- Ask The Readers: Evaluating a Gym MembershipPosted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 in Health – Views: (1638)A few years back, I had a gym membership. I always wanted a place where I can go and lift some weights do a little treadmiling… you know the stuff that I don’t nearly write often enough over at Lazy Man and Health. When my wife and I moved into my current apartment complex I noticed that they had a free gym. It’s not great, but it has 3 cardio machines and a couple of weight stations.
- Matt Furey: 101 Ways To Magnetize MoneyPosted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 in Book Review – Views: (1120)Publishers send me books all the time. When I decide to read a book, I earn my Lazy Man moniker by choosing the thinnest book in my pile. Today that book is Matt Furey’s 101 Ways To Magnetize Money a book that you may be able to through in about 60-90 minutes.The first few tips are about putting your mind in the right frame of mind – the power of positive thinking. I think you take it a little too far by leaving reminders like index cards around the house as suggested, but who am I to say.
- Save Money and the Enviroment at the Same Time?Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 in Health – Views: (875)As I write this, it’s Friday night and since I tend not to have a life, I just finished watching Nightline. One of the more interesting segments was about how a group of moms limit their waste to one canof garbage a year. Specifically they had the moms from Enviromom on the show. They admitted that one can of garbage a year is a little aggressive for a beginner, but that one can a month is possible.
- Five Thoughts To My Future Children…Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2008 in Deep Thoughts – Views: (796)I got the latest edition of Money Magazine yesterday, and Pat Regnier in his The Bottom Line column used the letter to his children as a literary device. It’s not unique (I’ve even written a letter to my high school self in the past), but nonetheless, I thought the idea was worth stealing flattering Mr. Regnier with my own letter to my own children. [Note: I probably wouldn’t use bullets and bolding in a real letter to my children, but I think you’ll find it easier to read.
- Our Early Retirement Plan: Introduction (Part 0)Posted on Monday, November 3rd, 2008 in Retirement – Views: (785)I thought I’d switch things up this week and write about our retirement plan for the future. It’s going to be detailed, so I’ll have an article one day each week. I need to get a few things out of the way:Retirement planning at age 32 is a shot in the dark – Unless you really have tons of money it’s hard to plot a course for where you might be in 10 years. You think you have a plan and something could speed up the target date or slow it down right in a hurry.
- Oils Well That Ends WellPosted on Friday, November 21st, 2008 in Investing – Views: (782)I’ve been really surprised that the Dow Jones industrial average continues to drop. The last time it dropped to 8,200 I thought it would be the last chance at those prices. As I write this, the mark is at 7,500 and some indications seem to say that it could go even lower. Despite that, we’ve been buying some index funds with our Zecco account. Specifically we’ve been picking up Vanguard Total Index (VTI) and Vanguard All-World Ex-US (VEU).
A few years back, I had a gym membership. I always wanted a place where I can go and lift some weights do a little treadmiling… you know the stuff that I don’t nearly write often enough over at Lazy Man and Health. When my wife and I moved into my current apartment complex I noticed that they had a free gym. It’s not great, but it has 3 cardio machines and a couple of weight stations.
I always considered that gym I currently have a great value until this past weekend when my wife coerced me to go to her gym. She wanted me to try her Body Pump class (read my Body Pump review). It was probably the best workout I’ve had in months. (My body isn’t shy about reminding me of that with every move I make).
The experience got me thinking, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of paying for a gym over the free one I have?” I made up these two lists. Maybe you can tell me if I missed something.
Pros of a Gym Membership
- Forced Workouts – If I’m paying for a gym, I’m going to want to get my money’s worth
- Superior Equipment – I like elliptical trainers (low impact), but that’s not an option at my free gym. Everything is upgraded.
- Free of Distractions – When go to my close gym, I sometimes have a idea that I get too excited about. Sure I can bring a pen and paper and write it down, but the excitement of the idea is often greater than the excitement of the workout. If I’m at the paid membership, I’m far enough away to not to be tempted to come back.
- Classes – I really think the Body Pump class could put me in good shape. As my wife says, it’s a lot like a personal trainer. Once you are there, you are going to do the workout.
- Motivation – There are always a few people in tremendous shape at the gym. That reminder to see what I’m working towards is a bonus.
Cons of a Gym Membership
- Cost – I don’t need to explain this one…
- Potential Commitment – I don’t know if the gym is going to work out for me, but memberships often make you commit for a long term before you’ve had a month or two see if you are going to stick to it.
- Inconvenience – This is the tang to the “free of distractions” above… I can get to my gym in about 3 minutes. I could do so circuit training and get a decent exercise in around 20 minutes. I would mention that going to the gym in the winter would be a hassle, but with mild winters in Northern California, it really isn’t that bad. It’s not like it was in Boston where there are days you just don’t leave the house if you don’t have to.
In the end, I think this is going to be a tough personal choice to make. It’s hard to say what the right move is – it depends on pricing. If the gym is $100/mo., I don’t think it’s going to be worth it to me. If it’s $10/mo., it’s a no-brainer. My wife pays $29/mo., but I’m not sure they’d extend the same rate to me as she’s been there for two years. On the other hand, perhaps I benefit from a family plan and get a good deal. I’ll have to look in to details and see if the devil is in there.
I read a post that made me think quite a bit this week. Madison from My Dollar Plan has a list of 15 tips for saving money while you still have a job. I looked down the list and saw things like 401k Matches, Tuition Reimbursements, Insurance – a pile of perks that people get with their jobs. Since I’ve been without a typical full-time job for a year now, I thought I’d go through the list and really see what I have given up.
- 401k Match – I didn’t get matched funds in either of my two jobs dating back to 2004. So I didn’t lose this when I left.
- Flexible Spending Accounts – None of my companies have offered this benefit as well.
- Tuition Reimbursement – Two previous companies offered this. For the first one, I applied for a class on client-server technologies (I was a computer programmer). I was told that this wasn’t relevant enough to my job. I followed up by asking what class teaches FoxPro for DOS in 1999 (answer: none). At the next company the hours prohibited me from taking the class and I had to get a B+ to qualify for reimbursement. That was too much pressure for me. I didn’t want my job performance to suffer because I had to stay up doing homework to qualify for reimbursement.
- Wellness Programs – My last two companies didn’t offer these either. Previous companies offered a gym membership which was really nice. However, I use the gym in my own apartment complex than I ever used my gym membership back then.
- Frequent Flier Miles – Much of the time, travel isn’t big for a software engineer. I didn’t give up much of this benefit.
- Health Insurance – This is the biggie for most people. I have been using my wife’s policy so this was no loss.
- Employee Discounts – I didn’t get these with my most recent jobs, but when I worked for Papa Gino’s (a New England pizza chain), the discounts of 50% off your food were great. It wasn’t unusual for the manager to send you home with a pizza for the family if you worked a solid shift.
- Investment Services – I’m in the minority here, but I found that much of the time, I could prepare myself as well as the people who were brought in to talk about 401Ks. Though I will miss grilling them whenever they say something slightly misleading.
- Industry Subscriptions – I used to love getting PC Magazine and eWeek back in the day. I have found those publications of less interest. I would rather have Business 2.0 if it was still around.
- Company Car – That would be sweet, but I never had a reason for one.
- Free Events – Companies I’ve been with have had one or two yearly bonding days. These were great and acted as mini-vacations.
- Free Meals – My last company was big on this. I never had to pay for lunch or dinner. I miss it greatly. However, since I’ve been on my own, I’ve been eating healthier and still fairly cheaply.
- Employee Assistance Programs – I’ve never used one of these before and I haven’t had a need of one since. For some, they provide value, but not me.
- Friends – This is another big one. I didn’t go out for beers on the weekends with any of my co-workers, but I felt like I got along with them well.
As I look through this list, I probably gave up less than most people. The biggest thing I can think of is about $60,000 a year in income. Wait, that’s pretty big. Let’s see what I’ve gained…
- Freedom/Time – I’ve had the freedom to do a lot of the things that I’ve always wanted to do. I have time to fit in other things.
- Health – With that free time, I’ve found more time for the gym. I’ve had more time study healthy habits. I’ve had more time to go grocery shopping and cook dinner. In short, I feel healthier than I have in some time.
- Fun – The extra time has allowed me to catch up with some of the household chores: laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. This means that my wife and I aren’t always catching up on the weekends. Instead we look to go to fun things like garlic festivals.
- Extended Vacations – Before I took this time off, I’ve never had an employer act positively to the conversation of “I want to take a month off.” Now I don’t have to ask, the question becomes one of “Can we afford to go to Phuket?”
- Save Money – I mentioned saving money by cooking and shopping, but I also save money by not driving to work. My transportation costs have gone way down.
- Tax Breaks – I never would claim the home office deduction when I had a full-time job. Even though I use it for my alternative income, it was too much of a risk of audit. Now that I work out of home full-time, I’m sure the IRS looks at my home office as a more legit expense. There are other tax savings as well when you run a business.
My hope is that within the next two years, my income will be up to where it was before I left. At that point, I’ll have the best of both worlds, time and money. It’s a long road and it won’t be easy. As a friend said the other day, I’m still far away from where I need to be.