Why I Cancelled My Gym Membership

I’ve been working out in some form or fashion since I was 11 years old. I was adopted by my aunt and uncle after my parents were unable to care for me and my three sisters any longer. Moving to a small town in the middle of nowhere proved to be quite difficult as I had lived all my life in a rough part of Detroit, Michigan up until that point. I was picked on constantly and started to seek out an avenue for some of that anger, and found working out a great stress reliever as well as a way to build my physical stature to the point where I wouldn’t get picked on anymore. This worked out quite well.

Fast forward to 2011. I’m turning 30 next year and I’ve always enjoyed working out. I’m still in pretty good shape and I’m actually a former competitive bodybuilder. But, it seems my new sense of frugality and finance are coming to odds with my gym membership. Notice I said gym membership, and not workout routine. It’s still possible to work out without a gym membership, or a gym at all for that matter. As frugal as I’ve become it wasn’t until recently that I realized this for myself. In a quest for financial independence and a sustainable long-term plan I’ve come to the conclusion that having as little recurring bills/responsibilities as possible is desirable. A gym membership is an easy recurring expense to cut.

I have decided to take a little of my own advice. Earlier this year, I spelled out some of the reasons I moved to Florida; among them: great year-round weather which allows one to exercise and engage in activities outside for free. Now it’s time to test that theory a bit. As of December of this year, I’ll no longer have a gym environment to work out in for really the first time in my life. I’m looking forward to cutting this expense and testing the boundaries of running, jogging, doing push-ups, sit-ups, bicycling, jump rope among other exercises which all come basically free of charge.

This expense may have seemed like a no-brainer to cut out for most people, but strength training has been a major part of my life and moving to a more aerobic routine will be completely new as I’ve always been anaerobic focused.

One thing I always try to keep in mind on any expense is how much money I’ll have to have invested in equities in order to pay that expense. This makes it very easy for me to figure out if that expense is truly worth it going forward. A gym membership at just $30 will require $12,000 in stocks at a 3% entry yield in order to pay that bill. That puts it into perspective for me. And $30 is probably on the low end for gym membership costs. So, I had to ask myself if a gym membership was worth setting aside $12,000 for. I decided, that at this point in my life, it is not.

One article I read recently which helped me decide this was an an excellent, if very scientific, post from Jacob over at Early Retirement Extreme. I decided after reading this that the gym membership was just another expense that I felt “I couldn’t do without” and it became a personal challenge to change my mindset on this. Going forward, starting with December’s budget, I will no longer have a gym membership expense. Hopefully, this will be forever.

This post got a little personal. I wanted to reflect how frugality and trying to cut expenses to achieve financial independence is a personal and fluid journey. It’s not a static, linear point A to point B journey. It’s going to change and you’re going to change with it. Your ideas are going to change and your ability to roll with the punches will likely get better. Cutting a gym membership for a former bodybuilder like myself is definitely an example of someone evolving in their quest for personal and financial freedom. I’ve also indicated a few times on my blog of my desire to travel or even live outside the U.S. once financially independent and I don’t want to every worry about “where’s the local gym?”. I’ll instead throw on a pair of shoes and go for a jog, then come back and do a 10-minute anaerobic exercise routine.

Cutting out the gym is just one example of how far I’ve come in 2011. I’ve also sold my car and started riding the bus, I cut my cell phone bill in more than half, moved to cut my rent significantly, I cut cable and bought a digital antenna, and cut my food bill dramatically. I hope this serves as inspiration for anyone else out there having a hard time cutting expenses.

Thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. James says

    Although I am also fairly frugal, do you ever wonder if you are sacrificing too much now for a goal that is 15 years away. A lot of things can change in your life between now and your retirement. I have always tried to maintain a balance between now and the future.

  2. says

    It sounds like you are disciplined enough to get rid of the membership and stay fit so I say go for it. Thanks for sharing your personal story because it is inspiring for those looking to cut expenses.

  3. says

    Interesting post, Mantra.

    I have a weird situation where I was grandfathered in to my current plan of $49 a year, or about $4 a month, after my previous plan expired. If I cancel my membership, I’ll have to go back to the $30 a month that everyone else pays.

    The trouble is I don’t go anyway so I’ve been paying $49 a year for about three years without actually utilizing this service. I figure at $4 a month, it’s probably worth it to lock in that amazing rate in case I want to start going in the future, but it’s still tough to see that money go to waste.

    Hmm… now that I think about it, maybe I should just start going again…

  4. says

    I never really understood exercising at the gym. It takes me around 15 minutes to even get there. Plus another 10 minutes to warm up. Then again 10 minutes to cool down and another 15 minute commute home. In total, that’s about 50 minutes. My workouts are usually 40 minutes long. That’s why I love exercising at home. Plus you don’t have to share equipment.

    I think you made great decision DM! If you really need a gym to keep in shape, then you aren’t really motivated to stay in shape.

    But then again, you can’t check out the pretty girls unless you’re at the gym haha.

  5. says

    Rene,

    Thanks for posting that. That guy is in great shape and is pretty intense! Gotta love that outdoors workout! It seems he is based a bit on military type workouts. Good stuff!

    Best wishes.

  6. says

    James,

    Great comment there. I think maintaining a balance and quality of life factor is extremely important when trying to cut expenses and live frugally. That has been something that I’ve strived for as I walk the tight rope between living cheaply and still living well.

    First, my goal is actually a little over 10 years away, not 15. I plan to be FI by 40. I’m turning 30 next May.

    Second, I don’t think I’m sacrificing anything by letting the gym membership go. I’m not particularly social when I’m at the gym. I go and bust my butt and go home. If you’re social when you go, then cutting the gym membership might cause you some loss of relationships..but then again, a gym is for working out and not socializing. But, as I stated above…working out does not require a gym. It only requires drive, desire and a good attitude. I think jogging/biking and doing push-ups/sit-ups would probably put you in pretty good shape.

    I’m going to lose some bulk and muscle by going to a more aerobic based routine, but that’s ok. Being “bulky” has never really provided me with any type of advantage or benefit anyway.

    Thanks for stopping by. Take care!

  7. says

    cashflowmantra,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I think I do have the desire to keep going without the gym membership to motivate me and I’m anxious to prove it to myself. We’ll see how it goes.

    I hope you enjoyed reading. Stay in touch.

  8. says

    Pey,

    Wow. That’s awesome you have such a cheap gym membership. I’d keep that if I were you. It’s a nominal amount of money and hopefully you’ll be motivated one day to really get the bang for your buck and use the facilities.

    Hopefully you start using that membership to your advantage. Great deal.

    Best wishes!

  9. says

    Henry,

    Great points. Nothing to check out when you’re jogging down the road or working out at home! :)

    Yeah, it’s tough to find value in spending all that time commuting before even touching a piece of equipment. I now find ways to exercise in everything I do. For instance, I jog to the grocery store and carry all my groceries back with me. It’s a great way to stay in shape and keep the grocery bills low (since I only buy what I can carry).

    Take care!

  10. Anonymous says

    You can only cut expenses so much. The other alternative is more streams of income, which are passive income, are needed.

  11. says

    Anonymous,

    I agree fully. I’m getting pretty close to the point where my expenses can’t be cut any more and it’s going to simply be maintaining my expense level.

    I also agree on gaining income streams. That’s where my dividend growth portfolio comes to play. That will one day exceed my small amount of expenses and I’ll be financially independent. Setting up an online business would be another way to achieve passive income if it doesn’t require a lot of your time. There are many ways to achieve income, but I’m just not that smart.

    Best wishes!

  12. says

    I also gave up my gym membership. I was reading the comments on a NYTimes article, and one guy said he did the “Prison Workout”. I googled the term, and it’s basically just “burpees”. They are hard on my knees, so I just do squat thrusts.

    I also did martial arts a long time ago, so I also do some kicking/punching combos. And sometimes I do some yoga as well.

    If you have enough space to kick or do jumping jacks, you can exercise in your home. Plus being healthy will save you money when you are older while your non-exercising contemporaries start falling apart. Harsh, but true.

  13. says

    Everyday Freethought,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I think it comes down to how motivated you are. I was dealing with a client at work today who was obviously incredibly out of shape, yet had a giant gym membership pass on her key chain. For some it just makes them “feel better” to have that gym pass and membership. I’m not sure if they think that paying the fitness center every month will somehow shed pounds?

    For others, you strap on some shoes and get a good run in and don’t care about the fancy gym and don’t feel the need to advertise a gym on your key chain. I’m quickly identifying with this type of person.

    Best wishes!

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