It’s Time to Uncover Those Hidden Gym Membership Costs

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When I worked for a large corporation right out of college, I had the option to use their onsite gym facility without any additional gym membership costs.  I enjoyed doing their 45-60 minutes classes 3-4 times a week and remember fondly one of the instructors always enthusiastically saying “Peeeeer-fect!” after each difficult set.  

I took full advantage of the available equipment and classes they offered.  When I left the company, I left my free gym membership behind too and had to find a new option. 

Initially, I only considered the monetary costs of a gym membership.  I realize now that there’s a few other non-obvious costs to a gym membership.

gym membership costs

Hidden Costs of Gym Membership

#1 – Lost Time

The Commute

When I left my former company, I signed up for a gym facility about 10 minutes from my apartment.  A year later, we moved 5 minutes further away and the 15 minute commute both ways to the gym was brutal.  20 minutes was the max I was willing to waste in traveling to and from the gym.

Peak Times

Most gyms see a spike in visitors on weekday evenings, weekend mornings and Winter months.  During peak times, parking may be a challenge and could add time to your otherwise quick commute. 

Also, getting access to the machine you want to exercise on may be challenging at peak times.  This either prevents you from getting the workout you want or costs you time waiting for the machine to be available. 

This is intensified at the beginning of every calendar year when the gym has an influx of new members.  I encourage you to really think about the amount of time you waste going to the gym. 


For any parents out there, who take their kids to the gym with them, think about how much time is wasted every time you drop your kids off and pick them up. 

The younger your kids are the more time you likely spend.  This is two folds.  You want to:

  1. Make sure your kid is comfortable
  2. Play nice with the caregiver to make sure they aren’t neglecting your young child

As your kids get older they’ll  gradually require less time to drop off and pick up from the kids area.  Regardless, of how much time this process takes it should be factored into the overall time going to the gym costs you.

How Much Time Are You Wasting?

I never really thought about the travel time to and from the gym and how it affected my life.  While my new gym was only 5 minutes from our house, it was costing me more than 10 minutes of my time.

I had to buckle the kids in the car, drop them off at the kid’s area and then lock up my personal belongings.  This easily added 5-10 more minutes.  That means the process of going to the gym itself was on average 25 minutes each trip. 

25 minutes over 3 days is 75 minutes each week.  In my world, that is too much time to be wasting. 

Ironically enough, when I initially looked at how much our gym membership was costing it was only from a monetary perspective.  As it turns out that isn’t even the greatest benefit.  The time savings is gold for a busy mom like me. 

#2 – Additional Food Cost

The commute time to and from the gym, also cut into the time and energy I had left for cooking dinner at home.  Most nights we got carry out or went to dinner at a restaurant. 

In hindsight, the cost of going to the gym after work also included additional cost for dinner.  Smart planning could have avoided this extra expense though. 

I could have made extra food on the nights I was home.  Alternatively, I could have prepared dinner the night before and thrown it into a crockpot on the days we went to the gym.

Monetary Cost of Gym Membership

The monthly or annual fee for a gym membership can range greatly depending on the facilities provided.  There are different types of gyms and different types of memberships.  Make sure you are using all the facilities you pay for in a gym membership.

Our family paid $85 a month in gym membership and child care fees.  $60 for 2 people to use the gym and $25 for our 2 children to be taken care of while we were exercising.  In a big city like Chicago, where we live, this was a pretty good deal.

Gym Membership Reimbursements

As far as monetary costs go for your gym membership, lots of companies offer gym membership reimbursements.  If you aren’t aware of one where you work, ask your Human Resources department. 

For a while, at my current company the only gym reimbursement option was a gym near my office.  This was not convenient to me as I take the train into the office and lugging yet another bag with me wasn’t feasible. 

Wellness programs change over time and I later learned that our new wellness program will reimburse individual gym memberships up to $20 per month.  The new plan will credit my bank account $20 every month.  I just have to sign into the gym I’m registered with at least 8 times in a month. 

Therefore, even if in the past your company didn’t offer the “right” gym membership reimbursement it may now.  It never hurts to ask.  5 minutes may save you $20+ every month.

Fair Well, Gym Membership

About a year ago, I decided it was the right time for me to cancel my gym membership.  I have extra cash in my pocket.  Plus, I have more time to do what I want.

Home Gym Costs

Cost of Treadmill

When I cancelled my gym membership, I made a one-time treadmill purchase of $511. I decided on two different treadmills and watched the price over the next month.  I pulled the trigger on Black Friday when the price dropped to its lowest point. 

Bonus Tip:  You can use to see the history of prices on Amazon.

I bought the NordicTrack T Series Treadmill and have been very happy with it.  It’s quiet and can easily be collapsed when not in use.


The Cost of Treadmill Compared to the Cost of Gym Membership

Buying a treadmill was a significant investment, so the cost savings of working out from home was a bit delayed. 

If I hadn’t cancelled my gym membership, I would have spent $520 in fees over 8 months.  The treadmill cost $511, so it took 8 months before I started saving $65 a month. 

Now, I am saving $780 a year on gym memberships.  Throw in the cost of gas for traveling to and from the gym in a year and it’s easily over $800 in savings.  Not chump change!

Are The Costs of Gym Membership Right for You?

There are endless ways to work out from home without gym equipment, but the underlining question is are you motivated enough on your own to exercise without that gym membership.  It’s important to know yourself and understand what you need for success. 

While some people are self-motivated others may need a little push to follow through on their very good intentions.  Gym memberships may be well worth the fees for those who fully utilize the classes offered, especially if you know you’d never stick to a similar workout routine at home.

Now if you are the type of person who has a gym membership for the additional motivation, but you still don’t use it, then cut your losses.  Try taking a walk instead or finding ways to add physical fitness into your daily life without weights and machines.  I don’t know about you, but I can break a sweat gardening or cleaning house.


People are always saying “I wish I had more time”.  Ask yourself if the cost and additional time associated with your gym membership is adding value to your life.  Don’t forget to factor in any “hidden” costs that might be associated with your gym membership.  The answer will be different for everyone. 

For the right person, canceling your gym membership is a great idea to consider.  I have always made physical fitness a priority and am completely confident that I will continue exercising at home and not lose out on anything that the gym was providing me. 

In the past, having access to fitness classes offered at the gym was a great benefit worth the cost of membership.  However, my life has changed, and the costs of gym membership is no longer worth it. 

The extra time I have with my kids, especially now since they are young and still want to spend time with me is invaluable.  As they get older and are active in after school activities it will only get more difficult to find time for the gym.  A home gym will provide me the flexibility I’ll need for years to come. 

If you’re looking for more ways to save money, check out these tips for saving on groceries. For continued ideas on how to save more money and time subscribe here.

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