The best gyms for your wallet

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The best gyms for your wallet

Whether you want to lose a few pounds or become more active, gyms offer something for everyone. Most offer classes, personal training and wellness consulting, among other amenities.

While gyms aren’t free, there are plenty that won’t break the bank (and some that will). Before hitting the sign-up button, it’s best to know which gyms are right for your wallet.

Here’s a look at five of the most popular gym chains.

Prices vary by plan and location. To provide an apples-to-apples comparison (no pun intended), we highlighted prices at New York City locations.

24 Hour Fitness

Best for: Those who want availability
Where: 420 locations in 13 states
Cost: $79.99 a month with yearlong commitment, $84.99 a month without commitment

As the name suggests, most 24 Hour Fitness locations are open 24 hours, except for select holidays. So if you’re an early riser or a night owl, this may be the gym for you.

The chain has four types of locations, with varying amounts of amenities: Active, Sport, Super Sport and Ultra Sport. Additional features include steam rooms, Wi-Fi and basketball courts.

Some 24 Hour Fitness locations also offer group training, with each session led by a personal trainer. Members can access the free 24GO workout app, which creates custom home and gym workouts.

Crunch Fitness

Best for: Those who love classes
Where: 337 locations
Cost: $110 a month for access to one location, $135 a month for access to all locations

Love to change up your workout? Crunch offers dozens of classes for any fitness level. Members can sign up for traditional classes like Pilates and Zumba, or try their hand at niche classes like aerial yoga.

Signature Crunch Fitness locations have more amenities or are located in convenient locations. Club amenities include a sauna, Rituals brand cosmetics, and locker rooms.

Equinox

Best for: Those who want amenities
Where: 135 locations globally
Cost: $185 to $220 a month for access to one location, $260 for access to all U.S. locations

Equinox is pricey. But for some, the amenities are worth it. Eucalyptus towels. Kiehl’s hair and body products. Classes taught by celebrity instructors. Spa treatments.

If you’re a regular gym goer looking for an upgrade, Equinox may be your best bet. The equipment is typically nicer and the space is better-maintained than other chains.

Equinox will typically charge new members an initiation fee of up to $500 to join — extremely steep if you’re not willing to commit. If you’re new to the fitness world and aren’t sure if a gym membership is right for you, it’s best to try a less expensive option first.

Planet Fitness

Best for: Those new to fitness
Where: More than 1,800 locations across North America
Cost: $10 a month for No Commitment plan, $22.99 a month for Black plan with access to all locations

Planet Fitness bills itself as a “judgement-free zone,” making it the perfect place to try your hand at working out without worry. The chain offers up two affordable membership plans: No Commitment and Black.

No Commitment, as the name suggests, allows members to cancel their membership with no fees, though they only get access to one location.

Planet Fitness’ Black Plan offers unexpected perks for its low cost — unlimited access to massage chairs and tanning beds, and you can bring one guest per day for free. But the inexpensive monthly fees often translate to lower-quality equipment and few class options.

New York/Boston/Philadelphia/Washington Sports Clubs

Best for: Those who want options
Where: 150 locations in four cities
Cost: $54.99 to $74.99 for monthly single location, $89.99 to $119.99 for access to all sports clubs.

Sports Clubs are concentrated in only four major cities: New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. But for members who want the convenience of locations all over the city, Sports Clubs are for you. For example, in Manhattan alone there are more than 37 locations.

"Elite" locations have amenities like steam rooms, overnight lockers and cryotherapy. There are also classes available for any type of fitness enthusiast, from cycling to cardio kickboxing to yoga.

How to manage a gym subscription

Regular exercise is great for your physical and mental health. But gym membership costs can add up.

Keep an eye out for promotional deals. Some gyms waive the annual fee or offer one month free for signing up.

Use an app or spreadsheet to track your recurring expenses, including your gym. Identifying how many other subscriptions you’re signed up for will determine if you can afford a membership.

Gyms are great because they provide access to equipment and classes. But only if you use them. An important part of managing your gym membership is tracking how much you go to the gym over the course of a month. If you’re only going once a week, a $200 monthly price tag may be too steep.

If your gym becomes too expensive, consider switching to a cheaper option or canceling it altogether. But make sure you read the fine print: Some gyms charge a hefty fee for breaking the contract. (Learn how to avoid these types of traps.)

There are also plenty of free ways to exercise, from running to playing tennis to practicing yoga. On top of physical benefits, staying active may also lower your insurance premiums — learn more here.

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Image: Nastia Kobzarenko