It’s that special time of year again: All the folks who made New Year’s resolutions are busily lacing up their running shoes to get fit, and it’s nearly impossible to find a free treadmill at the gym.
Despite the crowds you may face for a few months, now’s a great time for saving money on gym enrollment. You may be able to fit a nicer workout facility than you expected into your household budget because of seasonal deals.
At this time of year, you can also score some great deals on fitness gear and activities as well as healthy eating options. Take advantage!
1. Be a grocery sales guru. Stock up on healthy and diet food items in January, when grocers tend to offer rock-bottom sales. (Retailers know many folks are trying to lose post-holiday weight, so they focus their promotions accordingly.) This is a great time to snag deals on protein powder, low-fat frozen dinners, healthy snack bars, and more.
January is also National Fiber Focus Month, so you’ll find sales on items like prunes, supplements, and high-fiber cereals.
2. Join a new gym. Many fitness clubs have more price flexibility than you think, and this is their prime season for recruiting new members. The advantage to you: Gyms are motivated to offer deals.
If you’re happy with your current gym, shop around anyway and see what other competitors are offering. Your current fitness center may be willing to match another gym’s dues to retain you as a customer.
3. Try something different—with a coupon. Want to try a new activity, but not sure whether you’ll stick with it? Look for coupons for yoga, CrossFit, boot camp, and other classes on deal sites like Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com. This is a great way to test out a new activity without making a long-term commitment.
4. Hit the warehouse. Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club aren’t just places to buy gigantic cheesecakes and multi-packs of movie-theatre candy. They also offer discount prices on everything from barbells and workout gear to protein powder and fresh fruits and veggies.
Borrow a trick from health pros and repackage bulk items—like that two-pound trail mix package or five-pound bag of baby carrots—into individual, snack-size baggies. You’re more likely to grab a healthy snack and keep your portions in perspective if you prep your food in advance.
5. Work out inexpensively or for free. If you’re not quite ready for a gym or you’re time-crunched, you can access many fitness programs via your cable/satellite TV company’s on-demand offerings. You can also find great workouts with online subscriptions (Gaiamtv.com lets you access online workouts for $10 per month) or on YouTube for free (check out Lionsgate BeFiT, for example).
If you prefer the old-fashioned route, you can simply purchase or rent workout DVDs.
6. Join a weight-loss program. If you need a little support shedding extra pounds, this is the ideal time to consider a weight-loss program like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem. Many programs lower or waive certain new-member fees early in the year.
Be sure to check your health plan before signing up: Some insurance companies reimburse a portion of your fees when you join approved weight-loss or smoking cessation programs, as well as fitness centers. Our family’s plan, for instance, reimburses us up to $150 per year for fitness center dues as part of our “fitness benefit.”
(Disclosure: Teri Cettina occasionally writes freelance articles for Costco’s member magazine.)