New Year's fitness resolution: Tips to decrease gym membership fees

January is the time many people join a gym for their New Year's fitness resolution, but membership prices can mean heavy lifting for your wallet.

A survey by Finder found 6.1 million people spent $397 million last year on gym memberships they didn't use. Before you sign that expensive contract here are ways to slim down your spending.  

Start by shopping around. "What’s in your area and what the different prices are and what that will give you in each location," said shopping expert Julie Ramhold with DealNews.  

Before you pay more for access to multiple locations, do you really need it? Many gyms offer free trial memberships so you can try them out first and Ramhold suggests following gyms on social media for special deals.

PREVIOUSLY ON SULLIVANS SMART SENSE: Volunteers build porch, ramp for 93-year-old's Third Ward home

"You might have to go in and say I saw your post on Twitter," she said.  

If you are a student, educator, veteran, senior, or healthcare worker, ask if they offer a discount.  

You can also negotiate. Sign-up fees can be waived and existing members can try asking for the new-member rate.

"Make it clear it’s what is holding you back from signing up for another year," Ramhold suggests.

Know the cancelation policy for the gym before you sign and consider a month-to-month membership or pay by the class.

"It can be really easy to dive in during January and think I’m going to hit the gym five times a week. Then life happens, and before you know it, March and April come around, and you’ve only gone a couple of times a month," said Ramhold.

READ MORE STORIES FROM SULLIVANS SMART SENSE

Some employers and health insurers offer gym discounts and memberships such as UnitedHealthcare, Kaiser Permanente, and SilverSneakers Medicare plans.

A couple of gyms offer monthly rates as low as $10, but just remember there may also be sign-up fees, annual fees, dues, and taxes.

For personal training, take advantage of a free session to get a workout plan or ask for a group rate. Since the pandemic, many gyms now offer virtual classes for a much lower cost.

RELATED: Free course available to land paid apprenticeships in skilled trades

If you're buying home gym equipment, Ramhold suggests checking out wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam's Club or buying used equipment through Craig's List, Facebook Marketplace, or even local gyms.

"It’s still a good idea to contact the gyms. Go ahead and call those in your area and see if they’re getting ready to retire any equipment," she said.

There are many free options to exercise, such as parks. Plus you can join free classes at Discovery Green, Midtown and Levy Parks, and the Sugar Land and Baytown town squares.

You should also consider free fitness apps and streaming workouts. Check out the free Exercise Database & Library by Ace Fitness.  

If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime or Netflix, they both offer fitness videos.