If you’re not approaching getting your new January gym membership with the same mindset you would use for a car dealership negotiation, you’re probably not getting a good enough deal. January is the Black Friday of gym memberships, and you need to strategize accordingly and go in with a plan: You need to know what you want before you go looking if you want to come out the winner.
Unfortunately, there are many tricks and strategies that gyms practice at the time of contract signing that, if you’re not aware of them, might come back to bite you in the rear. Here’s what you need to know.
Exactly like you would with dealerships, you should visit several gyms in your area. You can even “test drive” the gyms since many will be offering free trials, usually for seven days, so you can see how it would feel to commit to the gym longterm. Is the commute from work or home sustainable? Do people rack up their weights back on the stands? Are the bathrooms clean? Figure out what’s important for you and seek it out. You probably won’t find a gym that ticks all your boxes, but you can get close.
As mentioned, January is the hot month for gyms—they will all be competing with each other to get your business. You are hot commodity, so don’t sell yourself short. If a gym is not offering discounted rates or waiving the sign-up fee, take your squats to the next gym. Look for specials that will last for the whole lifespan of the membership if you’re signing a yearly contract (although we’ll get into why we don’t recommend those). Some gyms can also offer bonus perks, like allowing you to use the sauna or massage machines for a limited time for free. The point is to negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that aren’t being advertised. Gyms are flexible and can give out special perks. You might even bring a friend along to the negotiation table to play good-cop, bad-cop.
Don’t fall for cheap tricks
Some gyms try to get cute and offer “free food” to impress potential members. You might even walk into a pizza party when you try to go negotiate; just remember that nothing in life is free. When a gym offers “free food,” all those expenses are being passed on to the members, so you’ll be paying for them once you sign up. Just like you’d say at work: Save the party and put that money on a raise—in this case, a better deal—instead.
Consider month-to-month contracts
Unless you’re a seasoned pro at going to the gym (in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this article), a month-to-month membership is often a better deal—especially if it’s your first time. Many people hope the financial commitment of signing a yearlong membership deal will motivate them to go for a whole year. Unfortunately, that’s not how most humans work. If you’re having a hard time going to the gym, find other methods of motivation that don’t end up hurting you financially. Inviting a friend to be your gym buddy is not only great for accountability, but for motivation as well (and a two-for-one package might give you more leeway in the negotiation table). Not to mention, a year is a long time full of unpredictable surprises. Remember back when we went into 2020 thinking it was going to be a better year? Yeah.
Sign at the end of January
All you procrastinators hoping to change your ways this year by going to the gym are at an advantage. The best time to sign for a membership is actually at the end of the month when gyms are trying to fill up their monthly quotas and are more flexible with deals. This puts you at an advantage at the negotiation table, and the gym will be more likely to bend to your demands. For example, if the contract demands a cancelation fee, negotiate to get out of it, or for shorter contract periods, a cheaper monthly rate, or whatever would make it a sweeter deal for you.
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