From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

Where Money Meets Resolutions

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.

Spike Milligan

The one thing I hate more than exercising is spending money. That explains why my fingers trembled as I signed a one-year contract and then a credit card slip for membership to a women’s fitness center. Although I had resolved to get fit, my “frugal” genes were not happy.

After a brief tussle, the manager pried the slip away from my unwilling fingers. “You’re going to love it here,” she chirped. “Worth every penny.”

“It better be,” I muttered. As I debated snatching the slip back and making a run for it, one look at the chiseled muscles on her size 4 body told me I’d be lucky to get halfway out of the chair before she tackled me.

I consoled myself with the thought that if I gave up my daily coffee, I could afford to work out. On the other hand, caffeine had been a close, personal friend for years. Did I really want to turn my back on it now?

I was debating the pros and cons when the manager’s voice interrupted my thoughts.

“We have a fantastic introductory personal trainer package. At just $400 for ten sessions, we’re practically giving it away.” She leaned in and lowered her voice. “I shouldn’t tell you, but the price is going up next week.”

“Four hundred dollars?” my voice came out as a loud croak.

“I know. Unbelievable. Should I sign you up?” Not waiting for my answer, she took out another credit card slip and wrote in the date.

My mouth opened but no words came out. I tried to figure out what else I would have to give up to cover the additional costs. Probably food. On the other hand, that would make losing weight a lot faster.

I was still adding figures in my head when she thrust a pen into my hand. My fingers automatically wrapped around it. Dazed by the kaleidoscope of numbers whirling in my brain, I signed my name for the third time in five minutes.

With Houdini-like sleight of hand, she whisked the slip from under my hand but couldn’t pry the pen from my death grip. “Why don’t you keep the pen,” she said. “Our gift to you.”

A few minutes later, still clutching the pen, I was back on the street. Did I really want to do this? Did the contract have an escape clause? Resolutions are one thing. But actually committing myself to a year’s membership and ten personal training sessions, not to mention their locker and towel service, was another.

I’d spent over $800 and hadn’t lost a pound or gained an ounce of muscle yet. The only thing lighter was my bank account.

The next two months were hard. When tempted to slack off from my workout routine, I gazed at my bank balance and pushed myself out the front door. By March, as I felt healthier and stronger, I surprised myself by looking forward to my workouts.

That was last January. Since then, I’ve purchased two more training packages and renewed my membership. And my fingers barely trembled when I signed on the dotted line. I’ve lost weight, dropped two pants sizes and gained muscle. I might not be able to beat the manager at arm wrestling, but at least now I could give her a run for my money.

As for the pen, I keep it as a reminder that sometimes spending money is a good investment—in yourself.

Harriet Cooper

“My first three lives are for eating junk food and being lazy. My last six are for dieting and exercise.”

Reprinted by permission of Jerry King.

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