A Private Sports Club Membership Is Well Worth The Cost

Now that cash flow is tight, I've reviewed all the expenses where I could potentially cut. One such expense is a private sports club membership.

I joined the club in February 2023 when it was raining nonstop for three months. I was getting cabin fever so I decided to pay $180 a month for access to indoor pickleball and tennis.

To regain my financial independence, I've strongly considered cancelling my membership to save money. However, after much deliberation, I've decided that canceling is not worth it.

I've already significantly reduced my food expenses and ceased clothing purchases, anticipating monthly savings ranging between $500 and $1,000 along with potential weight loss. However, retaining the sports club membership is non-negotiable.

Joining A Private Sports Club Is A Worthwhile Expenditure

Being a member of a private sports club might sound fancy, but paying $180 a month is less than what some people pay for coffee and treats. There wasn’t even an initiation fee.

In my mind, a sports club membership is worth it. Here are the reasons why.

1) Greater happiness and health

The other Sunday, I played pickleball indoors on a reserved court from 8 am until 9:30 am. It was wonderful to play continuously without the elements or a wait. After 9:30 am, my friend and I ended up playing against another friendly couple until 10 am because there were available courts.

Every time I play sports (without getting injured), I feel a tremendous amount of happiness. The endorphins kick in. Connecting with other players is fun. I've gotten to know at least 25 new people after joining this club. It helps keep the loneliness at bay. Then taking an afternoon nap after lunch feels glorious!

Before I joined the indoor sports club in February 2023, I was getting a little depressed for three months beforehand due to the rain. But once I joined the indoor sports club, my mood immediately improved.

Being able to play pickleball indoors in a thunderstorm felt like tremendous value. I would gladly pay $500 a month during the winter for this privilege!

Engaging in activities that elevate my heart rate and prevent weight gain is crucial for maintaining my long-term health. In fact, prioritizing health benefits played a significant role in my decision to retire early. I was grappling with various chronic pain issues at work, ranging from TMJ to sciatica, and the stress was taking a toll on my overall well-being.

2) More quality time with the kiddos

I got home from pickleball at 10:18 am to eat some brunch. Then at 10:38 am, I drove both kids 20 miles south to Redwood Shores, to another private sports club that is part of the network I belong to. My $180/month gives access to three clubs down the San Francisco peninsula.

I ended up playing and teaching my kids how to swim for 1 hour 45 minutes. In between 25-30 minute pool sessions, we would relax in the outdoor hot tub for 5-10 minutes. Then it was off to swimming and playing again. As an older parent, I'm trying my best to make up for lost time.

If I wasn't a member of this sports club, I would have had to pay up to $70 for a half-hour of swim lessons. The teachers told me kids usually need at least 40 sessions to be able to swim. Therefore, by joining my private sports club, I was able to save about $2,800 by teaching them myself.

Although it's tiring to be in the water with beginner swimmers for over an hour and a half, it also felt immensely gratifying. The bond you develop by spending so much time teaching something new is something kids will never forget.

As my kids grow older, I'll take them to the sports club to play pickleball, tennis, basketball, or work out as well.

Average amount of time parents spend with their kids a day in America and other countries - why a private sports club is valuable and increases quality time with kids

3) More childcare relief for my wife

After swimming, I gave the kids both showers, and we headed to Five Guys Burgers for some cheeseburgers, peanuts, and a shared milkshake. It's either there or In-N-Out Burger during off-peak hours. By the time I got home, it was 2:25 pm, providing my wife almost four hours of relief.

If my wife had hired childcare help for four hours, the cost would range anywhere from $88 – $120. The thing is, I do this Sunday morning combo almost every week. Let's say I average 3.5 hours an outing and childcare help was $25/hour. That's $87.50 saved by taking the kids out. Now multiply $87.50 by four, and we get $350.

$350 a month is cheaper than the $180 monthly membership cost. In addition, I go to the indoor sports club at least one other time during the week, which brings me more joy and health benefits.

4) More business and social connections

When I used to work in finance, being a member of a private sports club provided opportunities for building business relationships. For example, I regularly played tennis with clients and golfed with clients at my colleague's golf club membership.

Developing relationships based on mutual interests tends to make them stronger. Consider all the relationships you've built outside of work because your kids go to the same school, engage in similar activities, or share an interest in a charitable cause or sport.

Even though I no longer have a career, I've made many social connections at my club as well. I've established a network of friends who are willing to help out whenever needed. This could include writing a letter of recommendation for school, making introductions for business, assisting with fundraising, hosting a book event, and more.

5) Greater chance of my kids adopting a healthier lifestyle

Being healthier involves incorporating more exercise into your lifestyle. If you make going to the gym or sports club a habit three times a week, your kids will likely become accustomed to it and follow suit as they grow older.

When I was growing up, going to college was a default assumption made by my parents. It was all I knew, and I had no idea that 65-70% of Americans at the time didn't have a college degree.

By regularly taking my kids to the sports club, I hope they will adopt a habit of regular exercise. If they surround themselves with people who exercise regularly, they may also meet new friends and develop better eating habits. All this might lead to longer, healthier, happier lives.

Engaging in sports as an adult has been my top hobby. It's a rewarding experience to strike a balance between mental and physical activities, contributing to an overall better life. Should my kids decide to have children, they might carry forward this ethos as well.

Can't Cut The Private Sports Club Membership

For the sake of my mental health and physical health, having regular access to sports and fitness is crucial. Being a member of a sports club is akin to having an insurance policy for both mental and physical well-being. Exercise is one of the most reliable ways of improving my mood.

Aside from my routine of going on long nature walks, I also want the flexibility to play sports whenever I desire. Securing reservations for public tennis courts in San Francisco is an ongoing challenge. Meanwhile, even the public pickleball courts, which I still frequent, are often crowded with long waits.

With time so valuable nowadays, I'm willing to pay for a sports club membership to save time. Now that I think of it, saving time might be the best benefit of all.

Out of all my recurring monthly expenses, I firmly believe that my sports club membership provides the best value. Consequently, I have no plans to cut this expense any time soon. Instead, I've cut expenses in three other areas to save over $1,000 a month.

Reader Questions

Are you a member of a private sports club? If so, how much does it cost a month and how often do you go? Have you ever quit your sports club membership and regretted it or felt great about it? If so, why? What other discretionary expenses have you been forced to cut to save money?

If you're looking for affordable life insurance, check out Policygenius. Just fill out your information and Policygenius will find customized life insurance quotes to meet your situation.

Both my wife and I used Policygenius during the pandemic to get matching 20-year term life insurance policies. After we did, we felt a tremendous sense of relief because we know there won't be any forced selling to care for our children.

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

47 thoughts on “A Private Sports Club Membership Is Well Worth The Cost”

  1. I have a planet fitness subscription. $10 a month and I go twice a month. Lift some weights and leave. I go to the beach everyday for runs. Nothing beats the beautiful weather in San Diego.

    My wife has a Pure Barre where she pays $200 a month. Those expensive memberships are only good if you do group classes where the main cost is the instructor. I don’t do group lessons, have a pool already, have public tennis courts everywhere, 10 golf courses within 20 miles. Again, nothing beats the outdoors.

  2. I am at Lifetime, which costs my family about $300 per month. It is worth every penny to me for my physical and mental health. I don’t drum up business yet, but maybe I will put an advertisement on my laptop lid while sitting in the cafe! The older you get, the more valuable these memberships can become. I totally agree that it would be at the bottom of my cost-cutting list right now.

  3. I hate the shared memberships – so much more crowded now and more lower income people change the feel of the clubs. At least those types don’t make enough to share a Sapphire Golf membership but Courtside is a nightmare these days.

    1. Elitist much? I’m a member of Menlo Circus Club and would never vouch for a person like you with that attitude.

      1. Such irony – as if the Menlo Circus Club lets in anyone. Bay Club does. That’s how elitist you are. At least the price used to be a barrier but now the clubs are overrun with Gen Zers on shared memberships.

  4. Your membership sounds like an amazing deal with multiple clubs in its network, tennis and pickle ball courts, pool, hot tubs (kid friendly at that!). This is a no brainer to keep. I like how you mentioned the social connection from pickle ball, this is very important for middle aged guys like us. It is clear how highly you value this membership in your overall wellness, and that of your family. My basic gym membership is super cheap at $35 per month ( I go about 3x/week) but I don’t have the amenities that you do. I would gladly pay the $180 in your shoes with how you use it. I used to pay $10 per session to play pick up hockey (2-3x/week) before my numerous injuries and I miss the social aspect of it tremendously! Keep it, it’s making you a better person for your family!

    1. Nice. I think I know which private sports club you are a part of. I considered joining that one too. My son and I are mainly interested in swimming. Unfortunately, the closest location near us doesn’t have a pool and I didn’t want to drive down to RWC. Currently, we go to another place for swimming via a private swim instructor. My son has been taking private swim lessons for 2.5 years. He can swim pretty well in all styles. But I just asked the instructor to keep teaching him since we like going to the pool and also go for practice a few times a week on our own. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying your membership. I will reconsider in the future.

  5. $180 a month in Bay Area is a steal. My CrossFit gym monthly membership is $220 a month in Seattle area, and it is small compared to your club.

  6. Charles conrad

    Sam, a friend is a millionaire. He tells you he is worried over spending $180 a month for a health club. What would you say to your friend?

    1. I’d encourage him to spend money on what he values. If he doesn’t value the benefits of a health club, cut the spending. And if he doesn’t value it, then find ways to cut his budget elsewhere.

  7. Or, for the guys, you could join your local F3 group for a free men’s workout every morning outdoors, whatever the weather, make some good friends, and do some good in your community.

    But sure, do the private sports club thing…..

  8. Our monthly health and wellness budget:

    In-person Yoga Class (wife) – $120 per month (unlimited classes).
    Peloton – $44 per month
    Golf – $450 per month.

    Total – $616 per month.

    It is the most well spent month I can think of in our entire budget. Many many things get cut before those.

  9. I completely agree. We pay a lot for a private club our family uses and loves. I would give up so many things before the club membership – it has made our favorite sport much easier, so we do it a lot as a family. I’d drive an old economy car, eat at home, and travel less before I’d give up our club membership. It adds more happiness to our lives than other forms of consumption.

  10. Does the $180 include hourly court fees for pickleball? If not, that could add up quickly if paying daily. If it does, that’s actually a very good price for a multi club membership in SF ! Other options are the YMCA and CCSF.

  11. Canadian Reader

    I pay $250 a month for hot yoga studio access. Its expensive, but I go 4-5/week. It will either be this expense or physio and medication in the future. Worth it to me! Never underestimate investment in your health and longevity- sure you can run outside for free- but if you need to belong to a club to get active, then so be it.

    I don’t think your gym fees are unreasonable and the fact that your kids can use the pool there is great. Nice opportunity to take the kids out in a consistent pattern to make memories.

    I haven’t cut back on expenses- we have actually increased our spending a bit to improve our quality of life, but I have always held the line on managing food costs. By all measures we are still spending below the average for family size in all aspects.

    1. “ Never underestimate investment in your health and longevity- sure you can run outside for free- but if you need to belong to a club to get active, then so be it.”

      I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Besides the physical activity, the social benefits of playing with other adults and building relationships have been priceless.

      It is amazing to see people in their 70s play pickle ball and having a good time and being so nimble compared to some who don’t actively exercise every day. It is shocking actually. Completely night and day.

      You don’t have to feel so much pain and lose all your strength and dexterity as you get older. That is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned playing so much Pickle Ball.

  12. I can completely understand your health club membership but myguys and in and out does not seem like the best health advice to give your children. I grew up eating a lot of fast food (as well as cooking it) and at times still crave it. Yet every time I have gone in the past few years, my body felt terrible. Those visits have gotten farther and farther apart! Your kids deserve better and imho fast food should never appear to be like a special treat or a reward. Of course, feel free to disagree.

  13. I don’t watch TV, but google is showing internet + TV is $131/month + taxes. Sam’s seem to be getting a lot more bang for his buck, not understanding the criticism here

    1. It’s OK, it’s the internet and comes with the territory.

      I’d rather spend money on health, exercise, and socialization that other stuff. It’s just what I value and that’s an individual preference.

  14. Hi Sam, we are members of our local Y. We are older than you. I go to some of the classes for seniors 4 days a week. Spouse uses the machines 3 days a week. We pay $675/year. Some seniors are able to get gym memberships through their Medicare plans, but we don’t have that on ours. To add it would cost more than what we pay already. Our Y is nice and the instructors are good.

    1. Wonderful! I feel like the older one gets, the more valuable being a part of a club is for exercise and social connections.

      The 70 year plus Harvard longitudinal study has reported that friendships are what keep people happy the most.

  15. Hello Sam,

    I’ve followed you for a while. I used to enjoy your musings and thoughtful advice.

    I think you’ve lost your way and you’re really oversharing. You’ve made some significant errors and your circumstances are no longer relatable to 99% of us. Move, rein in your expenses, or go back to work. I don’t think I can read another 6 months of this. You appear to reside in an alternate reality.

    Best of luck, I don’t think I can share your journey.

      1. People can be so overly critical. I appreciate you sharing the details of your financial goals. I still very much enjoy reading all your posts, and you being vulnerable and open about where you are in your financial journey. Not everyone is willing to do the same.

    1. JB,

      Why do you have to be such a jerk? I am also a long time reader and I gained such great financial wisdom from Sam which I am very grateful for. You are not perfect, I am not perfect and nor is Sam. We are human and we make mistakes. This article is about investing in our physical and mental health and $180/month seems like a great investment. Please treat people respectly the way you would like be treated yourself.


      1. Thanks for the support! At this point, I’m used to it after 15 years of writing. What I write, even if nobody pays me a cent, will somehow be looked unfavorably by someone somewhere.

        But it is an interesting phenomenon how this happens. It’s almost as if comments are a reflection of what the commenter is feeling and thinking.

        The harsher the comment, the more I worry something could be wrong.

        1. You are correct Sam. People have their own opinions and viewpoints, but when you see comments like that it is usually projecting. More than likely that person is experiencing some type of temporary or long term pain (or insecurity) and projecting it onto you because they don’t see a better outlet. I don’t agree with 100% of what you write, but that is ok and totally normal. You are providing a valuable service. Keep up the good work!

    2. JB, I hear your. I’d rather save $180/month than feel happier and be healthier.

      Money is more important than health and happiness!

      You can have all the health and happiness in the world, but if you don’t have money, what does it matter?

  16. I’m in Vegas. Have a membership to LVAC. $180/yr. Includes up to 2 hours a day of childcare while you work out. Also access to racquetball court any type of class they offer (HIIT, Zumba, yoga, etc.) as well as typical weights, machines, indoor track, pool, sauna, hot tub, etc. They also have like 6 or 7 gyms around the city. Not sure if Cali has anything comparable but for me it’s pretty great and cheap. No tennis or pickleball though.

  17. Sounds like such a wonderful facility for you and your kids. I used to belong to a sports club. I enjoyed it a lot for about 6 months and then my usage dropped off so I decided not to renew. I mostly do low impact exercise on hikes these days so I’m ok without a membership. But I think joining a club would make a lot of sense for me down the road when I’m fully retired and have more time to engage in classes and racquet sports. Glad to hear your membership is working out well.

  18. Sounds like Bay Club? My husband and child (14 yrs) just played in a pickleball tournament and won in the beginner bracket. Priceless memory and first ever sport medal for my husband. I know my son loved being able to achieve that with him. It was an adult/junior tournament. It was great seeing parents and their kids playing as teams.

    We have a family membership in another club in the Peninsula. Although I don’t use it as much as I should, it is convenient to have. The kids can swim, play racket sports, basketball, etc. In the summer we can spend all day at the pool.

    1. Yes indeed. Such good value with so many network clubs as options. Once I realized I could go down to Redwood Shores and bring the kids for 1-2 hours of swimming, the value of the membership was crystallized even more. No brainer!

  19. Very weird a private sports club with indoor pickleball and tennis would only cost $180/m. Obviously you wouldn’t cancel this.

    1. Is it? How much does it cost in your area and where are you?

      Here in San Francisco, we join a “pod” of six other members. We then pay for the year up front, which costs $180 a month.

      1. Pittsburgh. There is no such thing as private indoor sports club for $180/m. Only country clubs with outdoor tennis or pickleball and golf for $1,500/m and up. Other option is public park for tennis or pickleball which involves waiting/no reservations/no availability.

        1. Oh wow! Who knew San Francisco was so cheap in this aspect. Maybe it’s because we have a lot more sunshine throughout the years so there’s more supply of public outdoor facilities?

          I’ve played pickle ball outdoors once a week as well because I get invited to play after several friends reserve courts.

          We definitely have country clubs that cost tens of thousands of dollars to join followed by probably $500 a month or more in monthly dues. But I stopped playing golf once my kids were born because it just took way too much time.

          1. $500/m dues for a country club is incredibly cheap. Social membership (no access to racquet sports or tennis) is $700-800/m in Pittsburgh. Paying for strictly access to dining rooms/bars. Access to golf and sports you’re paying over $1,500/m

            1. Cool. Olympic Club here, where they have hosted the US Open is about $500/month in dues and consumption. Nice facilities, good tennis, but no pickleball!

              And to me, Pickleball is about five times more fun than golf and so much quicker.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *