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Cost Per Use and your Finances

Some folks may start out a new year with a resolution to get back in shape and I applaud you for the idea (I am skeptical about your chances, but that is just me). Be that as it may, what are the financial ramifications of this new healthy lifestyle you plan on living?

Specifically, did you buy a new piece of exercise equipment to help with this transformation, or did you join a gym? Have you thought about how much you are paying per use for your exercise regimen? Sometimes we only think of the cost of purchasing the equipment, or the monthly gym subscription fee, but what if you look at it as a cost each time you use the service or machine? It might motivate you to stick with it, and with this in mind here is some simple math to show you your cost per use.

It’s pretty simple for a gym, assuming a $30 a month fee to just go in and use the equipment and to begin with you will go in 3 times a week, so that is about $2.50 per visit you end up paying. In later months when you find better rationalizations to not go to the gym that number might increase and may end up being effectively infinite (if you divide $30 by ZERO visits, you end up with Infinity (or undefined)) (sorry that is a bit snarky, but keep that in mind if it helps you stay motivated).

What if you decided that maybe you should go buy a treadmill for those winter months where it is just too darn cold to run outside (given it can -300C in Ottawa , I can understand a need to run inside). Assuming a fairly good treadmill is about $800 or so the equation then becomes a little easier to rationalize:

Cost per use = $800 / # of times used

This means the first time you use your treadmill, it effectively costs you $800 per use. If you then stop using the treadmill, that is how much the cost per use ends up (although you do get a nifty place to hang your drying clothes). So as you see the more you use your treadmill the lower the effective cost per use.

The crossing point between the health club and your home treadmill is about 400 uses on your treadmill, which, at 3 times a week, is about 300 weeks (or more than 5 years).

I must admit this really isn’t my concept, I was first introduced to it by Michael James‘ wife, who is possibly the Cheapest Person I Know . She constantly reminds me of the various things we have bought and how much it costs per use still (I have a $100 used exercise bike that I am pretty sure I have down to below $1 per use).

I hope this mental exercise helps keep you motivated to keep going with your physical exercise regimen. Also, I hope this helps explain the concept of Value, and how to value things.

Some numbers to help you understand:

Membership $30.00   (per month)  
Treadmill $800.00    
    EffectiveCost Per Use
  Times Used Membership Treadmill
January 15 $2.00 $53.33
February 12 $2.50 $29.63
March 15 $2.00 $19.05
April 15 $2.00 $14.04
May 15 $2.00 $11.11
June 14 $2.14 $9.30
July 14 $2.14 $8.00
August 14 $2.14 $7.02
September 15 $2.00 $6.20
October 15 $2.00 $5.56
November 15 $2.00 $5.03
December 15 $2.00 $4.60
   Total Usage    
Year 1  174 $2.08 $4.60
Year 2 348 $2.08 $2.30
Year 3 522 $2.08 $1.53

And now a picture for those like me who LOVE graphs!

Cost Per Use Graph
Cost Per Use Graph

Feel Free to Comment

  1. You’ve also got to factor in what kind of maintenance plan, if any, you have on your treadmill. My father owns one and it is far from the top of the line (and he got a great price) but he’s had to get it repaired once or twice. Repairs can definitely eat into cost. That said, he uses is usually more than three times a week and he’s had it for awhile so we’re nearly at the point where a run is virtually free.

  2. I’m not sure I’m following the math (400 uses = 300 weeks?) but I use the cost per use when buying clothes, shoes and household items. My parents and grandparents spent the money to buy good quality dishes, pots and bakeware and now my siblings and I have inherited some it. It was expensive at the outset, but incredibly cheap on a cost per use basis!

    It still irks me how much my last bridesmaid dress was on a cost per use basic compared to my jeans! Sometimes we end up spending the most on the things we use the least!

  3. Your missing some stuff in your exercise analysis :).

    Cost to travel back and forth to the gym.
    Time to travel back and forth to the gym.
    Probability of increased use because it’s convenient.
    Lowered health care costs because you’ve used it more frequently than going to the gym.
    All the other crap that comes along with a gym membership like probably paying for a $5 protein shake at the club’s cafe to reward yourself.
    Fancy clothes.

    Despite my girth, we have a treadmill in our basement (actually, we have a reasonably small home gym with treadmill, exercise bike, rower and weights). And it gets used 4 times a week by myself, 2-4 times a week by my wife, a handful of times weekly by both kids, and now our neighbour kid comes over 2-3 times a week. And for me, the two big intangibles – convenience/time saved, and the benefits of better health – far outweight any monetary costs.

    The big thing to remember with home gym equipment is to buy the best piece of equipment you can possibly afford.

    See you at the Ottawa marathon in May bigcanajun man! 🙂

    1. Yeh, right, I’ll be the one at the starting line eating a Philly Cheese Steak Hoggie.

      The other thing to remember with the Fitness Club is if you can extricate yourself from your contract (not easy I hear for some clubs), you have NOTHING in your house (i.e. you don’t need to put an ad on Craigs List asking for someone to take away your expensive clothes hanger).

    2. I feel the same way as Glenn about gym memberships. I get a lot of use out of my home exercise equipment. I just don’t see the appeal of working out with a bunch of strangers, but I know that others feel completely differently.

      1. I must admit I did use my membership, when I worked at Nortel, but that was because it was in my office space, so it was a nice break from my office. Memberships are useful if you don’t want to buy a bunch of exercise stuff for your basement (or you want to learn which ones you actually use).

  4. I figure out how long I have to work for things to pay for them. Cable/internet/phone is 7 hours per month and worth every penny.
    Dinner at the local steak house is 2 hours (no adult beverages), Chinese takeout is 20 minutes.

    I bought an treadmill once. I tested it for a long time in the giant sports store but did not notice how annoying loud the whiney noise was until I was in the confines of my low ceilinged basement. I was thrilled when I found someone to drag it out of my basement for free 1 year later. Cost per use about $50.00.

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