Here’s what to do if you can’t afford your gym membership anymore

One of the best ways to stay in shape is to join a gym. You gain access to a wide range of equipment, and if you’re lucky, even a pool!

However, those perks aren’t free… not even close.

The price of a gym membership can range anywhere from $10 a month if you go somewhere like Planet Fitness all the way beyond $100 per month at elite gyms like Equinox and Life Time — and that’s not including joining fees, annual fees, gym attire, etc.

If you’re here, you may have signed up for a gym membership feeling good about your budget. But people’s situations change and it’s extremely common to find that you simply can’t afford your gym membership anymore.

Perhaps your hours at work are cut back, or you suffered a medical emergency. Maybe spending all that money for equipment that isn’t even yours just doesn’t sound enticing anymore.

Whatever the reason may be, there are plenty of ways you can try to cut back on fitness costs.

Some tips to keep in mind if you can’t afford your gym membership anymore include:

  1. Negotiate a better deal
  2. Freeze your membership
  3. Check your insurance benefits
  4. Join a cheaper gym
  5. Work out at home

The results of each of these methods may vary significantly from one person to the next. But when you need to cut costs, it’s worth trying a little bit of everything.

1. Negotiate a better deal

You would be amazed at what you can get when you simply ask for it.

Bear in mind: this may not work everywhere. When you’re already a member at a gym, and potentially under contract, you don’t have a ton of negotiating power.

But you can always try.

For starters, if you want to negotiate a better gym membership, ask to speak with the manager rather than whoever’s at the front desk.

Managers will actually be in a position to lower your rate than other employees. If you’ve been going to this gym for a while, then you may have even developed a friendship with this person, which can help you out immensely.

Timing wise, if you can hold off negotiating until the offseason — for gyms, that’s around May through August when memberships are at a year-round low — you may have better luck.

Gyms get tons of new members in January and throughout the summer months they won’t want to lose paying customers.

If the manager won’t go for a flat out discount, you could ask if you can switch your plan to a lower membership tier or cut other perks/amenities from your membership to save money. At least they may be willing to waive some annual fees or other charges.

Remember, gyms want your business. If you walk away, that’s money coming out of their pocket. If you’ve been paying $20 a month for a membership, it’s better for the gym to continue getting $10 monthly rather than nothing.

At the end of the day, if the manager is unwilling to give you a better deal, then politely ask to cancel your membership. You need to walk away at this point (if nothing else on this list works).

Plus, you never know. You may end up getting a call from the manager in a day or two asking for you to come back.

2. Freeze your membership

Some gyms force you into contracts when you first sign up.

You may have to agree to pay a monthly cost for a full year before you can back out.

This gets people into trouble when unexpected expenses come up, and they need to cancel prematurely. You’ll either have to pay a hefty fee or keep on making the payments for a membership you may not end up using.

Again, this tactic all depends on the specific gym you’re going to. Some are more likely to play ball than others.

But if you can’t afford your gym membership anymore and can’t get out of your contract, try freezing your membership.

Ask the manager directly if you can freeze your account. This is like your way of saying that you’ll pay the remainder of the cost eventually, but you need a little breathing room at the moment.

It’s common that you can freeze or pause payments on your membership (and suspend your ability to access the gym) for anywhere from 6 to 18 months.

Pro tip: Specifically ask if you’ll still have to pay your gym’s annual fee during the freeze, and push hard to have this waived until you resume your membership.

In the event you’ve experienced a tragedy that’s placed you in an undue financial hardship, you may want to get ready to tell your sob story.

With a freeze on your account, you won’t have to pay anything more for the time being.

However, you will have to pay again down the line. The manager may even give you a time frame for when you need to pick your membership back up.

But it can serve as a short-term solution if you’re really in a bind.

3. Check your insurance benefits

Want to know a nifty life hack?

Some insurance plans will actually pay for part of your gym membership. They don’t necessarily advertise this fact, so you’ll need to do a little digging of your own.

The idea is simple: people who work out regularly tend to be healthier.

When you’re healthier, you’re less likely to need medical services as often, so it actually saves the insurance companies money in the long run.

Naturally, every company is different, and most aren’t going to cover the full cost. But if you’re in a pinch, any little bit of relief you can get will help.

For more information, check out my guides for some of the major insurance players out there.

Your best bet is to call your insurance directly — these benefits are typically hard to find and claim online.

Some providers only offer discounts for specific gyms, so you may need to switch memberships if you want to take advantage of some savings.

Speaking of which…

4. Join a cheaper gym

The price difference between gyms can be insane.

For example, the lowest monthly membership tier at Planet Fitness is $10. Meanwhile, you might be paying upwards of $40 per month at other big box gyms, or over $100 at elite health clubs!

If you’re paying too much at your current gym but still need access to equipment, then you really need to consider your options.

By and large, Planet Fitness is the cheapest option out there. You don’t get all the perks at the $10-tier, but it’s good if you just want to use cardio equipment and access some basic resistance machines.

(Read: Is Planet Fitness worth it?)

Most people only think to look at the big gym chains. But you may be able to find some deals if you join a local boutique gym or studio.

A lot of the smaller gyms may even offer regular promotions to entice people away from the big names out there.

Plus, you can feel good about supporting a locally-owned business.

5. Work out at home

Ultimately, if you can’t afford a gym membership at home, your best bet to stay in shape may be to cancel your membership entirely and learn to exercise at home.

Home equipment can be expensive, but fortunately, there are plenty of exercises you can do free of charge.

You can go for a jog around your neighborhood to get some cardio in. To build muscle, try calisthenics (you’ll only need a pull up bar and a mat). 

You can even do yoga, pilates, and HIIT from home using free YouTube videos as long as you have an open space to exercise.

If you miss getting out of the house for your workouts, you can even find a lot of parks with workout equipment free to use for anyone who wants it.

It may not be the most advanced machinery out there, but it’s a solid way to improve your health without spending a dime.

(For more on this, check out the different types of at home workouts you can do without much equipment.)

Wrapping Up

Money doesn’t grow on trees! 

Paying $30 a month or so for a gym membership may work for you for a while, but over time it can really add up and you may need to make a change.

When a gym membership is just too expensive, you have a few routes to take to ease the burden.

There are a few ways you can save money on your current membership, or even freeze it if you just need a financial break. If you do need to cancel, don’t worry — staying in shape at home is a phenomenal and almost completely free option!

One last tip I can offer: always read the fine print. You want to make sure you’re aware of any cancellation fees to your membership before signing up.

You hope your financial situation doesn’t change too significantly in the near future, but you never know what may happen. 

Before you go, check out some of my favorite guides in this category like:

Hope this helps!