Unused Health Club Memberships
Something happens to our collective resolve when the clock strikes midnight, marking the transition into a New Year. The temperamental season of New Year’s resolutions commences and the majority of Americans will endeavor to become slimmer, trimmer versions of last year’s selves.

January 1st is the Black Friday of the fitness world: newly inspired students flock to fitness gurus and snap up gym memberships in droves. Snap Fitness, a global chain of increasingly popular 24-hour fitness centers, signed on 100,000 new members in January 2012 alone. That month’s enrollment represented 15 percent of the total new memberships added for the year.

One month of gym access at Snap Fitness runs $35, a significant discount from the national monthly average rate of $55. Despite the cost, 50.2 million Americans (16 percent of the population) shell out the funds for health club memberships.  Recently, boutique gyms have found and maintained an audience: barre classes, cross-fit training and specialty cycling sessions are now attracting followers with single class prices as high as $25.

Many well-intentioned workout fiends ultimately fall off the bandwagon: estimates suggest that only 47 percent of members meet “core” criteria by visiting at least 100 times a year (roughly twice a week.) Unmotivated exercisers translate into unused and underused memberships, and lots of them. Two-thirds of all memberships purchased in the United States will go untouched, representing an average waste of $39 per month and $480 per year per member.

As a nation, a whopping $12 billion annually is lost to unfulfilled gym time.

It is no small wonder that Bankrate included unused health club memberships on its list of “Top 10 Money Drains.” The entire diet and exercise industry is largely a black hole, and unused memberships represent only a fraction of the $60 billion spent annually on weight-loss programs and gimmicks. Ironically, the most expensive methods are typically the least effective because they eschew healthy habits for quick fixes. In fact, a U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that Americans can eat within the 2,000 calorie a day guideline and consume their entire RDA of fruits and vegetables for between $2.00 and $2.50 a day.

Despite the bounty of evidence suggesting that health clubs may ultimately prove a waste of money, over 30 percent of Americans plant to amp up their consumption of the hot commodity next year. Were the fit wannabes to invest in a more organic form of exercise and forward their cash to UNICEF, the organization could run the gamut of its programs and administrative duties well into 2015.

That possibility could bring a whole new meaning to the term “SoulCycle.”

Casey Ernstes

Sources: Bankrate, International Health and Sports Association, Marketplace Business, Research America, The Oregonian, UNICEF,, US News and World Report

The restaurant business in America has been growing rapidly in the last couple decades.  Total restaurant sales exceed $660 billion. Among all the cuisines, steak dinner is the most popular. However, steak dinner is getting more and more expensive.

There are a wide variety of steak dinners depending on the restaurant and the type of steak. A steak can cost as low as $14 in a regular restaurant such as IHOP, Denny’s or a local restaurant. A steak dinner in an upscale restaurant can cost up to hundreds of dollars. “At the Michael Jordan Steak house in New York, for example, a dinner of shrimp cocktail [$16.50], New York Strip [$38.50], hash browns [$7.50], and creamed spinach [$8.50], plus dessert, wine, tax and tip easily tops $100 per person.” Overall, a cheap steak dinner will cost $28 dollar, and a traditional steak dinner can cost up to a couple hundred dollars.

In the world, 660 million people live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million live on less than $1 a day. Feeding a family in a third world country only costs $8.50. With an average steak dinner, a family will have enough food for almost 3 months. Steak dinners are delicious and fulfilling, but why not save them as treat for a special occasion? With so many people in the world in need, diverting funds  to nonprofits is an easy way to help millions.

Phong Pham

Sources: The AWL, Slate, Restaurant, Global Issues
Photo: The Sun