1. Perfect your timing. Certain months typically feature more deals than others: June, because patrons flee town for summer vacation, and December, because gyms are trying to meet their year-end quotas—says Chrissy Pate, founder of becentsable.net, a site dedicated to living well on a budget.
2. Don’t be afraid to haggle. But first, do your research. “Let the gym you want know that you can get a better deal somewhere else, and make sure to bring in any competitors’ coupons or ads for back-up,” Pate says.
3. Beware added fees. Know what you’re paying for, and what you’re not. “When I was comparing fitness centers, I found a gym that was $25 cheaper a month than the one down the street,” Pate says. “But when I toured the supposed better deal, I found they charged $2 per child per day for daycare, which would have cost much more than the other option, which offered free child care.”
4. Know your workout style. Sure, the slick new gym has a brand new pool, but do you swim? “Don’t pay for all the bells and whistles if you don’t think you’ll use them,” Pate says. If you’re unsure which amenities you can’t live without, ask for a guest pass for a free week to determine if the gym truly suits your fitness needs.
5. Go “off” brand. Your community center may have everything you’re looking for and be a fraction of the cost of a brand-name gym. They often have indoor/outdoor pools, sports fields and courts, walking tracks and basic fitness equipment.
6. Dig for discounts. Gyms often have cheaper senior and student rates, and may even give you a deal based on the insurance you have (call your insurance company to find out). Some employers partner with fitness centers to offer deals—or even cover memberships as part of their health insurance or healthy living campaigns, so check with your human resources department.