No more pricey prepaid gym memberships for me

My yoga studio at Ocean Financial Centre (OFC) recently shut its doors. After beginning operations in 2011, the 21,000 square feet studio took its last bow this March 2016.

I was one of the luckier ones. I paid for two years worth of unlimited classes and my membership expired just as the gym closed its outlet.

Other friends were not so lucky. They either had to move their practice to one of True Yoga’s other outlets (which may be more inconvenient or lack the full facilities of the previous location) or simply work out less.

My last class at True Yoga
My last class at True Yoga

Before True Yoga closed its studio at OFC, we had already heard from people in the know that the landlord was not going to renew its lease. But when we brought it up with the salespeople, they would deny it and even continued selling packages to visitors and renewing memberships. Either the management kept it secret from the sales team or they were truly unscrupulous. 

In this case, the gym had not closed down, which would have been truly disastrous especially if you had already a few thousand dollars upfront for your membership. But it was bad enough that the terms and conditions had changed drastically such that you would not have signed up for the package in the first place.

This brings me to my point. I would never sign up for another one of these prepaid packages again. Yes, I will pay upfront for 20 classes if that gives me a better deal. But I will not shell out a few thousand dollars to be at the gym’s mercy for the next few years.

There are other horror stories. Yoga studio Sadhana Sanctuary made use of aggressive sales tactics to sell unlimited two-year packages for thousands of dollars. Last year, the studio closed without warning, with just a sign on the front door stating that it was undergoing renovation. It turned out to be a lie. The owner had simply abandoned the business and purportedly fled the country. My friend Peimun had a small package there and was just resigned to the fact that it was money lost for good.

We need to protect ourselves as consumers. Apart from the financial stress, we also want to minimise our mental stress. Many of us already work hard enough and want to unwind at the gym. The last thing we need is to worry.

1. Only give the gym money that you are willing to lose

This is the amount of money you would be willing to part with assuming that your gym shuts down the very next day. We must always be aware of the risks that it is costly to run businesses here with the high rent and labour costs. And not everyone has the business acumen to manage their cash flow or have deep enough pockets to tide through bad times.

Do not hand over $2000 and think it’s a very good deal because it only works out to $50 per month over the next three years. It might turn out to be $2000 for one month if the gym only lasts for that amount of time.

2. Sign up with gyms that allow a pay-as-you-go system

Virgin Active Singapore has a different pay structure. There is a one-time activation fee of about $200 and then subsequently a weekly fee of about $50. You can stop your membership at any time. While this is definitely costlier than the traditional gym membership model, it is less risky. It is also more like a mega gym if you like to workout in big spaces.

Another new economy model that I like is the fitness-sharing platform used by KFit and its now defunct rival Passport Asia. KFit charges $99 a month for 10 classes across various partner studios in Asia. You can stop paying any time you want. I used to be a member with Passport Asia until they too, died a sudden death. I was peeved at their poor communication but I moved on very quickly. After all, I didn’t lose any money from their departure.

3. Buy class cards

There are many studios that allow you to buy class cards at a reasonable volume. Yoga Movement, for instance, sells a 10-class pack at $190 and a 20-class pack at $350. Ritual Gym, which specialises in 30-minute high-intensity workouts, sells 10-class packages as well. One huge selling point for Ritual Gym is that they provide clothes and towels, which many smaller boutique studios don’t, so you can nip in and out during lunch.

A good way to save money is to join classes at community centres. I have taken ballet classes (I paid something like $150 for 10 classes) and baking courses from onePA. I think that the community centres are a treasure trove of activities.

The website is clunky and not easy to navigate but classes are cheap
The website is clunky and not easy to navigate but classes are cheap

Right now, I am using KFit for my exercise classes. In addition, I also take structured ballet classes that I pay for on a rolling 8-class basis. Overall, I pay more per month as compared to when I was at True Yoga but what I gain is peace of mind. Its importance cannot be overstated.