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I've said it before, but not nearly enough: there's a reason why it's called personal finance.

Not every cookie cutter solution is going to work for your particular situation, your household makeup, your needs, or your wants.

In much of personal finance, there's no right or wrong answer.

There's a reason why it's called personal finance. There's no right or wrong answer. Click To Tweet

As a personal finance blogger, the best that I can hope to achieve is to open your eyes to the tableful-feast of options that you weren't aware of or didn't know how to execute or weren't confident enough to take that next step on.

But those options that I, and every other proud financial nerd out there, give? They may or not may not work for you.

And that's perfectly fine!

Today I want to give you a perfect illustration of this in our own lives.

Let me explain something that most frugal people (my old self, included) tout as the best way to cut down on spending, but that doesn't make financial or other sense in our household: cutting out the gym membership.

“Gym Membership” is not a Dirty Word(s)

My husband and I live five blocks down from a bayou that is accessible through neighborhood roads. Plus, we live in Houston, Texas. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise outdoors pretty much year-round.

And yet, last summer I found myself signing up for a family gym membership at our local community center. The cost was $97/month, and that included access to the gym, cafe/work area with free wifi, and 60 minutes of free babysitting time each day.

Yes, $97/month is a lot of money. But being able to spend it on this gym membership was absolutely priceless for us.

We Changed, and so our Needs have Changed

Life changes for you, just like it changes for us. After we had our baby, our needs and wants changed as well.

Where previously I was happy with my work routine of working from home + spending afternoons at a local coffee shop a couple times per week, it was no longer working for me.

I was making the huge transition of becoming a work-at-home-mom, an altogether different state of being from a work-at-home person. On top of no longer being able to get out of the house to go to a coffee shop when I felt itchy or restless, or like I needed some water-cooler-turned-cash-register talk, I also was craving a bit more of me-time than an infant can afford to give me.

I was tired, feeling worn out, and losing momentum in both my biz and personal life.

Then one day, it dawned on me that the local center near our home probably provided some form of childcare while people were working out. And that they had a cafe, which meant instead of using that delicious time to sweat it out on the treadmill, I could get a little bit of focused work in. By myself. In an adult surrounding.

You better believe I high-tailed it down there. We signed up for a two-week trial because I needed to see whether or not I was going to actually make use of it (meaning whether or not I wanted to put in all the effort of packing up a baby, getting in a car, getting our baby out of the car, dropping him off, then getting 60 minutes of time to work).

Yes, it turned out to be very worth it.

This Gym Membership/Lifesaver is a Steal

That $97/month bought us so much more than a gym membership.

Yes, I typically work out now two times a week − bonus is that I actually catch up on drinking tons of water at their water cooler (do you have trouble drinking enough water each day as well? So much easier to let it slip through the cracks with a little one in tow). But mostly, I use that 60 minutes of “free-time” (and now 90 minutes since our little boy is walking!) to untangle my mind long enough to focus on my business (am writing this blog post from the community center now!).

My husband and I also have carved out some #CreativeIntimacy thanks to our membership. Several times he's met us there right after work, we've dropped off our little one, and we enjoyed 60 minutes of adult time to work out together + catch up on our day. On those days I typically have a freezer Crockpot meal simmering away so that our dinner is already ready for when we get home. It's glorious!

And even more of the priceless stuff? I walk out of there feeling refreshed + much more capable to structure the afternoon and evening hours around enjoying our little one.

Since I'm all about the numbers (even after I said it was priceless!), I calculated it out, and it turns out I'm getting quite a deal on childcare. With how much I use their service − about 3 times a week − that $97/month is rounding out to about a $5.38/hour childcare cost. I'm thinking I won't really find that anywhere else, especially considering the quality of their atmosphere and daycare team.

I detailed all of this out to you to say this: not every piece of financial advice is going to make sense for your family, and for your particular situation. The best you can do is to read and inform yourself on lots of different options, then choose the ones that optimize your life and the lives around you (while choosing to not spend your money on the ones that don't give as much). That's what I've done above, and I couldn't be happier with the way it's turned out.

12 replies
  1. helena pagola
    helena pagola says:

    That is an awesome perspective about the gym and child care. I had never factored in the babysitting hourly rate. Good score!!!!

  2. Traci
    Traci says:

    I have a different personal financial decision but its in the same vein of doing what works for your family needs. We have recently discovered Kroger Click List- order online and pick up curbside. The first 3 were free and then after that it is $4.95. Our grocery bill has dropped dramatically (how many times have I emailed you about that!) because I can see what the total is getting to as I add to my online basket and there are zero impulse buys. Also, I shop for two households (us and my 80 year old grandma) so we split the really only an additional $2.50 and the time save is huge. Yay for personal finance in every sense of the word!

    • Amanda L Grossman
      Amanda L Grossman says:

      Hey Traci!!

      I’m glad you popped over to tell us about your new decision that’s helping your family (plus saving you money!).

      That is AWESOME! I’ll have to give it a whirl — I especially like that benefit of being able to tally up your cart as you go because you’re ordering it online.

  3. Gary
    Gary says:

    Just wanted to add something from perspective of older, retired people. Considering the money aspect, gym time and exercise in general can keep you active, mobile, strong and healthy longer, reducing medical and medication costs. Additionally, many Medicare Advantage plans offer wellness programs that will pay for your gym membership at many clubs like 24Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and many more. The plan I have only requires a $25/year co-pay. Have a good workout!


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