How to Turn a Gym Membership Into Affordable Childcare

To pay or not to pay? That is the question – at least when it comes a gym membership. In fact, many personal finance experts scoff at the idea of purchasing fitness club memberships. Others think it’s a good idea as long as it doesn’t cost too much and you actually use it.

I pay $200 a month for a family gym membership and, despite what you may think, it’s worth every penny to me. Here’s why a gym membership may be a wise investment for you too.

Affordable Childcare

Many gyms offer child supervision while parents work out. If this is one reason that attracts you to a particular gym, just make sure you understand pre-registration policies and extra fees tacked on to use the childcare services.

Luckily, after a little bit of trial and error, I found a childcare arrangement at my current gym that makes the monthly membership fee incredibly valuable. For starters, the childcare takes place in three massive rooms loaded with toys. Competent caregivers color with my kids, let them play on a giant indoor bouncy house, and give them plenty of attention. The gym also provides diapers and wipes free of charge and the childcare providers actually helped me potty train my twins. For a working mom, this was key.

Even if you love the daycare at your gym, it’s important to make sure the numbers make sense. Let’s take a closer look.

100 Hours of Childcare for $200

I am allowed to bring my children to the gym for up to 2.5 hours at a time. I can even take them out of the childcare area and put them back in again on the same day for another 2.5 hours. So, technically, every day the gym could watch my kids for five hours. Even if I took my kids just during the week for five hours a day, this means I’d get at least 100 hours of childcare every month for my $200 membership fee.

After I drop my kids off, I can even sit in the gym’s cafe and order a smoothie. Or, I can drink the free coffee they provide and take out my laptop and work – using the free WiFi. Then, if I actually want to work out, as people tend to do at gyms, there are dozens of fitness classes. I can also relax in the hot tub or sauna.

Before you think I’m a terrible parent for bringing my kids to the gym so often, I say au contraire. I work full-time and by arranging to take my kids to the gym with me, I actually get to see them throughout the day. Not only that, but I don’t feel guilty because I know how much fun they have  jumping in the bouncy house.

Don’t Write off The Luxuries

Many people still think expensive gym memberships are frivolous purchases. However, when it comes to your personal finances, it’s important to think outside the box and put things in perspective. Yes, $200 a month may seem high. But, that money may not seem excessive if you workout regularly in a fabulous gym, take advantage of free daycare and even use the facilities to work on your computer.

Because there are always trade-offs in life, next time you’re deciding whether to sign up for a gym, try thinking beyond the typical health vs. wealth debate. Remember: There are other cost factors to consider, not to mention the mental benefits of having some time to yourself.

This is just one of the many ways I actually save money in my day-to-day life. When I combine this with my love of automatic savings, eating at home, and tracking my purchases, I’m actually well on my way to financial success – fancy gym and all.

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Cat Alford

Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for educated, aspirational moms who want to recapture their life passions, earn more, reach their goals, and take on a more active financial role in their families. Named the Best Contributor/Freelancer for Personal Finance in 2014, her writing and expertise have been featured in dozens of notable publications and in national media.