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This is a Good Time to Save Money on Gym Memberships

As always, the No. 1 New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to lose weight, according to the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology. Spending less and saving more also rank among the top five resolutions. The good news is that many people can do both by getting a gym membership for less.

Gyms know many people want to trim down and tone up, says Trae Bodge, senior editor for deal and coupon site RetailMeNot.

“In response, they’re offering a lot of great deals,” Bodge says.

In addition to limited-time offers, there are several other ways you can save money on gym memberships:

• Take advantage of free trials. You can get a free day pass at many gyms any time of the year, Bodge says. However, several national fitness chains offer lengthier free trials to capitalize on weight-loss resolutions. For example, 24 Hour Fitness has a free three-day pass, Gold’s Gym and Anytime Fitness are offering free seven-day trials, and Snap Fitness will send you a free 30-day pass if you sign up online (and pay $8.95 for shipping and handling).

Bodge says you should take advantage of free passes at several gyms to find the one that suits you best so you don’t waste money signing a contract with a facility you don’t try out first.

• Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you take advantage of free trials at several gyms but find that your favorite isn’t offering the best membership deal, let the manager know what other gyms you’ve visited are offering. Bodge says gyms want your business, so they may be willing to match a competitor’s price.

• Let your employer or insurance company foot the bill. Several companies offer employees a reimbursement for gym memberships or have on-site gyms that employees can take advantage of for free, Bodge says. Check with your human resources department to see if your employer offers this perk – and don’t pass it up. Otherwise, check with your health insurance company to see if it offers fitness or weight-loss reimbursement.

Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield are among the insurers with fitness reimbursement programs. And some insurers, such as Kaiser Permanente, offer discounts for memberships at participating fitness clubs.

• Opt for a month-to-month membership. If you’re just starting a fitness routine, Bodge says you’re better off paying month-to-month rather than locking yourself into a long contract for two reasons. At many gyms, it will cost you less to pay on a monthly rather than annual basis, and if you don’t stick to your fitness routine, you won’t throw away money on a membership you’re not using.

• Look for coupons. Occasionally, fitness club chains offer coupons. For example, RetailMeNot has a coupon code for 50 percent off the membership fee and the first month free at Curves. And if you want to exercise at home, early in the year is the best time to find discounts on fitness equipment and DVDs, Bodge says.

• Join with a friend. Smaller, locally-operated gyms often offer two-for-one membership deals but don’t actively promote them, Bodge says. Ask whether you can get a discount if you join with a friend.

• Exercise at off-peak hours. Some small gyms and 24-hour fitness clubs offer discounted rates if you exercise at off-peak hours, such as late at night. However, like two-for-one deals, this discount often isn’t advertised but is worth asking about, Bodge says.

• Check into a la carte pricing. If a gym offers several services, facilities and types of training equipment but you only plan to, say, run on a treadmill, ask whether you can pay for just that.

• Ask about perks. If you sign up for the lowest membership level but commit for a year, Bodge recommends asking the gym to throw in a free perk, such as access to a personal trainer or massages.

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