With rising costs on everything from rent to groceries, many of us are trying to cut back as much as possible. And joining a gym can be a large expense, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, experts say that inflation hasn’t hit the fitness industry as hard as other sectors.
It’s also possible score a better deal than what you might see advertised online—if you know how to negotiate the right way, and plan your approach strategically. We spoke to former sales associates to get insider tips that you can use to finagle the best possible price.
1. Know what you’re willing to spend
“You can ask for anything you want out of a gym, really,” says Taylor White, a former studio manager at F45 in Washington, DC. “Knowing your price point can help.” When you know the maximum amount you are willing to spend it will help you discuss price options, and know when to walk away if they can’t accommodate your budget.
And remember to shop around: Just because the first place you approach isn’t offering a plan that works for you, that doesn’t mean another place won’t. Knowing other gyms’ rates could also give you more bargaining power.
2. Read the fine print so you know the full list of costs
There are some fees that you may not be able to get around. Caroline Mayhew, a former sales associate at Orangetheory Fitness in Northridge, California, says the non-negotiables are typically things that are corporate policy, like late cancel fees if you are signing up for a group fitness class or membership cancellation fees. But there may also be an annual fee or a one-time sign-up fee in addition to your monthly dues, which you might be able to convince a sales rep to waive.
3. Start your membership either in January or the summer
Although the best time to join a gym is when you’re prepared for it—studies show that you are more likely to stick with a workout program when it is intrinsically self-motivated—there are a few times of the year where you might be able to get a better deal. “Typically, I would see the best joining deals happen around the new year, and around May at the beginning of summer,” says White.
Mayhew explains that gyms offer incentives and discounts in January to be competitive when people are getting “an extra pep in their step to get back in the gym.”
And the summer? That’s typically the slowest time for many gyms as the weather gets nicer and people get outdoors or travel more. “Gyms are willing to do anything to keep their membership retention up,” Mayhew says. “This can be a great time to take advantage of a free week trial or a discounted introductory month, as gyms try to get creative to draw in new members”
4. Look into discounts
There are sometimes specials that you might not know about until you ask, so speak up. “There are rolling promotions through different seasons,” says White. Both White and Mayhew suggest asking to see if there are any family, friend or first responder discounts. You may also try asking about discounts for students, teachers, or military veterans, depending on what applies to you (or your family members). Mayhew adds, “If you work for a large or local corporation, there may be a discounted corporate rate offered that you are eligible for.”
The best time to ask about these is when you’re first signing up, rather than when you’re renewing. “Ultimately, things are a lot easier to negotiate or lock in a lower rate at the beginning,” says Mayhew.
5. Check if there’s a more limited membership option
In thinking about your fitness goals, be honest with yourself about how much you will be going. “Some gyms have different terms of contracts,” White says. If you know you will only be able to make it to the gym twice a week, see if there are options other than the unlimited membership. Also be sure to ask if you are easily able to change your membership if you later decide to scale up or down.
6. Ask for a long-term commitment
If you’re ready to take the plunge and know you’ll want to be a member for at least a year (or two), ask if you can get a deal for signing a longer contract. Not all gyms allow this, but some do, so it’s worth a shot.
7. Research gyms that offer the kinds of extras you’ll use
Think about what matters most to you in a gym. Do you like events that build community like “no shower happy hours,” theme days, and specialty classes? If so, find a gym with activities you enjoy that can be considered as add-ons. If you want to take advantage of offerings like personal training or massage, ask if you can get a complimentary session.
“Everyone has different lifestyle goals so join a gym that fits your wants and needs best,” says White. Most gyms have “extras” that add value to your membership—but only if they’re something you’d actually use.
Ultimately, Mayhew’s best piece of advice for getting a great deal is this: “Just ask! Even silly questions may score you a free water bottle, sweat towel, friend referral, or best case, a cheaper membership.”