Cutting your gym membership? Consider your community center instead

It seems like such an obvious suggestion, it's a wonder why more people aren't doing it: Cut your expensive gym membership and use your local community center instead.

A friend of mine became a member of his local, non-profit center for $220 a year for both him and his wife, or about 30¢ day per person. That fee gives him access to an Olympic-size pool (with a twisty water slide for his kid), a fitness center, two gymnasiums and an indoor running track, a sauna, access to a slate of discount tickets to nearby ski slopes and amusement parks, and even a computer center. And if he has to bring his toddler with him, babysitting costs $3 an hour.

By comparison, the nearby Bally Total Fitness, a typical chain, charges about $30 a month for the most stripped-down membership available, with no classes or other treats (that is, if you can corner the cagey staff into giving you a straight answer about rates -- I couldn't). The extra money pays for perks such as TVs and towels that smell like they've been cooked in a toaster oven instead of a tumble dried.