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10 ways to save money on a gym membership

With a little planning, you can save big bucks on just about anything―even a gym membership. Here are 10 ways to get into a gym without spending a fortune.

1. Wait for the off-season

January is not the best time to join the gym. Everyone has "exercise more" near the top of their list of new year resolutions, and gyms know this. Wait until enthusiasm has died down a bit and start looking for a membership in February or spring, when demand is lower. Once the weather warms up, membership drops significantly and gyms may be more likely to negotiate.

2. Join on the last day of the month

Most gyms have monthly membership goals. As each month draws to a close, they're more likely to give you the deal you want.

3. Do you really need a pool?

Gyms with pools often cost more to join than those without, simply because pools cost more to maintain. Unless you plan to swim regularly, join a gym with a lower monthly fee.

4. Take the trial passes

Try the goods. Ask gyms in your area if they have trial passes (most do), and take full advantage of every one of them. Not only do you get a few weeks—or months—of free gym time, you get a good feel for which one is best for you.

5. Pay month-to-month

Here's the problem with paying for an entire year up front: many people who join a gym don't go regularly. Attendance drops after the initial excitement wears off, and gyms count on this. That's why they're happy to give you a discount for paying for 12 months all at once. Save money in the long run by finding a gym that will let you pay as you go.

6. Call your HR department

Companies want healthy employees who don't get sick, miss work or add cost to the insurance plan, so many will offer discounts at local gyms. Ask your human resources department if this benefit is available for you.

7. See what your health insurance covers

Your own health insurance provider may reimburse gym membership fees, too. Check your policy or call to get all the details.

8. Ask for unadvertised specials

There are a lot of "off-menu" offers out there if you know what to ask for. Some gyms give discounted memberships if you join with a friend, if you agree to only come to the gym in off-peak hours or if you're only going to be taking group classes. If you know you can only go on certain days of the week or that you only want to take yoga and Zumba, let the gym know and ask for a deal.

9. Pause your membership

When life gets busy, don't let your month-to-month payments continue to roll out the door. Give the gym a call and pause your membership. It's the simplest way to avoid wasting money at the gym.

10. Negotiate what you want

Once you've tried the gyms in your area, choose your favorite plus a backup. Negotiate for a month-to-month payment, off-menu discounts and the ability to freeze your account at any time. If your employer or your health insurance company needs any paperwork from the gym in order to reimburse a part of your fees, make sure the gym is able to comply. Most of all, enjoy your workout!