Fitness on a Budget: A Full Review of the Planet Fitness $10 Membership

It’s almost summertime friends. And you know what that means – hibernation is over.

We can no longer hide the results of feasting during the holidays with bulky sweaters or oversized jackets. But most importantly, removing the layers brings to light the importance of staying physically active for health benefits.

My husband and I fell off of the exercise bandwagon last fall because we decided to cancel our gym membership. Since I became self-employed the $60 per person membership to a gym with the bells and whistles didn’t fit into the budget.

So we tried doing at home workouts for a while with p90x, but there’s just something motivating about being in a gym with other people getting their workout on that you can’t get at home.

I found out about the $10 membership at Planet Fitness through a friend. And to be honest I was skeptical. Could a gym really offer that much at just $10 per month? Plus, the Planet Fitness isn’t walking distance to our apartment and that’s a major reason we bit the bullet and took the more expensive membership in the past, convenience.

Nevertheless I signed up and overall I’m pleased with the gym. There’s just a few things you may want to know before joining. So here’s a breakdown of their application process, fees and a review of their facility.

Locations and Membership Fees

If you live relatively close to a metro area you should be able to find a gym near you. Just for fun, I put in my parent’s home zip code which is nearly a rural area and they’re still close to a Planet Fitness. Use the easy map to find a gym near you.

Planet Fitness offers two membership options, the basic $10 membership and the Black Card membership. For the basic $10 you get access to the gym (obviously), a free t-shirt and unlimited fitness training. Depending on the location the $10 membership also comes with no commitment, which really drew me to the gym. You can cancel at any time without penalty.

To begin this membership, you pay a start up fee which was $30 for me at signing, but specials can run as low as $10. The basic membership also comes with a $29 plus tax Annual Membership fee billed yearly on June 1 (price depends on location). So altogether for the year it’ll cost me about $179. Not bad considering it’s just 25 percent of what I paid per year for a membership at the state-of-the-art gym.

The second Planet Fitness option is the Black Card membership which includes a few more perks and costs $20 per month. Here’s what you get with this membership:

  • The perks of basic membership
  • Use of other Planet Fitness locations
  • Unlimited guest privileges
  • Tanning booths
  • Massage chairs
  • Some half price cooler drinks
  • Benefits in select clubs like hydromassage and haircuts
  • Discounts on apparel from Reebok outlets and Planet Fitness

The Black Card requires a 12 month commitment, a start up fee of at least $10 and a $39 plus tax Annual Membership fee. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much by skipping the Black Card membership and the commitment.

The Planet Fitness Application Process

Hands down, the most impressive part of becoming a member was the application process. I usually hate signing up for a gym membership because of the sales consultant interaction. When you call for pricing they hit you with the, “we don’t give out pricing over the phone, but you can set up an appointment”.

Then when you arrive the consultant takes you on a tour of the entire gym with a sleazy sales pitch as you follow along awkwardly while people workout. And somehow the fees always add up to more than projected at the beginning of the meeting. Can you relate?

I was thankful to bypass this step with the online application which includes transparency of fees, the initial payment, signing the agreements and setting up monthly withdrawal. The same day I went to the gym, they took my picture and I picked out my complimentary piece of Planet Fitness merchandise.

Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Just like that I skipped the paperwork and jumped on a treadmill.

So what about the facility?

For the price, the membership is worth it, but you should know the gym is a little tight. There are enough ellipticals, bikes and step machines, but the free space for stretching or using free weights is quite limited. Still it does have ample weight training equipment for those who are serious about lifting and it even offers free training classes.

My gym is also 24 hours which I appreciate. But the cheap membership seems to attract teenagers who goof off and treat it like a hangout spot. Not sure if I’ll be heading there again after hours.


(Gym photos via Planet Fitness Rockville)


The Adventurous Life of a Freelance Writer: Managing Money When The Checks Don’t Come In

About a year ago (year ago, sorry I couldn’t resist) I made the decision to start freelance writing full-time. I had emergency savings, just one client and a dream.

Since then I’ve grown my client base substantially and made a decent living. But being my own boss does come with trials and tribulations financially. So here’s a few things I’ve learned so far while managing my money and keeping my business running.

Track your coin on a consistent basis.

The first few months of being a freelancer were the honeymoon stages for me. I was so happy to be working for myself that I went full steam ahead into finding as many clients as I could. But I did not put as much energy into monitoring my income and expenses.

Because of this I was oblivious to cash flow and I didn’t make the necessary adjustments to my spending habits. I kept spending the same amount of money I did when I had a full-time job even though my income wasn’t the same and it was much more sporadic. Silly me.

I learned quickly that reviewing your financial standing regularly is a must when you’re self-employed. Other than just needing to know how much money you’re making, it allows you to set benchmarks for future income growth.

Now I review the finances of my business daily. And I don’t use a fancy software to do it. My monthly budget is in a simple Google Doc spreadsheet and it includes the following metrics:

  • My writing jobs and how much they pay
  • Projected income vs. income I have in hand for each job
  • How many hours each job takes (handy when I want to figure out my hourly rate)
  • Projected income for the entire month
  • Actual income for the entire month
  • Expenses and taxes due
  • Net income

It took me a little while to understand freelance writing isn’t all about writing. The business aspect of freelancing can send you right back to a full-time job if you don’t take it seriously.

Deal with financial insecurity the smart way.

Tracking is all well in good when you actually have coins coming your way. One of the many challenges of freelancing is just getting the checks to stream in and on time. Gone are the days of the reliable bi-weekly check. I would be lying if I say I didn’t miss it.

Since pay is unpredictable, self-control is what keeps me afloat. I never assume I’ll get money from my work until it’s in my hands. So, I always set aside a chunk of money I make for a rainy day.

To avoid overspending, an effective tactic I use is depositing my “paycheck” in to my personal account from a separate writing income account. This way I can resist the urge to spend all the money I make from a job at once.

Other than being disciplined, locating multiple streams of income has been a key way for me to weather storms. I’ve taken on various part-time jobs from the very beginning of my journey as a freelance writer because I feel safer knowing I have something to fall back on in case of an emergency.

Shamelessly market like there’s no tomorrow.

What’s nearly as important as managing your finances is marketing because it directly impacts the money you take to the bank. Even if you have steady clients you never know when one of them will drop off your radar, so you should never put all of your eggs in one basket.

I market in a few ways to reel in clients. I post updates on my personal blog to showcase my writing. I have a writer site with my services and testimonials. I pitch ideas to websites and publications that I want to write for. I reach out to my existing network for opportunities. And I occasionally visit job boards and apply for positions that match my skill set.

Since I’ve been freelance writing for nearly a year now, sometimes new clients come my way because they’ve seen samples of my work. But even still, hustling hard is just part of the game when you freelance full-time if you want your income to stay stable.

Is it possible to stay financially secure as a freelancer?

Making a living from freelancing is a big change from a regular 9-5 paycheck life. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to be financially sound.

My advice for anyone who’s considering the leap is to set up all of your business operations before taking the plunge. Plan your marketing strategy, design your contract, create invoices, decide how you’ll monitor your finances and think about how you’ll get by if the checks don’t come in (and your savings is drained). It’s far easier to make the transition with a game plan.

Also, not to beat a dead horse but… make sure you have a sizable emergency savings account since life has a way of throwing us all for a loop when we least expect it.



5 Surefire Ways to Stay Committed to your Financial Goals during Brunch Season!

Joe Hsu Flickr

Joe Hsu – Flickr


Spring is soon to be sprung, and I’m sure we’re all ready to shed our heavy winter coats, hats and scarves, particularly those of us in the north east region!

With the warmer weather also comes the desire to do spring cleaning, a little shopping, home improvements, car repairs or spending time outdoors joining friends for bottomless brunching.

Opportunities to open our wallets and spend pop up like flowers in the springtime. So it’s extra important during this time of year that we stay on track and not be swayed by the beautiful distractions of spring and summer months ahead.

We know it’s hard to find the discipline to stay committed when the brunch invitations start rolling in, that’s why we’re here to help! Here are 5 surefire ways to stay committed to your financial goals and not pack them away with your winter wardrobes.

Remember Why You Started.

Are you willing to forgo that trip to Maui this November just to partake in brunches in Brooklyn? Didn’t think so!  Go back and read your financial goals for 2015; whether you plan to pay down your debt, grow your emergency fund, or take that dream vacation, reviewing the goals you set will remind you to stay focused on the bigger picture.

Pat Yourself On The Back.

Be proud of the progress you’ve made to date. There is no better way to boost your financial confidence and inspire you to keep going than by seeing how far you have already come. Check your statements and track your progress to date. Did you minimize discretionary spending in January and February? Took a pair of heels to get repaired instead of buying a new pair? Ate out less and cooked at home last week? Saved more than your budget called for last month? Celebrate your accomplishments and let them inspire you to keep the momentum going. Seeing really is believing.

Shop around!

If you fail to plan you will plan to fail. If you know your home needs a new roof this spring start your research now! Ask for referrals from friends and family, find out who received the best work for the lowest price. Same strategy applies to almost anything else money can buy. Always comparison shop, whether you need car repairs, a beach vacation, or a new pair of stilettos! This will empower you to know how much products or services cost and allows you to pick the price you want to pay.

Set a spending limit

This is oh so critical! Cash registers cha-chings add up very quickly! You WILL overspend without a set limit, so think about this and commit to a number BEFORE you head out the door to the mall, restaurant, grocery store or home improvement store!  I even recommend setting a monthly limit for items that you may want to do more than once in a month like brunching. ;-)


Say it with me now, ready? nnoooooooo, try it again, noooooooooo. This can also be swapped out for, “I can’t this week, I’m already committed to something, I’m over my budget for that” or any other phrase that will save you from overspending or distract you from your goals. Let’s take our brunch example. If you have a monthly spending limit of $150 for brunches in April and hit that number by April 15th you will need to turn down all incoming invites until your budget resets in May. Discipline is the key to long term financial success and you aren’t cheating anyone but yourself.


Tell me how you plan to stay committed to your financial goals as the temperature heats up! Drop me a line at




Want to take FREE Vacations this year?


Don’t fall off your chair just yet, or click off this post in skepticism. Over the last 10 years I have experienced quite a few FREE or ALMOST-FREE vacations, and I’m going to share how you can too!

I call some of them semi free because the majority include free hotel stays and activities, but not necessarily free flights. My most recent trip to the Bahamas though was an all expense paid free vacation because I won a contest ;-) Yes those things really do exist! So sign up, let them scan your badge, or drop your raffle ticket in to their box!

Now is there a catch? Of course. A lot of companies who offer these free or semi free vacay stays are looking for something in return,  your time, your attention, your positive review or your social media shares! Imagine how valuable a company must consider you to consider it worth it to give you a free stay? Are you willing to trade them for a free trip? I AM!

You may also be wondering where you can go with these free or semi free trips? The answer is  so many places! I’ve done Las Vegas, Palm Springs, San Diego, Atlantic City, the Poconos, Lake Tahoe, Virginia Beach, Cancun, Florida and the Bahamas. Now it may take a little flexibility on your part and a little research, but hey you should be doing that anyway before you book travel!



Free flights are nearly impossible to catch, unless you have a immediate family member who works for an airline, like I do. Hi Hubby ; )

But there are still some great tricks to score flights for super cheap if you look. Now let me be honest about something. I am somewhat of a travel snob, so there are certain airlines I will not fly with no matter how cheap their seats are, because of bad experiences or bad customer service. I don’t do janky! I will also rarely ever buy a connecting flight, only nonstop. So with my standards if I am telling you flight deals exist trust me they do!

Did you know that airlines update their flight prices on Tuesday/Wednesday nights in the wee hours of the morning. You won’t always catch an amazing deal but the likelihood you will get something on discount is pretty good. So on those insomniac nights, check flights! Go to Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline or the Airline site directly.

Additionally websites like TheFlightDeal are a great resource to find dirt cheap flights on reputable airlines IF your destination is flexible. I don’t know how they do it, but they do! That is how I nabbed round trip tickets to Abu Dhabi for $177 on Christmas morning! Thank you Santa ;0)  It’s also how I nabbed $400 round trip flights to Italy for an girls adventure coming up in May!

Lastly, most airlines do not give any special preference to student fliers, except Air Tran, but since they have merged with SouthWest I don’t think they offer the program any longer! However I used to fly to Atlanta religiously for $63 each way, and that fare also applied to any other flight path Airtran offered, so if you are the parent of a college student between the ages of 18-22 call the airline and ask about student fares, you  never know, it just may not be posted on their website.

Resorts & Condos

Now it’s time for the fun stuff! Want to stay in a 4 or 5 star place for next to nothing? Keep reading.

Here’s a few examples of places I’ve stayed  for the total price of? ZERO Dollars.

Palm Desert?

Las Vegas?





How? Well in most travel destinations you will find a few lodging types. Resorts, Hotels, Motels and Condos. Now Hotels and Motels really have no reason to want to give you a free stay, most amenities and prices are already on the lower end, but resorts or  condos? They want you to come and experience all they have to offer.

Resorts give away free stays because they want to build loyal customers. If I am the Blah Blah Blah resort and have every amenity imaginable, I’ll give away lots of free stays so that customer can be wowed and convinced that when they step onto my property there is no place else they need to go for the rest of their trip. I want them to come back and stay with me every single time they visit and I want them to tell all their friends about me as well! It’s worthwhile for me to do this.. Repeatedly!

Condos give away free stays because they want you to buy a unit. If I am blah blah blah condo, I will give away free stays to families and couples so they can see just how right my property is for them, because it’s spacious and comes with a kitchen and laundry facilities, so they will save money each time they come on outside expenses. I want them to commit and make my property a recurring destination for them, and I want them to tell all their friends!

Most resorts or condos who participate in these free stays are affiliated with a time share program,  they are trying to sell you a unit or shares in their development and you’ll need to give them 90 minutes of your trip to listen to their spiel about why you should buy in, or you can forgo the presentation and stay at their resort for regular price. (No thank you!)

I’m willing to trade 90 minutes for a free stay are you? I always take their seminar the same day I arrive, or the very next morning so it’s done, out the way and I can enjoy the rest of my trip. Some companies are getting smarter now and make you wait until the last day. Booo!

Who are these companies and how do you find them?

Ok… I’ve giving away my biggest travel secret to you guys right now omg.

Go to RCI,  BOOKVIPPinnacle VacationsSheratonVacationOwnershipWyndham ResortsHilton Grand Vacations (see some familiar names up there) I mean the list goes on and on of companies who offer this, find the one you want and search their available destinations.

Ok Carrie I am on the site, but why do I see prices listed on them?

To reserve your trip they typically hold a nominal amount on your credit or debit card, to hold your spot and guarantee you show up, typically even if you don’t show up you can use what you paid to book something else or request a refund. Then upon arrival they either release the funds back to your card or provide you a reimbursement in cash.

For example, in Las Vegas I paid $175 up front to stay at the Bally’s for 3 nights. Our room was humongous and there was a Jacuzzi in the middle of the living room. #EpicShit.

We went to their presentation and at the end  we received $175 cash back in an envelope, dinner, tickets to a show, and an offer to try another resort in Lake Tahoe within one year with free ski lift tickets and ski rental included. We took it. ;-) Then we stayed in Vegas for an extra 2 days at the Bellagio. We paid for that one though out of pocket *cries real thug tears*

But that’s the best thing, most of these companies if you don’t buy in one location they will offer you another trip somewhere else and up the ante. For 2 years we rode the timeshare circuit where every trip we took was free hotel plus some extras. We went to one resort in the Poconos 3 times in one winter before they put the kabash on us  lol.

Also some of these resorts simply offer you to stay at their hotel for deep deep discounted rates instead of  free plus perks. I partake in those as well. 5 days in cancun all inclusive for only $299?? Absolutely sign me up! I have one of those waiting for me right now and there’s a music fest going on so I might just roll.


So as you noticed above during our Vegas stay we received a lot of extras, dinner wasn’t just anywhere it was a gift certificate for  TAO. In Lake Tahoe, ski lift tickets and ski rental were included. They all have extras they can offer you. Inquire on it and ask for them! There is no shame in my travel game ;0)

Family friendly resorts will even offer free babysitting if they have a nursery on site, like we received in the Poconos! They don’t want you to miss a thing because you have kids in tow!

Hope this post has inspired you to get on your grind and take advantage of some super cheap, deeply discounted, or even free travel! Drop me a line below and let me know where you’d like to go for your first free vacation!




Stop Planning, Start Doing! 5 Tips for Putting Your Aspirations into Action


It’s a topic you secretly dread in conversation.

When someone asks you for an update on a goal you set months (or years) ago and you still haven’t made any progress towards it.

It happens to all of us. It’s even happened to me recently with some personal projects. And boy was I embarrassed when people inquired.

Often we plan great things for our careers and finances, but we don’t act on them because life happens or we think more motivation will come tomorrow.

But the fact is tomorrow never happens.

If you want your ideas to become a reality, you have to do something about it today. Here are a few tips to help you act on your aspirations sooner than later.

Avoid over-analyzing.

Have you experienced analysis paralysis?

It’s when you do plenty of research about an idea, but you never act on the information you gather. Instead, you just think and rethink because you can’t make a decision on the best way to move forward. This is a recipe for remaining stagnant that I know all too well.

A month into being a freelance writer full-time, I read everything there was to know about getting more clients. But I didn’t do anything to actually act on what I learned. So I ended up with tons of knowledge, but no new business. I was completely stuck.

What’s the lesson here? You should only do enough research to understand the basics of what you want to achieve. Then start getting your feet wet. Sure, you’ll crawl before you walk, but all great achievements begin somewhere.

Break up with self doubt.

Self doubt loves to rear its ugly head right when you’re about to step out of your comfort zone.

It leads you to wonder if you’re good enough to reach a goal. Or if you have what it takes to make your aspirations become reality. This fear can hold you hostage and keep you from acting on your ideas.

When you’re feeling self doubt remember that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Failure’s actually to be expected when you’re trying something new. So don’t let that hold you back from making moves.

“Bruk” your goals down.

Large goals, like paying off a mountain of student debt, are intimidating.

So intimating that you may consider putting in no effort at all because it feels impossible to achieve.

Rather than setting out to attack massive goals, break them down into small goals so you can celebrate mini-milestones. They motivate you to keep moving towards your final destination.

When I was repaying my student loan, I made bi-weekly goals for myself. And I listed each bi-weekly payment in my day planner leading up to the 100 percent pay off date.

Each time I made a payment, I crossed it off the list and it was so gratifying I never thought of giving up. Once you break your goals into bite-sized chunks you’ll gain the momentum you need to reach your large goal.

Do just one thing – today.

Is your fallback always, “Oh well, it can wait until tomorrow”?.

Your nonchalance is holding you back from reaching your full potential.

Stop yourself every time you feel like procrastinating. It helps to constantly think of one small step that you can make to reach your goal.

For example, if you’re trying to build your emergency fund, say no to lunch from the deli today and put the money you save into your savings account. Or if you want to find a better paying job, update your resume today and ask someone to proofread it for you. As soon as you stop pushing steps in your journey off until tomorrow you can start seeing real progress.

“Grab a partner, do-si-do”.

Let’s face it, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither was it built by one person.

You may need to reach out for help to achieve your goals and that’s okay. I recently hired a business coach to help motivate me and keep me accountable for ideas that I have for my business.

Hiring a career or financial coach may be something you want to consider if you can’t find the motivation or don’t have the right knowledge to meet goals by yourself. It’s a worthwhile the investment if it saves you time and gets you moving in the right direction.