If there’s one group of people that really know how to work out a budget, it’s students. Whether it’s your bottom dollar stretched out for that “extra two weeks”, or a third side hustle to help foot this month’s bills, the student budget is truly a force to be reckoned with. And with just the right strategy, that student budget can snag you the best deals in town–including gym memberships.

While gym memberships do not always come cheap, getting one on a student budget is definitely more than possible. Here are six ways to jumpstart your fitness journey without breaking the bank.

Do Your Homework

The wise Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” And if you’re someone who’s ever struggled to stick to a budget, not having a proper groundwork is really a recipe for failure.

When you have limited resources, you have to know how to use them wisely, which is why it’s important to do your homework first rather tahn joining the first gym that catches your fancy.

First make a list of your considerations, like location, services offered, your schedule, etc. Then, armed with your list, scout for gyms that could meet your criteria, be it online or on the ground. Give yourself time to mull over your options before deciding on one.

Above all, talk to the staff. They can give you first-hand information on what their place has to offer, and you can bring up your considerations to them, particularly your budget. They can arrange for something that will work best with you, or even offer you discounts and promotions to help you make the most of a membership.

Try Before You Buy

Repeat after us: free trials are your best friend. If you’re still unsure about which gym to sign up with (or even if you’ve already made a decision), sign up for a free trial first before making longer commitments.

This would allow you to really get a feel of what you’re getting yourself into, and you can easily call things off if they don’t work out. Check if your school or work place has partnered up with local fitness centers, as these could get you a cheaper arrangement than by simply walking in on your own.

Give yourself a few sessions to really test the waters. While you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask away. List down concerns and considerations like trainer services, use of equipment, etc., and be sure to discuss it in detail with the staff, especially if this could make or break your gym experience. Remember to treat your membership like an investment, so be sure to know what you’re really getting into.

Timing Is Everything

If you really want to save, wait for sale season. For gym memberships, this usually rolls in around the New Year, or just before summer, when everyone is psyched to work on their fitness goals.

Take advantage of these deals, but don’t jump the gun unless you’re fully committed to working out at the gym. Remember, even getting a membership at 50% off is still going to cost you if you don’t wind up using it.

As an added hack, John Jay Austria of 24 Hour Fitness in Los Angeles recommends signing up at the middle or end of the month, just before a new cycle begins. This way, you can snag some extra days for free, just before your membership formally takes effect on the next cut-off.

Read The Fine Print

The fine print can be your worst enemy if you’re not careful, because you could unwittingly sign up for hidden charges that could easily be crossed off.

If you know exactly what you need, stick to it. If you know you’ll only be doing simple workouts that don’t need professional supervision, you can opt out of trainer or coaching services. If you live nearby, or have no need for shower and locker services, check with the staff if you could exclude these from your contract. Likewise, if you could bundle perks into your package instead of having to get them separately, such as hiring an in-house coach, definitely check out this avenue if it will be a cheaper option.

Don’t Think Too Long Term

Where possible, find a gym without fixed contracts. Bear in mind that your fitness goals can change, and what you were aiming for when you signed up for a lifetime membership plan might not work for you anymore after only a few months. By going for short term arrangements instead of a more permanent commitment, you don’t risk beating a dead horse when the time comes.

Consider a fixed number of sessions for every fitness goal. This way, it’s not only easier to keep track of your goals, but you can also easily adjust your gym situation as needed.

Join A Low Cost Gym

And finally, the ultimate money-saving hack is to still get your gains where they’re cheapest. Any thrifter can tell you that a brand name doesn’t really count for much in the grand scheme of things, especially if there are other places that offer the exact same thing, anyway.

Similarly, there’s no need to blow your budget on a big name gym, when other smaller ones are perfectly serviceable too. Check out local gyms, like RecXpress for our Aussie readers, who offer the same services as bigger chains, for much cheaper costs and more flexible contracts.

There’s no need to spend a tenner where a fiver will do, and there’s no need to spend hundreds when you can crush your fitness goals at just $11 a week. Even the most stringent student budget can score you the best gym memberships. Do your research first, sign up for free trials, watch out for sales and discounts, read your contract thoroughly, don’t commit too long, and, of course, join the lower-cost, more affordable gyms instead of automatically gunning for the more expensive ones.

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