Anyone who read my previous Costco post knows I love the company. But in what I promise wasn’t an intentionally malicious act, I forgot to mention some very significant ways the store can save you a ton of money. Recently I was reminded of two of them in particular. So this post is more an addendum than a standalone but I felt it was important to correct my oversight.
Do you ever have occasions to give out gift cards? Or do you just like going to a nice restaurant every now and again? Then you may want to take a trip to Costco. Somewhere in the store (sometimes near the checkout area, other times near the frozen food aisles, and still other times in some other totally random place), you will find a display with a bunch of gift cards. These won’t be that same assortment you find in nearly every store on earth. This is Costco, so most of them will be for more upscale restaurants and other services. But upscale is only half of what Costco is known for – with the other half being almost impossibly low prices. And these gift cards are no exception. Most of them are for $100 but will only cost you somewhere between $70 and $80. Many of them also come packaged in the form of two $50 cards in case you want to split them into two smaller gifts. And of course you can also use them for yourself if you want a serious discount on a nice meal or two.
But one gift card in that section has saved me more than any other – the 24 Hour Fitness one. Since I sold all my gym equipment before I moved across the country and since even the nicest luxury apartment gyms never seem to include a proper squat rack (usually just a smith machine), I needed a gym membership when I came here. Planet Fitness is the cheapest but given the company’s notorious “serious fitness people need not apply” attitude, I don’t consider that a valid option. 24 Hour Fitness seems to be the best one in the area for me. It offers all the necessary equipment at a reasonable price and has many locations, many of which have extras like swimming pools, saunas, basketball gyms, yoga studios, etc. But why pay full price if you don’t have to? A basic level 24 Hour Fitness membership is going to run $35-40 a month – fairly typical in the world of gym memberships but a tough pill to swallow for a previous owner of a commercial quality basement gym that cost only an initial investment of about $3k.
But Costco to the rescue! If you don’t need to go to a Super Sport/Ultra Sport location, and most people don’t since there are plenty of Sport and Active ones (but check your area out first before you buy), you can get a two year membership gift card from Costco for $430. That works out to $18 per month – a savings of about 50%! If you do need the Super Sport/Ultra Sport membership, Costco offers that as well at a similar savings. And as the late, great Billy Mays said, “But I’m not done yet!” If you’re a pro level Costco shopper like me, you know that just about everything is significantly discounted at some point. When I got here, I only had to wait a month or two before the membership was on sale for $370 – or from $18 a month to just over $15! This is a great example of how I live an upper middle class lifestyle while paying for a lower middle class one. I go to the exact same gym other people do but I pay less than half as much. And this stuff is available to anyone who wants it and requires virtually no hassle or sacrifice most of the time.
But there was still one loose end that had been lurking at the recesses of my psyche for some time. What happens when the two years is up and (gasp!) I have to start paying more than double for my gym membership? 24 Hour Fitness is still likely the best deal in the area even at the regular price. But still, paying full price? How could I tolerate such a travesty? Thankfully, after a little recent googling, I’m confident that I won’t have to. While it’s true that the Costco deal can only be used by someone who does not have a current membership, it turns out that this is even easier to get around than the “promotional pricing” game the ISPs play. Once your membership has expired, even for a day, you are no longer a current member. It can’t be that simple, can it? According to scores of posters online, it absolutely is. I read enough posts from people who have done this two, three, or even more times, to be confident it works. How did people do anything before the internet?
So there you have it. If you buy two or three $100 gift cards (or four to six $50 ones) in a year, your Costco membership pays for itself. If 24 Hour Fitness is in your area and you’re serious about making the most important investment of them all, the membership pays for itself every three to four months on an ongoing basis. And that means the hundreds of dollars (or more) you save on other purchases throughout the year are pure profit. Have a wonderful Friday and an even more wonderful weekend, everyone! And no, Costco still doesn’t have me on the payroll – although I should probably look into that…