Wednesday, December 19, 2012

At-Home Fitness for $200: Courtesy of "The Man" (i.e. My Employer)

Note: I do not represent my employer in any way. I write only on my own behalf. Any views expressed here are my own and are not necessarily representative of the views of my employer.

One of the constant themes of our employee surveys is that we all want more generous benefits. This year, my employer decided that as part of our benefits package, we could be reimbursed up to $200 for fitness-related expenses. This could include items like gym memberships and exercise equipment. There were a few exclusions (no reimbursement for that stylish new gym outfit or the fees for your soccer league), but all-in-all, it seemed like a pretty generous open-ended deal! So this year, my husband and I bought $199.51 worth of fitness stuff.

I thought it might be a fun idea to share what $200 can buy. Perhaps this will inspire you to see that workout equipment can be affordable, or if you help determine benefits for your own company, maybe this will spark an idea to assist your employees! So here is what we were able to get this year:

First, I purchased an adjustable work-out bench for my husband's birthday in October. He had been talking about wanting one for months and was totally surprised that I thought of it for a gift! He assumed it was a future dream to be realized when we have a house some day. But I figured we could store it on our apartment's patio with a covering, if need be. I also knew that the calendar year was already well on its way, so we had better start spending if we wanted to hit $200 before New Years! The bench cost $98.54 on Amazon. However, when it arrived, the seat for the bench was drilled incorrectly, such that it had to be put on backwards and was ever so slightly crooked. Amazon told us we could not simply send back the seat portion for a new one. Our options were to (1) disassemble the entire bench and return it for a full refund, (2) disassemble the bench and send it back in order to be shipped a brand new one, or (3) keep the bench and be refunded 30% of the purchase price. Neither of the disassembling options sounded very fun. We went for option 3, and they refunded us exactly $30.00. It is very much a functioning bench, with what really amounts to a slight aesthetic flaw. So the total for the bench ended up at $68.54.

Then, I decided to buy some workout DVD's to get in shape at home. (I already owned a couple of those small, brightly colored dumbbells, so all I needed were the moves!) Jillian Michaels' videos are consistently rated highly on Amazon, so I thought they were a pretty safe choice for a 40-60 minute workout. Plus, I had tried out one of the DVD's at a girlfriend's house earlier in the year and thought it was pretty fun (and hard, of course). I bought two Jillian Michaels videos on Amazon for $18.30.

Next, we decided that my husband needed some weights to use with his bench! So on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we went to Sports Authority, and to our delight, they were having a holiday sale on weights. We bought a set of two threaded dumbbell handles ($24.79), plus four 2.5-lb weights ($2.14 each), four 5-lb weights ($4.28 each), and four 10-lb weights ($8.58 each). We also purchased one 25-lb weight to be used for sit-ups ($19.05). With our $5.00-off coupon for joining the free Sports Authority loyalty club, plus tax, we spent a total of $112.67 on the weights.

So to summarize, we spent $68.54 on a workout bench, $18.30 on workout videos, and $112.67 on dumbbell weights, for a total of $199.51. And it was all reimbursed back to us by my employer! I was amazed that we came so close to the total allowed, but we did it! To be fair, we had a couple of lucky breaks in there, with the $30 off the workout bench and buying the weights on sale. At the same time, I know there are a plethora of sales throughout the year, so I think others might be able to have similar luck if they wait patiently to buy at good times. Sports equipment, like the dumbbells, also often comes in sets of varying price and quality, so you may be able to locate an affordable brand online. Another awesome option is to purchase used equipment at a store like Play It Again Sports!

I think this is such a great idea for a company to encourage employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In the long run, the goal is to save on medical expenses by having healthier employees. But in the short term, these purchases made me feel more positive about my company's investment in me as a whole. We probably would not have bought most of these things without the assistance, but as a result of the benefit, we can feel better equipped to get in shape at home. Now I just need to start using everything! (New Year's resolution, anyone?) Do you or someone you know get similar benefits from your employer? Please share!

Happy fitness shopping!

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