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

Well, to start, you can buy the United States all of its candy for a year (chocolate accounted for 60 percent of this $29 billion in U.S. confectionery sales in 2010.)

Here’s what you could buy with $ 29 billion instead:

  •  Buy a school lunch for about 38 million school-aged children for an entire year. Lunch costs an average of $2.08 a day. A typical school lunch includes an entree, two servings of fruits and vegetables, a grain item and milk. School lunches must provide a variety of foods and meet one-third of a child’s daily calorie needs. They must also offer a variety of milk options, including fat-free, low-fat and reduced-fat milk. Lunchtime milk drinkers take in more of the nutrients that are typically low in children’s diets, such as vitamin A and zinc, according to Fuel Up to Play 60.
  • Pay the typical salary for about 1,260,869 poverty ridden families of four in the United States (those living at an income of $23,000 a year.) Life at the poverty line is difficult: 46 million people in the U.S. live in poverty- nearly one out of six Americans and one in five children. Poverty may mean choosing between paying rent and paying utility bills or between gasoline for the car and food for the fridge.
  • Pay the total average college tuition ($14,000 a year for four years: $56,000 for a public college education) for about 517,857 students in the United States. College degrees enable people to increase their opportunities and ultimately make more money to put back into the economy. With an education comes personal agency.
  • $15 buys you 25 polio vaccines, which cost only $0.60 apiece. With the $29 billion we spend on candy in the U.S. each year, we could buy about 48.3 billion polio vaccines. Luckily, that is unnecessary. Though the disease has declined rapidly and is almost eradicated since 1985, polio is still crippling and potentially fatal, and still exists in our world. We could cure the rest of the world of polio several times over with the money the U.S. spends on money annually.

– Alycia Rock
Sources: Business INsider, End Polio, Fuel To Play 60, NCES, CDC, HHS, CCSD, Poverty USA
Photo: NY Daily News


How many of us out there spend loads of money yearly on things that we do not need, or things that are harmful to our lives? Whether it is our weekend alcohol binge drinking extravaganza, our consumption of tabloid magazines, or need for high end clothing? We as Americans can be ultra-wasteful in the things that we consume on a daily basis.

I will be the first to share that I have an addiction, an addiction to the sweet nectar of Dr. Pepper. Every day, I must go to my nearest convenient store and fill up my oversized 44 ounce cup with the perfect mixture of carbonation, artificially created ingredients, caffeine, and ice. Some days I start my day off early with a giant cold glass of awesome.

Other days I end it with another giant cold one, and many other days I have more than one. Sometimes, when I go to fill up another cup, and the mixture is not exactly the way that I like it, I will wait for the convenience store attendant to fix the problem before I leave. Being a daily partaker in this modern day manna from the gods has made me many life long addiction sharing friends, but has negatively become a contributor to my overweight frame, a constant liability to my wallet size, and has been known to alter my mood.

Now let’s say I buy one cup of soda daily, at an average of about $1.50 per cup, over one year I would spend $547.50 on soda alone! That is a heck of an amount of money spent on an addiction! Now let’s imagine if I were to divert that money toward something more worthwhile? What would be the benefits in my life of choosing to divert my money from something that is harmful, into something that is beneficial for others?

It costs UNICEF less than $1 to vaccinate a child for measles prevention. Imagine the difference that would be made to that one child if I were to forego my cup of soda and donate that $1.50 to UNICEF? Not only would I intake fewer calories, but I would be spending my money on someone in need.

According to The Economist, the global line of extreme poverty currently lies at $1.25 per day. My daily soda alone costs more than the amount on which someone living in extreme poverty lives during one day!

On what other unnecessary things do you spend your money daily? Let us follow the advice of Gandhi and be our own change. I am going to resolve to be better and divert my wasteful spending on soda consumption to donating to charitable causes. I hope you do the same.

 – Travis Whinery

Sources: UNICEF, Economist
Photo: American Lithocolor