Money Diet, Week 16: Time to drop the gym membership

dropping gym membership to save moneyIt probably sounds like the last thing anyone trying to lose weight should do, but I just dropped our family membership at the YMCA.

On paper, it looks so easy. If you want to lose weight, you eat less and exercise more. But, of course, reality always intrudes, and the reality is that for the past few months, nobody in the family has been going to the Y and I've been throwing away $73 every month.

When my daughters were pretty young -- maybe 2 and 4 -- I joined a YMCA about a 30-minute drive from our house. We went regularly for about a year, until gas prices started approaching $4 a gallon and my financial shape was in such dire straits (no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my WalletPop posts) that I very reluctantly pulled our membership.

Then a year or so later, in January 2009, we decided to join again. I certainly wasn't flush with cash -- the Great Recession was really getting in gear, and the magazines I wrote for were dropping like flies -- but I felt it was important that my daughters get swimming lessons, so we became regular members again and had a great run.

Now it's April 2010 and my daughters, who are now 6 and 8, have lost all interest in swimming and gymnastics lessons, and my wife and I agreed that they could stop. Meanwhile, despite starting what I call "The Money Diet" (a plan where, since Jan. 1, 2010, I've been tallying up every dollar I save when I don't buy snacks and junk food) and getting to the Y a few times to use the weight room, I soon found myself not making the effort to go.

I'm not one to exercise in the morning -- I'm lucky enough to be able to stagger to my desk and write -- and I can never justify leaving my home office in the middle of a work day. That leaves the evenings, which is valuable real estate if you're a parent. Every time I'd go to the gym on a school night, I'd find that I didn't see my daughters between dinner and their bedtime. That left weekends, of course, and here my excuses become more lame, since I could technically find the time to get to the gym but rarely managed to.

So I stopped our YMCA membership. It's just been killing me that we're just throwing good money away. In the meantime, I've been taking every chance I get to go outside with my daughters -- while they're still at an age where they want me to spend time with them -- and run around and play with them. I don't get quite the same workout as I would on a treadmill, but it's not so bad, either.

Now let's cut to the chase and take a look at my usual list of what I think I've saved in the past week by not buying snacks and junk food.

  • Buying pretzels. As usual, I've stayed away from buying two bags of pretzels (a favorite brand of mine allows you to buy one bag and get a second bag for free), which means I've saved $3.29.
  • Buying fast food on the road. Since this year began, I've been writing a corporate history for a company in Ohio and I periodically drive to the company's headquarters in central Ohio to interview retired and new executives. In the past week, I've made this two-hour drive a few times. In the past, I would have stopped at a fast food restaurant at the beginning of each one-way trip to buy a soda and chicken nuggets or something relatively easy to munch on while driving. But I didn't, and since we're talking four occasions, I'd say I've saved $5 a trip, for a grand total savings of $20.
  • Buying a candy bar. I was at a drug store recently, and the cashier asked if I'd like a candy bar that the store was hawking. I thought, "Yes, I would," but I said, "No, thanks." Estimated savings, since I can't remember exactly how much it was: 75 cents.

Those seem to be this week's highlights.

My total saved this week: $24.04
Total saved this year so far: $356.33

Despite my best efforts at avoiding junk food and snacks, I really could have done better. Confession time: Last weekend, I took my daughters out for ice cream and I folded like a lawn chair at the last minute, buying one scoop of vanilla for myself. (In my defense, we were at Graeter's, a legendary ice cream parlor in Cincinnati. It's very hard to walk into one of these places and leave without succumbing.) And when I ran out of my stash of diet soda, I drank a few full-sugar Cokes (over the course of a few days) that my wife had reserved for herself in the refrigerator. So that may explain why I didn't lose any weight this week.

My current weight situation stands at:

My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 243
My weight this week: 243

My plan this weekend is to try harder to avoid snacks and junk food and work on exercising more, which I know is vital to really losing weight. That's one reason, when my brother recently suggested we go on a long day hike a few weekends from now, I swiftly told him I'd be happy to go. I know that exercise is extremely important if I'm going to keep losing weight and then maintain that loss. Maybe I should start walking my neighborhood every day for 20 or 30 minutes. How hard could that be? Whatever I do, I'm going to keep trying to exercise regularly. I just won't be exercising on a treadmill at the Y.

Geoff Williams is a regular contributor at WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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