Posted on: August 1, 2017

Weighing the Cost of Fitness

“Dear Jill,

How much do you think is reasonable to spend on staying fit? My teenage son wants to join a gym that is $39 per month. I think this is too much to spend, and I'm not sure how much he will actually go. He says it is important to stay fit and says it is worth paying to stay healthy. What are your thoughts? Do you belong to a gym and how much should someone budget for this?”

Ramona T.

This is a bit of a tough question, because people’s commitments to staying fit can vary greatly. Let me preface this by saying I’m not a fitness professional, although staying physically fit is important to me. I have studied martial arts for more than 20 years with a private instructor. As this is something I’m committed to, it’s also something I budget for each month.

If your son is active in sports, he may wish to have access to weights and training equipment that would be very costly to acquire for home use. In my area, there are public gyms and workout centers that cost less than $20 per month. I would suggest exploring the reasons your son wants to join this specific gym – is this where his friends also go to train, or is it where a coach recommends he work out? Is he a swimmer who needs access to a swimming pool? You may wish to see if there is a less-expensive gym that has similar equipment that would fit his needs.

As your son is still in high school, you might also see if the school gym has a fitness center with equipment for students to use after-hours. Many park districts also have fitness centers that may cost less than a commercial gym. Our local park even has an outdoor circuit training area with weight and resistance equipment that’s free to use year-round – and everyone knows free is my favorite price.

If your son doesn’t need access to the kind of equipment a public fitness center offers, consider creating a home workout space that would cost less than a monthly gym membership. While I workout with my martial arts instructor once a week, I exercise at home on the remaining days of the week. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys working out in a group setting, so I’m much happier working out privately at home.

I have an assortment of inexpensive exercise equipment at home, including free weights, kettlebells and a pull-up bar. I’ve also invested in a popular series of workout DVDs to use on my non-gym days, as I like having professional routines to follow. My initial investment in equipment and workout videos was around $200, and I’ve been using the same gear for nearly a decade now. That works out to about $20 per year – a bargain in my book.

Other benefits to working out at home: You’ll save money by not paying for gasoline to drive to and from the gym, and you’ll also have the freedom to workout on your own schedule. On days when I’m particularly time crunched, I’m grateful I don’t have to spend extra time commuting to and from workouts. I don’t have to pack a gym bag, and there’s no pressure to wear the latest workout clothing.

If your son does opt to join a gym, I recommend looking for one with a month-to-month membership plan versus a contract. Gym contracts are notoriously difficult to sever if your son finds that he is not using the gym often. If your son has a job, consider asking him to split the cost of the gym membership with you as well. As a parent, I’ve found my children do appreciate things like this more when they have a personal investment in them.

Physical fitness is important, and it’s my hope you can arrive at a solution that both suits your son’s workout wish list and fits within your family’s budget, too.


Jill Cataldo Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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