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9 Insider Secrets to Save Money on Gym Memberships

You don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get fit.

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Fitness membership deal

Never automatically pay the initiation fee

At most gyms it’s 100 percent negotiable, according to Tom Holland MS, CSCS, former gym owner and author of Beat the Gym. Holland told TODAY the easiest time to negotiate is in the summer when fewer people are signing up. In January, however, it is harder to fenagle a better price.

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Pay per visit

We may not advertise it, but many gyms let you pay per visit. Even if it seems more expensive, it’s worth considering. Economists at the University of California at Berkeley found that the average gym user who enrolls in a monthly or annual membership pays 70 percent more than those who pay per visit—for a savings of about $300 a year. So before you sign up, ask yourself how many times (realistically, not ideally!) you’re really going to get to the gym each week.

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Woman exercising in fitness gym for good health. Athletic young woman exercising equipment at gym, workout in fitness center.

Try it out first

The biggest waste of money is a membership you don’t use. So always do a test run before you join. Big chains including Equinox, Crunch, 24 Hour Fitness, and more all offer trials ranging from one day to an entire week, according to Women’s Health. If you ask, most other fitness centers will give you a free one-week or one-day trial before you join, so you can try it out before you commit.

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Personal trainer assisting woman lose weight

Snag one free training session

Most personal trainers will give you the first session for free, so always ask for that—even if you’re planning to buy a package. These are the 13 post-gym mistakes that could ruin your workout.

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Multi-ethnic females in gym doing high five. Group of young women making high five gesture in gym after successful fitness class after training.
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Team up with pals

Want to work out with a personal trainer but avoid the high price? Recruit a few friends and ask about small group training. You split the cost but still get access to the trainer’s expertise. Trainers benefit too, since they can now charge less but possibly earn more, according to the American Council on Exercise.

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Plan ahead to save

If you’re willing to pay in advance, you can often get a discount on a membership. We may give you 10 to 20 percent off if you pay for a whole year upfront. Just make sure the gym has been around for a while, and ask what will happen if it goes out of business.

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Young woman in international airport looking at the flight information board, holding passport in her hand, checking her flight
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Don’t spend while out of town

Going away for a month or more? Ask if we can freeze your membership. Here are the 15 things your gym doesn’t want you to know.

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low key scoop up whey protein, selective focus

Beware the smoothie station

Some smoothies can pack as many as 500 calories, which may negate the workout you just did. Not to mention that we sell those products at a big markup. You can save money—and calories—by making your own smoothies at home.

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Business man with phone
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And one last thing

There’s one call you should make before you sign on our dotted line: to your human resources department. Many corporations and health insurance providers offer discounts or even full reimbursement for gym memberships (but you won’t know unless you ask). Next, check out the 11 money mistakes you’re making when you try to save.