Gym Membership

Gym Membership
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There are many expenses in our life that are actually icebergs. They appear to represent $X of cost in our monthly budget, but in reality there is sometimes a lot more underneath the ocean than there is above the surface. This is without question the case when it comes to looking at the real cost of gym membership.

This is very much the case with gym memberships. When we think of a gym membership, we really only think of the cost of the gym membership. We typically don’t think about the commute costs, time costs, or social costs of this way of staying in shape.

How Much Does a Gym Membership Really Cost?

What if I told you that the average person spends $576.96 per month on a gym membership? That is only about $100 lower than the average cost of 1 bedroom rental in the state of Oklahoma.

Now, this one isn’t quite as easy across the board. Meaning, when I recommend making coffee from home, it’s a comparable sacrifice for everyone. But when it comes to a gym membership, it’s a heck of a lot easier for me living in Phoenix, AZ to not have a gym membership than it is for someone living in Syracuse, NY. (Snow, rain, cold)

Many of the expenses in our life are actually icebergs where much, if not most of the true cost of something lies invisible beneath the surface. While the initiation fee and monthly dues are the obvious and visible cost of a gym membership, what lies beneath the surface is the cost of your time, transportation, and social pressure. Let’s dive in and see what the real cost of our gym membership’s are.

Above the Ocean Surface

The Cost of Membership and Initiation – $90/Month

This is obviously going to be very different for someone living in NYC than it is for someone living in Syracuse, NY. So for the sake of example, let’s use the average gym membership cost including initiation fees of $90. Many of us know people who pay much more than this in bigger cities.

And this is where most of our analysis ends. Most of us will see the monthly charge on our credit card and anchor that cost to the cost of our gym membership and leave it there. Meanwhile, wondering why we are still living paycheck to paycheck despite the raise we got last year.

The reason this happens to us, is we don’t look below the surface. All we see is the relatively benign block of ice above the surface. But as we know, often times we are only seeing a small fraction of the total iceberg. #TitanicY’all

Below the Ocean Surface

I believe that most of the cost of having a gym membership is not obvious to us. It’s not visible above the ocean surface. While monthly dues and the initiation fee lie above the surface, visible. I believe that time, transportation, and social pressure lie beneath the surface. And they represent a heck of a lot more money than what’s above.

The Cost of Your Time – $384/Month

It probably takes us 30 minutes total to get from your couch to the warm up treadmill at your gym. Think about it. We have to get your gym clothes on (and make sure we look good), go get in your car, drive to the gym (10 mins on average), park, walk inside, check in, likely chat with someone we know, and use the bathroom of course.

So, round trip, that’s an hour a day of getting to and from your gym.

It’s worth calculating the cost of that wasted time at the average American’s hourly rate. Since the average American brings in about $50,000 a year, I think it’s fair to value this hour of commute time at $24.

Now, we probably go to the gym about 4x a week. That’s $24 each day we want to commute to the gym and $96 dollars a week of getting from our couch to the squat rack.

That $96 a week becomes $384 a month of wasted time trying to get to and from the gym.

The Cost of Transportation – $72.96/Month

As we continue to explore what’s below the surface of this Gym Membership iceberg, we can’t help but consider the cost of how we are getting ourselves to and from the gym. Some people have the luxury of walking to their gym, so this would not be applicable. But that person is very much the exception, not the rule.

How can we calculate the cost of getting to and from the gym? Isn’t it free if we own our car and use it as our transport?

Nope. It’s not free. The reality is, even car ownership is an iceberg expense where the majority of the cost lies below the surface. More on that in another post.

In order to calculate the cost of transportation, I’d like to focus again on the average person who likely drives their own vehicle to and from the gym. And in order to calculate that cost, we need the cost per mile driven as well as the average distance between a person’s home and their gym.

Cost of Driving Our Cars

Let’s call it $.57 a mile per the IRS standard mileage rates meant to reflect the cost of depreciation, maintenance, and fuel per mile driven. Want a fun exercise? Stop thinking that having a car is free once it’s paid off. The truth is, every time we put a mile on our car, it’s taking money out of our pocket.

Now, let’s assume our gym is 4 miles away according to a poll taken by the WSJ. That’s $4.56 every time we want to go to the gym. Again, say we’re going 4x a week or 16x a month, well that’s $72.96.

The Cost of Social Pressure – $30

For the last 8 months, we’ve all pretty much been locked inside due to COVID-19. I would bet that most of our clothing expenses have plummeted during this time. Why? Well, we’re not constantly surrounded by people at work and at the gym who have cute Lululemon leggings and tops. Nor are we surrounded by people with the latest Jordans or Nike athletic outfits.

Like it or not, when we are constantly around people who have really nice workout clothes, we feel bad about how we look and want to constantly have nice, new workout clothes to rock at the gym. Again, I’m arguing for the rule, not the exception who confidently wears nasty brown sneakers from the 90’s and torn up shirts and shorts from 10 years ago.

In fact, I personally know people who spend more money on their workout clothing than on their work/office clothing. Guess what? When no one is going to see what we wear, we are much less likely to feel insecure about our tattered shirts, shorts, and shoes.

Now, it’s really hard to put a number on this one as on one hand we’ll have people spending hundreds a month on workout clothes and others who only spend hundreds a year. But, I think this is at least $30 a month on clothing we wouldn’t otherwise be getting.

The Real Cost Of a Gym Membership – $576.96

Now, let’s take the cost of transportation ($72.96) plus the cost of the gym membership ($90) and we’re already at $162.96 to go walk on someone else’s treadmill. This is if we value our time at $0 an hour (which I sure hope you don’t) and are completely free from pressure to look presentable at the gym.

Throw in the cost of our time to get to and from the gym each time we go and our monthly is up to $546.96.

Finally, say we are like most people and likely to spend more money on your appearance when around other people. Now we add the social cost ($30) and we are up to $576.96.

This isn’t a one size fits all but it’s meant to show that purchasing our own exercise equipment will not only save us money when comparing it to the cost of a gym. It will save us thousands when comparing it to the cost of time and transportation to and from the gym each day.

We are spending over $500 a month on our gym memberships. That is literally crazy. But what if we weren’t wasting this money on a gym membership but instead were investing this into the market every month?

I thought you might ask. 🙂

Frugal Feline Future Value

Many don’t know, but the Guinness book of world records has the oldest cat living to age 38 which seems an appropriate life to value this gym membership exercise.

So, say we decide to kick our gym membership habit and instead opt for an exercise routine in our garage or take up running instead. Well, we would then be freeing up about $576.96 a month to put into the stock market. Investing this money each month at 8% over the course of the next 38 years would leave us with a truly whopping $1.6 Million.

Frugal Feline Future Value - Gym Membership

$1.6 Million is truly astonishing when thinking about what our gym membership costs could become. So, we could either spend $6,923.52 going to the gym each year, or invest that and have a massive sum of money in the future.

What’s really crazy to think about is that’s literally retirement for a relatively frugal household. We could literally decide to workout from our garage or take up running and have $1.6 Million in our investment account at the end of 38 years.

Now, perhaps giving up the gym membership isn’t your cup of tea. That’s totally fine. Even the Frugal Feline has things he is unwilling to give up for a faster path to Financial Independence. But it’s still worth knowing the truth.

The cost of our gym membership is an iceberg with most of the cost lying hidden beneath the surface.

The question we must ask ourselves is – Is it really worth it?

Signing off,

The Frugal Feline

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