible for savings. A recent offer I saw is for a 60-day free trial with Daily Burn. This is a good deal if that’s something that interests you.
These are some examples I’ve seen in the last few months.
Both discount platforms offer different deals at different times throughout the year. If you want to grab a discount on a gym membership or try a few free classes, you want to check in often.
Some of the best times to score deals include the beginning of the year and right before summer begins.
2. Join a Low-Cost Gym
There are fancier gyms with state-of-the-art equipment, personal trainer access, and spas, but they are pricey. Many gyms offer practically free plans with unlimited access to fitness equipment to help you get in shape.
Here are monthly price quotes to become a member at several national gym brands:
- 24 Hour Fitness: A one-club, cardio, and weights-only membership costs $9.99. Expanding to regional access and all amenities increases the monthly fee to between $32.99 and $39.99.
- Anytime Fitness: Memberships start at $29.99 with nationwide 24/7 access, including when locations are unstaffed. Individual and group workouts are available, but there are fewer amenities. The monthly cost can be higher if you select a shorter membership period.
- LA Fitness: The month-to-month fee is either $39.99 or $49.99, depending on which initiation fee you choose. Membership includes multi-club access, group fitness classes, basketball, sauna, and Kids Klub.
- Planet Fitness: Classic memberships start at $10 for basic equipment and app workouts. A PF Black Card can cost $24.99 and includes massage chairs, tanning, nationwide access, and the option to bring a guest.
Most clubs offer a free gym pass for three to seven days to try out the equipment and amenities at a single location. You may need to pay an additional cost for premium amenities like a personal trainer.
Be sure to read the fine print before signing a membership agreement, as many brands charge these one-time fees:
- Initiation fee: From $49 to $100
- Annual fee: $24.99 to $49.99
You may also consider joining an inexpensive gym that costs less than dining out. It may not have state-of-the-art everything, but it will have what you need and may come with perks.
These establishments can be more affordable than a big-name fitness club and charge fewer fees.
3. Use Costco to Get a Deal
Costco members can receive steep discounts on gym memberships. For example, Costco has previously offered $40 off a two-year 24 Hour Fitness membership.
The warehouse club can help you cut costs further by purchasing discounted gift cards to spas and finding deals on sports and fitness equipment. These offers vary throughout the year.
While you need to be a member to take advantage of these discounts, it’s one of the best ways to save money at Costco.
Similarly, Sam’s Club is also known to carry discounted offers for local gyms in its gift card section.
Read our Costco vs. Sam’s Club review to see how the two compare.
4. Use Work/Health Insurance Benefits and Discounts
Many employers offer corporate wellness benefits and cheap gym memberships for their employees. Even if your employer doesn’t list this perk as part of your employment package, they likely offer you something.
Just ask your Group Benefits representative about what your employer offers.
If your employer doesn’t offer complimentary benefits or discounts for gyms and fitness programs, you might be able to use your health insurance provider for physical activity incentives.
Insurance companies may provide free gym membership when you complete several workouts per month or receive Medicare benefits.
Keep in mind that flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) funds typically do not reimburse gym expenses because it’s a preventative action as opposed to medical treatment.
When I had traditional health insurance, they offered WeightWatchers at a steep discount and 50 percent off of a gym membership with one of their contracted gyms. Many employers often offer similar perks for Nutrisystem.
It was a great incentive, and I didn’t have to pay much more out of pocket to take advantage. Read our comparison of WW vs. Nutrisystem to see how the two companies stack up.
If you have health insurance, log into your account online to check your benefits for available discounts. You can also call your insurance provider if you don’t see gym membership discounts listed to see what’s offered.
5. Get College and Student Discounts
One of the more overlooked ways to get a cheap gym membership is through your school. Many colleges have gyms, and fees for using the facility are often included in your student fees.
Even if you take one or two classes at a time, this isn’t a benefit you want to miss to workout for free.
Are you an alumnus and live near the campus? Many colleges offer discounts to alumni as a perk. Just go to the recreation center and ask about what gym membership deals they offer to former students.
Do you want to exercise off-campus or find that the gym isn’t open during convenient hours? Thankfully, you’re not out of luck. If you’re a student, you can receive student discounts at numerous health clubs.
- 24 Hour Fitness
- Gold’s Gym
- New York Sports Club
While discounts vary, you can typically save at least a few bucks each month. The savings can be higher during the summer months. You might also be able to get membership fees waived and other perks.
6. Use Your Local Community Center
In my neighborhood, our community centers are incredible. We have five in our area, and most include pools, cutting-edge equipment, soccer fields, and more.
All of them have excellent rates for the residents, including free amenities for people earning a low income.
Even if your local community center doesn’t offer that, you can typically still get a great workout in via exercise classes or their weight room. Some also provide childcare.
Many community centers offer discounts for residents. You can typically also get a day pass or hole-punch cards that allow you to check out the gym for less than a monthly membership.
Some community centers even offer memberships for classes, the gym, or sports teams. If any of those suit your fancy, you can get your membership for less than a general one.
7. Get Free Gym Passes
It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll like every gym you visit. Before signing a contract, ask the gym for a free trial membership. If you don’t like the gym, it will save you money.
Consider trying this at a few gyms to find the one that works best for your needs and budget.
You can also use a free workout app to help you establish a routine. Gyms offer free mobile workout programs accessible from your phone or free wifi to stream your personal favorite.
Consider exploring free exercise courses if you have an Amazon Prime membership.
Other Ways to Save on a Gym Membership
Finding an affordable health club membership is an excellent way to save money. However, it’s not the only way to save money on exercise. Below are some other ways to spend less and get fit.
Only Sign Up for What You Need
Gyms love to register you for classes or personal training sessions. If you need or want these, that’s great. However, if you don’t, it’s a waste of money.
Only sign up for what you need to ensure you don’t spend more than you want. For example, Fortune reports that Americans waste $397 million annually on unused gym memberships and services. This equates to roughly $320 a year for those who sign up for a gym.
Key to avoid this is only signing up for what you know you’re going to use.
Sign Up at the End of the Month
Gyms are businesses, and they often run month-end promotions to reach a particular goal. If you join near the end of the month, ask what promotions they’re currently offering.
Negotiate a Lower Price
One of the best ways to get a cheap gym membership is to ask for a lower price. You may not like negotiating, but it’s as simple as asking how they can save you money.
The first thing you could try is to ask for any current promotions they’re running. It doesn’t always work, but if you’ve been a member for a while or ask nicely, they may lower your price.
These promotions may mean that you will receive a few months for a discount, get a month for free, or whatever else they’re offering.
Something else to try is downgrading your membership. Doing so is especially helpful if you love certain aspects of your gym but not all.
For example, you may enjoy working out on the machines but don’t like taking classes. You might be able to negotiate a few dollars off every month since you don’t use that perk.
Again, gyms are businesses that need new members to stay in business. Another negotiation strategy is bringing a friend and asking for a discounted rate for both of you.
Some membership plans let you give a free pass to friends a few times each month to work out together.
Get Paid While Working Out
Yes, you can make money while getting fit. Opportunities vary, but it’s a terrific way to reduce your costs.
Health insurance companies may also offer discounted premiums or bonus funds for your spending account when you complete healthy behaviors.
Read our guide on how to get paid to exercise to learn more.
There are no guarantees, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.
Gyms are often expensive, but not every health club is that way. Amidst the expensive ones, there are low-cost gyms that let you exercise at a reduced price.
Finding a free gym membership may take some work, but with the possibility of saving half or more, it’s worth the effort.
If you want to start your new year right, keep your body in shape, or just need accountability while you run on a treadmill, you can do it affordably.
How much do you pay to use the gym?
Josh uses his personal experience of paying off over $130,000 in personal debt and changing careers to write about saving money, investing, and paying off debt. He has regularly written for notable outlets including Wallet Hacks, Well Kept Wallet, and Debt Roundup.
Josh was previously an operations supervisor for a Fortune 500 company for seven years. He is married with three small children.