The best investment we have made this year isn’t even a financial investment. Looking back on it, I can’t believe we didn’t invest in it sooner. For 5 years we were being cheap, and we made a mistake. This investment totally changed our lives and increased our happiness dramatically this winter. Here it is:
How Buying A Community Center Membership Totally Changed Our Lives This Winter.
We avoided paying for a gym membership for the last five years because we didn’t think we could afford it. Fitness was one of the things we tried to avoid paying for because we thought we could replicate it at home. It costs money to exercise at a gym, but it’s free at home. Free things = More money we could save.
So for the last 5 years, we’ve taken the cheap route with our physical health. We took the money we saved by not paying for a gym membership, and dumped that money into our investment accounts.
But to be completely honest, we weren’t always happy with our “free” exercise plan. Especially during the cold and dark winter months in Minnesota.
Sure, we bundled up in winter clothes occasionally to get outside to snowshoe or ski. But it was hard to get motivated to exercise in the middle of winter on a consistent basis.
As a result, winter ended up taking a toll on our physical and mental health the last 5 years. Rather than really pushing ourselves physically in the winter, we were spending the cold nights just trying to survive them. We were passing our time engaging in mindless activities like staring at the internet, watching TV, and sleeping until the next spring season would come around and we could get outside again.
Our plan to be cheap with our physical health wasn’t a total failure. It did help us increase our savings so we could bolster our financial plan. But it was causing wreckage on our physical and mental health because were spending 3 months out of the year feeling bored, lazy, chubby, and unhappy. We felt trapped inside all winter long doing next to nothing.
But this year we finally got sick of trying to survive winter. We wanted to enjoy all 12 months of our lives. So we decided to make a change.
Since neither of us were ready to move to a warmer climate (Our friends, home, and business is here), we decided to try something a little easier than moving… We decided to become members at a fitness center. We wanted to see if being active every evening, rather than sitting home bored, would improve the quality of our lives.
The decision on which fitness center to join was an easy one for us. When we bought our house 5 years ago, we had no idea that we lived only 5 minutes away from one of the best maintained community centers in the state of Minnesota. We knew this place existed, but since it cost $10 per visit, and we were being cheap, we rarely checked it out.
But this community center had it all: a water park, basketball gym, indoor walking-track, full fitness-gym, and even an adult only hot-tub area with reclining beach chairs surrounded by waterfalls and palm trees.
We looked at the membership prices, and surprisingly, I thought the prices were pretty reasonable for what we were getting. I mean, what price do you put on trying to be happier? Happiness is worth WAY more than a few hundred bucks over a year for me.
A 90-day seasonal membership was $240 for 2 adults. I instantly thought this seasonal option could be a perfect solution to help us through the dark and cold months of December through February.
A full-year membership was $590 for 2 adults. But since we’re so active in the summer, I was a little hesitant to spend $600 on something we probably won’t use much during the summer when we’re traveling and outside all the time.
So on December 1st this year, we invested in a gym membership for the first time in our lives to see if it would be worth the money. We bought the 3-month membership at first to see how much we’d like and use it. We decided we could always upgrade to a year membership if the fitness center brought us $600 worth of value in a year.
In the first few weeks, we went there every night and we were in awe each time. For the previous 5 years, we spent our evenings struggling through the dark and cold nights sitting at home. We felt lost wasting away the winter nights until spring, summer, and our happiness would return.
But everything changed for us once we got the gym membership:
We were able to establish a new winter routine. Now, after dinner, we would get to the fitness center by 6 PM and still had a few hours to enjoy in t-shirts and shorts. Did we want to go for a run on a treadmill? Lift some weights? Join a fitness class? Or put on our swimsuits and go for a swim? Or just relax in the tropical adult-only hot tub area and pretend like we were in Florida every night. It was amazing that spending a few hundred bucks allowed us to now have an activity to choose from every night rather than sitting at home and feeling lazy, fat, and bored out of our minds.
We immediately regretted being so cheap the last 5 years, that we had missed out on an easy opportunity to make our lives better. In fact, we deemed the overall life benefits so enormous, that we upgrade to the year membership for $590 total within the first month. Because ultimately if you can improve your physical and mental health for $590 a year, we consider that to be one of the best investments you could ever make.
But the investment got even better.
A week after upgrading to the year membership, I was reading through a city magazine we got in the mail, and I saw an advertisement that said certain health insurers would reimburse each member of the community center up to $20 each if they fulfilled certain health goals each month.
I called our health insurance company the next day. I learned our insurer would reimburse us $20 each per month if we visited the fitness center at least 12 times per month. I quickly did the math on that deal: I could get $40 per month x 12 months = $480 in reimbursements. Our membership was only $590 for the year!!!! So if we just went 12 times a month, an entire year would only cost us $110 out of our pocket for something that had made our winter lives radically better.
It was a no-brainer! I immediately realized we had made a mistake the last five years. We had been so cheap that we missed out on a massive health and lifestyle improvement because we had been living in a cheap mindset thinking we couldn’t afford a gym membership.
Ultimately a gym membership is only worth the amount of happiness and health it brings you. But for us, we learned that it was worth every penny and more. We use it on average about 5 times a week now. We work out about 2-4 times a week, and for the nights we don’t want to work out, we bring our swimsuits and relax in the hot tub, beach chairs, and pretend the place is our own personal spa.
In fact, weekend mornings have become my favorite time to go there and write rough drafts for this blog. The pool is closed to the public on weekend mornings for swim lessons, but they keep the hot tub area open to adults. So I bring my computer, coffee, and headphones, and usually have the place to myself to write, relax, and take a swim before it opens to the public and gets busy at noon.
The best part is that this will be the first winter in 5 years that I’m not feeling fat and lazy by the end of winter. I’m not going to have to spend the first few months of spring dusting off my knee joints and back muscles to get into shape. I already am in shape and spring hasn’t even started yet!! I don’t have to lose 5-10 pounds of fat I packed on during winter, because I’m already 5-10 pounds under where I typically am in early spring.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the fitness center will help me add 5-10 healthy years to my retirement years because I was able to keep myself in good mental and physical health throughout my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and into my 60’s and 70’s. I don’t even know if there’s a price to put on extending your healthy and happy years by half a decade or more. At the bare minimum, it’s easily worth $590 per year to me.
In the end, the fitness center has become such a major part of our lives that even if we wanted to buy a new house, we’d probably try to buy another house in this area just because our winter lifestyle is so wrapped around our fitness routines now. It has been one of the best investments and lifestyle improvements we’ve ever made.
For years we made the mistake thinking we didn’t have enough money saved to afford a fitness membership. But it’s become one of the best investment’s we’ve ever made.
Have you invested in a fitness membership? Has it been worth it to you? What’s one non-money investment you’ve made that has totally improved the quality of your life?
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