Back in 2013 when Max OOP stumbled across a few personal finance blogs talking about financial independence and retiring early (FIRE), it struck a chord. I finally found my people. It took turning to the internet to find others out there actually interested in this stuff. I was already well on the path of spending less, saving more, and investing the difference. But now I knew others were doing it too.
That’s not to say there wasn’t room for optimization in the Max OOP household. To my surprise, there were several new and unique ideas out there I hadn’t thought about yet. Come to find out, some people were actually beating me in this FIRE thing. Max OOP is pretty competitive, so this just was not going to fly.
The Original Death Of My Gym Membership
Like many others, picking off low hanging fruit in the expense category was a natural place to look for a competitive advantage in the race to financial independence. It’s the little things, right? Looking back, I probably focused a bit too much on the ‘expense’ bucket and not enough in the ‘growing income’ and ‘healthy living’ buckets. One of the first things that got clipped was my underutilized gym membership. I used the gym in spurts, but a regular routine just wasn’t there. I felt instead of actually using the gym more and refocusing on my health, I would just cut the expense that had been recurring monthly since around 2009.
I was paying about $40/month back then for a gym membership that was directly subsidized through the health system I was employed with at the time. I think normal community members were playing closer to $60/month for the same membership. The hospital owned the gym, and it was right on campus. It was a pretty nice setup and I wish I took more advantage of it. The decision to end the membership saved me about $2,400 over the next 5 years. It was fully invested into the total stock market index, so it is worth a lot more than $2,400 today. I continued outdoor running as my primary form of exercise.
$40 month X 12 Months = $480/Year
$480 X 5 Years (2013-2018) = $2,400 back in my pocket
A Gym Membership Reborn
Flash forward a few years. I was able to increase my base salary by over 40% by simply putting myself on the market and moving to another state. The rural town we landed in surprisingly has an even lower cost of living than the town we lived in down south. It has been a great setup for the Max Out of Pocket crew. These two changes alone make my $2,400 in gym membership savings looks like peanuts.
Back in November 2018 I was feeling a need to change something. I was back to grinding out the long hours in my corporate cube preparing for yet another electronic medical record implementation (EPIC). I haven’t touched on it much yet here, but EMR implementations can literally break people. Long hours are required to make them work, and the whole thing draws an inordinate amount of resources and stress. After several months of prepping for the implementation (or ‘go live’ as we call it), it was starting to feel like every day was the same. The ‘new job buzz’ was wearing off, and I was quickly turning back into the ‘burn out scene’ I was in with my previous job. My physical health and mental health were likely feeling the effects of continuous stress.
So I joined the gym.
It was a dollar cheaper here in New England; coming in at $39 per month if I paid three months upfront. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you might miss out on deals like this. As it turns out, I was able to use my healthy benefits to foot some of the bill.
$39 X 12 month = $468 year – $100 (healthy benefits) = $368 annually
Hell, nowadays Max OOP could easily pay for two annual memberships with the $1,000 in annual passive income my Healthcare REIT experiment is spitting off. At this point, a $368 annual expense just isn’t material, especially if it is supporting the ‘healthy living bucket’.
I won’t get too much into the details here, but I also completely changed my exercise routine. I moved away from long cardio runs to mostly pumping iron. I felt results almost immediately. My routine is still in development and there is always room for improvement, but I probably haven’t been in this good of shape in over 10 years. My mental health is hitting on all cylinders as well.
My Gym Is Closing
Well, I got an email last week that my gym is closing. Evidently it has been in operation for 45 years so it was a surprise to many in the community. The gym is tied to one of the local ski resorts, so my guess is they have plans to develop the building into a condo or something more profitable in their niche.
We live in a rural New England town, so it isn’t like there are six other gyms around the corner just waiting for Max OOP to show up and start pumping iron. Thankfully, my gym is giving its members until the end of August to come up with a plan. They also mentioned in the email that they are speculating some new fitness options may come up as they reach out to the community for a transition plan. In fact, when I was lifting yesterday one of the guys at the gym suggested a possible co-op might be in play.
Either way, Max OOP has some planning to do in the next few months to make sure my healthy fitness routine isn’t impacted by this unexpected closure.
Here at Max Out of Pocket, we believe leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to reducing your long term out of pocket healthcare costs. Living a sedentary, cubical lifestyle and counting down the days until your early retirement just doesn’t fit that bill.
Optimizing expenses doesn’t always mean cutting expenses. It might just mean fully utilizing the service that expense is providing, especially if it is supporting the ‘healthy living bucket’. That said, Max OOP isn’t going to admit that I regret the decision to term the gym membership back in 2013; I’m too calculated for that. I learned a lot from resetting our expense base. And, after all, I do have an extra $2,400+ in my pocket and it isn’t like I stopped exercising all together.
Max Out of Pocket for current gym membership = $368 annually
Has a gym membership hit your expense chopping block? Do you ever wonder how it might impact downstream healthcare costs?